Not your regular urban runabout – a statement that aptly sums up the new Chevrolet Spark, an all-new design from Chevrolet that breaks the city-car mould with its innovative design and edgy styling. The new Spark showcases the new direction adopted by General Motors for its small car ranges with the global development responsibility for these vehicles vested in GM’s Incheon (Korea) design and development facility.
From the outset the goal for the new Spark was to create a revolution in size and design within the overall dimensional constraints of the ‘A’ segment. To achieve this goal the design team had to make a statement with an innovative design that would go beyond that seen in typical vehicles in the segment and set new standards. In short the new Spark would break the traditional city-car mould.
Delivering on its promise of creating a revolution in size within the segment 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.
Within the framework of these dimensions the Spark development team has produced 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 new Spark is dominated by the 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 new Spark is really a five door hatch.
It emphatically does offer the convenience of four passenger doors although 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.
An integrated rear spoiler, a segment exclusive standard feature, extends the roofline at the rear and completes the dynamic flow over the top of the vehicle. Aside from its cosmetic appeal, the rear spoiler serves a functional purpose as well by enhancing the aerodynamic performance for the Spark for improved high speed stability and increased fuel efficiency.
The rear of the Spark is dominated by round taillight clusters that are large in proportion to the rear of the vehicle. As with the front light clusters polycarbonate lenses cover the rear light clusters to add visual appeal. Viewed from the rear, an inward slope of the vehicle sides as they rise towards the roof line is evident. The styling team has used this feature to enhance the wide ‘wheels-out/body-in’ stance of the Spark without sacrificing interior space.
The interior design of the new Spark is characterised by a blend of fun, fashion and functionality. While the design team pursued its quest for a trendy, edgy exterior design, it applied itself to a more functional approach for the interior, fully utilising the external dimensions of the Spark to optimise comfort and spaciousness of the interior.
With a wide track and long wheelbase relative to competitors’ dimensions the new Spark offers best in segment front legroom, rear legroom, front headroom and rear hip-room. The result is comfortable accommodation for five adults.
The focal point of the interior design is the motorcycle-like instrument panel mounted above the steering column. This combines analogue and digital systems for a unique fun styling element that offers functionality 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 uninterrupted 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.
Another first in segment for the new Spark is the use of triple acoustic absorbent and special underbody insulation to minimise 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
While the Spark design team worked on producing its edgy new design and spacious functional interior for this new model, it applied itself equally to the safety and dynamic handling features expected of this latest generation city-car.
The body structure of the new Spark is the stiffest in the ‘A’ segment, 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. The use of ‘H’ pattern steel members in the underbody structure assists 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, first-in-segment, 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 as 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 new Spark is another high strength area to provide 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.
Pedestrian safety has 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.