2013 Chevrolet Spark

General Motors is certainly taking some bold moves with their 2013 models and the recent introduction of the 2013 Chevrolet Spark is another step in the right direction.  The Chevrolet Spark is based on the South Korean platform of the Daewoo Matiz model which has already proven to be a potent sales success in other parts of the world. Having the opportunity to drive the Spark over a one week period, we can honestly say, if we were in the market for a small, fun, economical vehicle this would be at the top of our list. We were pleasantly surprised how much fun we ended up having behind the wheel of little “Sparky”, an endearing name my wife came up with which suits the car’s personality perfectly.

The combination of compliments from teenagers, its peppy performance and the utter jubilation of filling the gas tank at a price I can only remember from my high school days, there is a so much to love about this car.

We drove in both city and highway environments and the Spark passed all the usual tests with flying colours while being ultra convenient for parking and large enough to grab a few groceries in between. All the while, we averaged 6.5L/100KMs (36 MPG US) which is very solid fuel efficiency for a combined city and highway driving experience.

As for things we did not like, similar to the 2013 Chevrolet Sonic, the passenger seat is missing an armrest which can be aggravating on a long trip. As well, the steering wheel column is poorly designed since it is attached to the gauges as all one piece, this results in the steering wheel blocking the top of the speedometer from view.  However, aside from those two things, the Spark performed amazingly well, and was fun to drive around town.

The interior is solid for an entry level car and competes with anything on the market today. Of course, saying that, you get what you pay for as our tester was the top of the line model.

Our 2013 Chevrolet Spark review vehicle came in the 2LT Manual trim package which includes the following features:

  • ECOTEC 1.2L DOHC four cylinder engine
  • Horsepower: (hp @ rpm): 84 @ 6,400
  • Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm): 83 @ 4,200
  • 5-Speed Manual transmission
  • Leatherette Seat Trim
  • Wheels: 15″ x 6″ Machined Faced Painted Aluminum
  • 10 airbags
  • Heated High Back Bucket Seats
  • OnStar ®System With 6 Months Directions and Connections Plan
  • Air conditioning, keyless entry, power windows, locks and mirrors, cruise control, and SiriusXM Satellite Radio
  • Trunk/storage space – Flip-and-fold rear seat with 31.2 cu. ft. (884 L) of cargo volume – based on GM Canada’s vehicle information
  • Chevrolet MyLink  TouchTM –  AM/FM stereo, 6 speakers, seek-and-scan, digital clock, 7″ diagonal colour touch-screen, Bluetooth streaming audio for music and select phones, Stitcher smartphone compatible, cruise control, steering wheel controls, software updatable for radio software and 1 USB/iPod/MP3 input jack located in front centre stack storage bin.
  • $16,995 MSRP* CAD MSRP from GM Canada’s website as of December 3, 2012

GM has recently announced they will be producing an electric version of the Spark as a 2014 model in selected markets.  The electrified version of the Spark will have a whopping 400lbs of torque and will do zero-to-60 mph in less than eight seconds. We can’t wait to get behind the wheel to see how it compares to its internal combustion engine sibling.

GM has also announced that select models of both the Sonic and the Spark will be receiving Siri integration.  Driver’s with a compatible iPhone will be able to hands free:

  • Make voice-activated, hands-free calls to Contacts on their iPhone
  • Play songs in the iTunes library, and even switch music sources automatically from AM/FM/XM radio to iPod mode
  • Listen to, and compose and send an iMessage or text message to a phone number or anyone in saved Contacts
  • Access Calendar and add appointments
  • Minimize distraction even more by keeping the screen of the iPhone from lighting up, even when Siri answers simple questions such as game scores or the dates of national holidays
  • While in Eyes Free mode, Siri will not provide answers to complex questions that require displaying a web page.

Competition

The micro or subcompact segment is growing fast as many manufactures now offer models in the category.  The key players currently competing with the Chevrolet Spark for buyers here in Canada  include the Ford Fiesta, Mazda2, Fiat 500, Smart fortwo, Toyota Yaris and Hyundai Accent.

2013 Chevrolet Equinox

With the seasonal equinox just behind us, it seems like a great time for Team RedlineNorth to review the 2013 Chevrolet Equinox. During a week of extreme weather differences we drove GM Canada’s tester on the highways and back roads of Southern Ontario.

2013 Chevy Equinox LT

Overview

Our first impressions of the Equinox are that it is a very safe, easy to drive and solid SUV. Designed as a true kid-hauler and grocery getter, the 2013 Equinox provides a ton of cargo room.  With the seats pushed forward, cargo capacity is a generous 31.4 cubic feet and with the seats folded flat, cargo capacity increases to a massive 63.7 cubic feet. Similarly, the front seats provide ample head and leg room while the back seats provide a spacious amount of leg and hip room along with a nicely appointed centre fold down armrest.

Our 2013 Chevrolet Equinox review vehicle came in the LT (AWD) trim package which includes the following features:

  • 3.0L DOHC V6 VVT with  264 HP @ 6950 rpm
  • Torque – 222 lb. ft. @ 5100 rpm
  • 6-speed automatic with overdrive and Driver Shift Control
  • 6 airbags
  • Leather heated driver & front passenger seats
  • 8-speaker, 250-watt premium Pioneer® sound system with subwoofer
  • OnStar® with 6 months of the Directions & Connections Plan, Turn-by-Turn Navigation and OnStarRemoteLinkTM
  • Air conditioning, keyless entry, power windows, locks and mirrors, cruise control, SiriusXM Satellite Radio, USB port and auxiliary audio input jack, and Bluetooth: hands free phone and audio connectivity.
  • Power rear liftgate
  • Rear vision camera with display in radio screen
  • GM’s new lane departure warning and forward collision alert system
  • 17 inch painted aluminum wheels
  • Trunk/storage space – 31.4 cubic feet with seats folded forward or 63.7 cubic feet with seats folded flat – based on GM Canada’s vehicle information
  • Chevrolet MyLinkTM – includes personal media connectivity by Bluetooth® to vehicle audio system; voice-activated technology for audio, phone, phone book and music selection; Stitcher SmartradioTM app to listen to talk radio, podcasts and live radio through your smartphone; picture viewer; Playlist and Album Art powered by Gracenote®
  • $31,025 CAD MSRP from GM Canada’s website as of October 2, 2012 ($26,445 for LS entry trim level) * Prices based on 2012 model

Pioneer Sound System with 8 speakers and subwoofer

Interior

Interior appointments are of a high quality as our test vehicle came with a classic white leather seating package and the cabin included a very sleek dash and entertainment console.  Our only compliant was around the quality of some of the plastic on the doors and dash.

Safety

The lane departure and collision avoidance warning systems worked well

The lane departure warning and forward collision alert systems were both used extensively during the test period and worked as advertised.  We appreciated the ability to adjust the collision alert system tolerance from alerting the driver at three different distance settings. In addition, the inset convex portion of the side mirrors provided an additional angle of view while overtaking on the highway which is a nice feature. The rear vision camera system was also used extensively in parking lots and is a great option due to the limited rear view visibility. Finally, the hill start assist feature, while strictly not a safety feature, was welcomed when exiting underground parking garages and worked well with no perceivable rollback.

Handling

The Equinox engine felt responsive for an SUV, providing quick acceleration on the highway and overtaking with ease. We tested out the Drive Shift Control, which allows the driver to up and down shift at the touch of the button.  However, like most ‘manual’ modes of automatic transmissions it didn’t really replace the feel of a manual transmission.

We drove the Equinox in both city and highway environments and our overall fuel economy average for the week was 11.9L/100 KM.  The city driving really affected things as the 3.0  engine naturally gets a bit thirsty in Toronto’s stop and go traffic.  However, we found the real time feedback on fuel consumption helped moderate our driving behaviour to maximize overall fuel economy.

Convenience

The Equinox had a number of convenience features that helped round out the overall driving experience. We really appreciated the ability to automatically adjust the opening of the rear trunk between three quarters to fully open at the turn of a dial.

While real time fuel efficiency statistics such as, current range and average fuel economy are nice to have, they were somewhat buried within the menu system and required multiple button presses to access.  It would likely be useful for this information to be displayed on the larger navigation screen.

Lastly, the arm rest storage space was more than ample and an interior light is provided to light up the console area to help you find what you are looking for.  In addition, a USB port and 12 volt charging outlet are also included in the arm rest compartment.

Ample rear seating

Competition

With so many competitors in the tightly battled smaller SUV/CUV space, GM certainly has their work cut out to make sure they continue to get their slice of the consumer pie. However, the 2013 Chevrolet Equinox remains very strong among its peers and is definitely worth a look if you are in the market for a smaller SUV/CUV.

Some of the other nameplates in the segment which will challenge GM for buyers are the Ford Escape, Nissan Rogue, Toyota RAV4, Kia Sportage, Hyundai Tuscon, Honda CR-V and Mazda’s CX-5.