Every time I’m on the road and see a whole battalion of Hyundai Eons, Suzuki Altos and Kia Picantos all around me, I wonder why I don’t see other similarly sized hatchbacks like the all-new Chevrolet Spark even half as much.

To a car sales person, the Spark has a unique set of pros and cons. First, it costs at least a full 100 grand (the Spark starts at P648,888) over, say, an Alto or Eon—two cars that are admittedly smaller than the Spark (but not much smaller).

To its credit, the Spark is also roughly a hundred grand less expensive than one-class-bigger hatchbacks like the Mazda2, Kia Rio, Honda Jazz, and Ford Fiesta.

Price- and size-wise, the Spark finds itself sharing space with just one other mini-hatchback entrant, the Honda Brio. And just between you and me, the Brio is not exactly Honda’s chart-topper, either.

But that’s not to say that the Spark (and the fun-to-drive Brio) do not have compelling reasons to be considered when one is scouting for a mini hatchback.

Dynamic, upmarket styling

Compared to the category bestsellers, the Spark looks decidedly more upscale—much like a boutique car (like the bigger and vastly more expensive Mini Cooper). In fact, its movie star looks merited the previous generation Spark a long and action-packed screen time in 2014’s Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.

The new-for-2017 model looks even more head-turning with its widest-in-its-class stance, mean-looking projector headlamps (with LED DRLs), big bold blacked-out grille and a carryover design trick from the previous model, the still-cool-looking concealed rear door handles.

Playful yet functional interior

Inside, the Spark continues its upmarket positioning with stylish and youthful aesthetics and a surprisingly generous feature set. You won’t find the barebones accommodations you’ll see in budget econoboxes.

You get a 7-inch Chevrolet MyLink touchscreen infotainment system that mirrors your smartphone’s screen. The Aux/USB audio system is piped in through six speakers.

But it’s not just all about the sounds. Check out the spec box to see the Spark’s staggering array of features and amenities.

Fun and satisfying powertrain

American- (and even Korean-) branded hatchbacks take a backseat to Japanese-made ones when it comes to driving dynamics and engine performance. And while the Spark’s 1.4-liter engine comes ever closer to its Japanese competition (it’s all-aluminum and has variable valve timing), it still lags a tad in outright power (99ps/128Nm) and that willingness to rev. But it’s a match in smoothness and a lack of noise and vibration. The motor is mated to a 5-speed manual or a CVT (no paddle shifters, though).

Smooth ride and stable handling

I daresay that the Spark leaves the entry-level hatchbacks in the dust in terms of its big-car smooth ride and responsive handling that bely its tidy dimensions and short wheelbase. In fact, it’s every bit a match to bigger and more expensive hatchboxes like the Jazz and Toyota Yaris in riding comfort (if not outright space).

Multiple levels of safety and security

Safety is often given short shrift in econoboxes. Not so with the Spark. Again, a cursory glance at the spec box on this spread will surprise you with this little Chevy’s long list of active and passive safety features.

To alleviate any concerns about maintenance and other ownership issues, the new Spark is backed by the Chevrolet Complete Care Program, which protects it with Chevrolet’s 5-year/100,000-km warranty and offers automatic enrolment to the 24/7 Chevrolet Emergency Roadside Support for three years, access to a 24/7 customer care hotline, and guaranteed one-hour express service for select services.

VERDICT

Boasting a surprisingly generous list of features and technologies (not to mention sporting stand-out styling), plus delivering solid performance, fuel-efficiency and comfort, the Chevrolet Spark has what it takes to bring the fight to its established rivals. People who fail to include it in their mini-hatchback shortlist don’t know what they’re missing.

Specifications
Engine 99ps/128Nm 1.4-liter DOHC DVVT petrol inline-4
Transmission Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT)
Suspension MacPherson struts with coil springs/torsion beam with coil springs
Brakes Ventilated discs/drums with ABS
Tires 185/55R15
L x W x H 3,635 x 1,595 x 1,483mm
Wheelbase 2,385mm
Features Dual airbags, security system with engine immobilizer, auto door locks, ISOFIX child seat restraints, traction control, electric power steering, projector headlamps with LED DRL’s, heated and power-folding side mirrors with turn signals, rear spoiler, streeing wheel with silver accent inserts and audio control buttons, driver’s window express up and down, four-way-adjustable driver’s seat, two-way-adjustable passenger seat, 7-inch MyLink touchscreen Aux/USB 6-speaker infotainment system with smartphone mirror capability, 60/60 split-folding rear seats, outside temperature display
Price P763,888
Test: Chevrolet Spark 1.4 LTZ: a must-add to your hatchback shortlist
Form Factor9
Build Quality9
Ease of Use9
Performance8.7
Value for Money8.7
8.9Overall Score