The all-new Chevrolet Spark arrives in South Africa hot on the heels of its release in the European market to an enthusiastic response. This exciting new small Chevrolet is the product of a US $240 million (R1,8 billion) investment in design and development over a 27 month period by GM’s Incheon (Korea) product design and development facility.

The commitment to that investment was based on creating a new model to provide GM with highly competitive representation in one of the fastest growing global market segments. The new Spark has been designed to appeal to car buyers in the ‘A’ segment of the market on a global scale, equally attractive to buyers in Europe, the Americas, Africa, Australia and Asia.

Based on their wide-ranging experience in the small car market and the success of the outgoing model – a model that will remain available in South Africa as the Spark Lite to meet ongoing demand – the design team had the freedom of expression provided by a clean sheet design brief.

That brief targeted the development of a vehicle that challenged the traditional viewpoint that small cars often presented a compromise. Trendy or practical; value or premium specification – these are just two of the compromises that have been integral in the small car market up to now.

The new Chevrolet Spark challenges these as a vehicle that is as much about style as it is about functionality. Add in practicality, low fuel consumption, and low emissions together with a comprehensive list of standard features and the Spark presents itself as a vehicle that is set to redefine its sector of the market.

“From the outset we wanted the new Chevrolet Spark to make a revolutionary statement in terms of size and design,” says Taewan Kim, head of the Spark design team and Vice President of design at GM’s Incheon facility in Korea. “Instead of the ‘cute and cuddly’ approach often associated with cars in the ‘A’ segment, we wanted the Spark to present a more aggressive image. Good looking from all angles – edgy, ready to pounce. Visually this new model needed to be exciting.”

The ‘wheels-out, body-in’ stance of the new Spark together with the smooth, single-arc roofline and strong clean body lines provide the edgy look that the designers set out to achieve. Attention to detail in the design is carried over into the build of the vehicle itself with the look and feel of the Spark providing evidence of uncompromising quality standards throughout the production of the vehicle.

Within the size constraints of its position in the city-car sector, the Spark design team has excelled at configuring the interior for maximum space utilisation. Comfort, spaciousness, practicality and excellent ergonomics are delivered with style. Much of the success achieved in space utilisation is down to the clever use of supplementary storage spaces.

The new Spark is a compact package, measuring just 3640mm in length, 1597mm wide and 1522mm high, ideal to fit into those tight parking spaces that are becoming ever more a feature of our modern lifestyle.

Within its small footprint the Spark offers five-door accessibility, seating for five (in the context of urban transport), and a useable luggage area. All this is provided with a level of style that tops the ‘A’ segment.

Front seat passengers have as much as 1067mm of leg-room available with shoulder space of 1295mm and headroom of 1010mm. At the rear up to 893mm of leg-room is available with shoulder space of 1255mm and headroom of 947mm.

The focal point of the interior is the unique instrument pod that sits on top of the steering column in the direct line of sight of the driver. The compact form of the instrument pod, similar in concept to what one might find on an upmarket motorcycle, provides access to all essential information in an easy-to-read form.

An analogue speedometer is flanked by a digital tachometer with supplementary information. Ice-blue lighting illuminates the controls when the lights are switched on – a departure from the norm that highlights the Spark’s ability to put fun back into function.

The new Spark offers advanced vehicle dynamics with taut and responsive handling characteristics. At the heart of this is a body structure with a high level of torsional rigidity that provides a platform to mount the drive-line and suspension in a way that allows handling, stability and comfort to be optimised with a heightened sense of confidence and a fun to drive element for the driver and passengers.

The suspension follows a well-proven and effective layout. A McPherson strut system is used at the front with a torsion beam system used at the rear, a combination that provides for neutral and predictable handling characteristics with nimble handling around town and surefooted confidence on the open road.

While the high strength chassis design provides for excellent vehicle dynamics, it is also designed to provide a high level of occupant protection in the event of a collision. As much as 60% of the Spark’s structure consists of high strength advanced steels. Varying degrees of stiffness are used together with targeted crumple zones to absorb crash impact energy.

The front engine bay rails and sub-frame are designed as a primary impact absorbing zone that will absorb a high level of energy as they collapse in the event of a collision. A transition zone around the base of the ‘A’ pillars and front bulkhead effectively distributes crash energy around the frame rather than into the passenger compartment.

A similar approach is adopted at the rear of the vehicle with crush zones designed to distribute energy away from the passenger area. A strong rear cross member provides extra protection. The fuel tank and its connectors are designed to minimise the possibility of ruptures in the event of a rear end impact.

This high level of passive protection is supplemented by a pedal retraction system that assists in preventing the driver’s lower leg area from being trapped and injured in a severe impact. Frontal airbags are also provided for the driver and front seat passenger.

The new Chevrolet Spark is powered by a 1,2 litre, double overhead cam, 16-valve petrol engine with multi-port electronic fuel injection. A cast iron cylinder block is used together with an aluminium alloy cylinder head. Camshaft drive is via a chain system for reduced running costs. Maximum power is 60 kW with peak torque of 108 Nm. Drive is via a five-speed manual transmission.