Not your regular urban runabout – a statement that aptly describes the Chevrolet Spark with its innovative design and edgy styling. Introduced to South Africa just two years ago, and now a locally produced model by General Motors South Africa as of May this year, the latest generation Spark represents a revolution in design, styling and overall space utility within the dimensional constraints of the ‘A’ segment for passenger cars.
The Spark has segment leading dimensions with a length of 3 640mm, height of 1 522mm and width of 1 597mm. Within those dimensions the body-in/wheels-out stance delivers a wheelbase of 2 375mm with a track of 1 410mm at the front and 1 417mm at the rear.
Encapsulating these base dimensions is a dynamic styling package. True to the Chevrolet brand, the front end of the Spark offers an aggressive appearance with its strong representation of the brand created by the unmistakeable ‘Bowtie” emblem on the two-tier honeycomb pattern grille. The lower air intake, defined by an aero-spoiler on its lower edge that flows into the bumper and front fender line, provides a sporty appeal.
Large dramatically styled headlamp clusters further define the front end. The headlamp lenses stretch from the front edge of the upper bumper line right back to the rear of the bonnet with their polycarbonate lenses following the smooth flow of the body lines upwards and back towards the ‘A’ pillar and sweeping windscreen line. Behind the clear lenses the headlights, with their chrome coated bezels, add an attractive diamond like sparkle to the light clusters.
The side view of the Spark is dominated by a window line that is slanted dynamically upwards towards the sloping roofline matched by styling lines incorporated in the doors. At first glance one is left wondering whether the Spark is really a five-door hatch. It emphatically does offer the convenience of four passenger doors, the existence of the rear doors is masked by concealed door handles mounted vertically in the ‘C’ pillar. This provides the illusion of a sporty three-door hatch with the real life convenience of four-door, plus hatch access.
The interior design of the Spark offers a blend of fun, fashion and functionality. The edgy exterior design is complimented by a functional approach for the interior, fully utilising the external dimensions of the Spark to optimise comfort and spaciousness on the interior.
The wide track and long wheelbase relative to competitors’ dimensions offers exceptional front and rear legroom, front headroom and rear hip-room. The result is comfortable accommodation for five adults.
Front seat passengers have as much as 1067mm of leg-room available with shoulder space of 1295mm and headroom of 1010mm. Rear seat occupants have up to 893mm of leg-room with shoulder space of 1255mm and headroom of 947mm.
The focal point of the interior design is a motorcycle-like instrument panel mounted above the steering column. This combines analogue and digital systems for a unique fun styling element that offers functionality as well in the form of enhanced visibility and convenience. The interior styling flows out from the focal point of the instrument display to bring the elements of the front seats and door trims together in an interrupted visually appealing manner.
Trendy pattern cloth covered semi-bucket seats provide hip-hugging support when cornering. High quality materials and exceptional attention to build quality are evident in all aspects of the interior.
Special acoustic absorbent and effective underbody insulation materials assist in reducing the intrusion of noise into the passenger compartment. Wind noise is minimised by the aerodynamic characteristics of the body design and attention to detail in the design of door and window seals.
Built in safety
The body structure of the Spark ranks at the top of its class in terms of overall stiffness, a function of the 66,5% high strength steel content in the structure. A further 16% of the steel used in the structure is classified as ultra-high strength steel. Aside from the benefit of a highly rigid body this contributes to a structure that offers superb protection in the event of a collision.
Ultra-high strength steel is used in the side structures to add resistance to deformation from a side impact. ‘H’ pattern steel members incorporated in the floor structure assist in preventing deformation in the event of a severe side impact. The use of high strength steel is carried over to the rear body structure to provide an added level of protection in this area. The ‘B’ pillar is strengthened to provide protection for passengers’ upper body area.
The engine-mounting sub-frame is designed to disperse impact energy in the event of a head on collision while the steering column features an extended impact protection zone to enhance driver protection. High-strength steel is used in the front and rear crash boxes that assist in minimizing impact forces. The rear crash box plays a role in reducing whiplash injuries. The application of front-end crash boxes has an economic benefit, as well as passenger protection benefit. In the event of a low speed crash damage will in many instances be limited to the replaceable crushable structure rather than transmitted through to the main body structure.
The roof structure of the Spark is another high strength area that provides enhanced protection in the event of a vehicle roll-over. The Spark has been designed to withstand four times its own weight, far beyond industry safety requirements, in the event of a roll. A pedal retraction system assists in preventing the driver’s lower leg area from being trapped and injured in a severe crash impact.
Pedestrian safety is also been factored into the Spark design. Ample space is provided between the engine and the bonnet to provide a deformation space to absorb the impact of a pedestrian collision in line with European safety requirements for pedestrian protection.