2015 Chevrolet Spark EV Review

Tuesday, August 12th 2014. | Chevrolet |

2015 Chevrolet Spark Front ViewThe Chevrolet Spark EV is a pure electric urban mini-car – available exclusively in California and Oregon – designed for fun driving and easy ownership. the 2015 Chevrolet Spark, the smallest Chevy to be sold here in many years, is a five-door hatchback minicar precisely three feet shorter than a Cruze compact sedan. It’s inexpensive, and it does a better job at being very basic transportation than the rest of the competitors in the segment–whether they’re fashion-forward three-door hatchbacks that only really fit two adults (Fiat 500, MINI Cooper) or the underpowered, underwhelming Mitsubishi Mirage. Updates for 2015 include a new, numerically higher final drive ratio that enhances acceleration and, later in the year, OnStar 4G LTE with available Wi-Fi hotspot and two new exterior colors: Salsa and Lime.

Chevrolet Spark Interior

Inside, the front seats are small and and a little narrow for American-sized occupants–and a little more rearward travel would be good too. Taller drivers may find that their right knee brushes the climate controls at times. With a bit of negotiation between front- and back-seat riders, four adult humans can occupy the Spark and travel in reasonable space–even in the upright rear seat–which can’t be said of the Fiat 500, MINI Cooper, or the two-seat Smart ForTwo. The Spark offers 11.4 cubic feet of cargo space–enough to hold 10 to 12 full paper grocery bags with ease–with the rear seat up, which can be expanded to 31.2 cubic feet if you flip and fold down the 60/40 split rear seat.

2015 Chevrolet Spark Instrument ClusterThe instrument cluster is “motorcycle-inspired,” meaning it’s a small pod mounted on the steering column, and has one large dial gauge and quite a few colored lights and monochrome graphics. We give the Spark’s interior designers credit, though, for lots of useful storage in the doors, console, and the dash face itself–including a slot on each side of the center stack that’s perfect for a smart phone. The standard Chevrolet MyLink Infotainment system provides a seven-inch color touch-screen that shows critical vehicle EV functions and connects with owners’ smartphones for infotainment that includes apps for Pandora, Stitcher, TuneIn global internet radio and BringGo full-function navigation (requires smartphone app purchase). For those with compatible iPhones, the system brings the Siri Personal Assistant into the car.

The integrated center stack adds a second seven-inch, full-color touch-screen that includes the infotainment display, audio and climate controls, heated seat controls, USB, power outlet, defogger button and StabiliTrak/traction control on/off button. All knobs feature LED lighting for improved visibility and access.

In the center console, an open storage area near the USB port provides a convenient location for a cell phone or portable music player. The Sport driving mode switch is located in front of the shift lever.

Designers focused on creating an environment that is harmonious, uninterrupted, flowing and inviting to the senses. With 86.3 cu. ft. (2,444 L) of passenger volume and 9.6 cu. ft. (272 L) of cargo volume, Spark EV is one of the largest vehicles in the segment.

Storage options include a center console bin, door pocket bottle holders, a passenger IP storage tray and four cup holders, two each in the front and rear. Cloth seats are standard and leatherette-trimmed seats are available.

The dramatic, customizable instrument cluster/Driver Information Center helps drivers get the most out of their EV experience. The cluster includes:

  • Seven-inch full-color LCD display screen that provides digital and graphic feedback
  • Efficiency gauge for the propulsion battery power
  • Digital speedometer
  • Confidence gauge for remaining EV range shows real-time expected driving range based on driving style and other conditions
  • Trip computer.

Chevrolet Spark EnginePower, Performance and Recharging

2015 Chevrolet Spark EngineThe 2015 Chevy Spark is powered by the smallest engine General Motors puts in any passenger vehicle, an 84-horsepower, 1.2-liter Ecotec four-cylinder that provides throwback economy-car performance. The base Spark comes with a five-speed manual gearbox, and it’s the best way to get the most out of the limited power. Drive the Spark aggressively, and you’ll feel sporty while (mostly) keeping up with traffic.

Last year, a new continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) superseded the deficient four-speed automatic transmission with which the Spark was launched in 2013. The CVT is a notable improvement, both in smoothness and in fuel efficiency, aided by an unusual “two-step” function that multiplies the range of available ratios by two different output ratios–giving the transmission a much broader range of speeds in a more compact package. The throttle mapping is good enough to hide most of the “CVT effect” in which accelerating causes the engine to rev to high speeds while the car slowly gathers speed.

Spark EV is powered by an advanced electric motor and battery system that enable 0-60 performance of 7.2 seconds and an EPA-estimated 82 miles of driving range, all the while achieving an EPA-estimated 119 combined city/highway MPGe fuel economy equivalent. All Spark EV models also feature a smooth, single-speed automatic transmission.

Spark EV owners can choose from two driving modes to meet their needs using a switch on the center console near the shift lever.

  • Normal Mode – The default mode, it maximizes driving efficiency.
  • Sport Mode – Provides a sportier driving experience with more responsive acceleration, but can reduce efficiency.

Chevrolet engineers used their experience on the Volt and two-mode hybrids (Silverado and Tahoe) to design the Spark EV system. More than 75 percent of the propulsion components on the Spark EV are from these programs.The heart of the Spark EV’s propulsion system is its electric drive unit, manufactured by GM at its White Marsh, Md. facility. It is the first time a major U.S. auto manufacturer has designed and built both a complete electric motor and drive unit for a modern EV in the U.S.

Spark EV’s electric drive unit produces 105 kW and 140 horsepower and 327 lb.-ft. (444 Nm) of torque.With up to 400 lb-ft of torque from its 105-kilowatt (140-hp) electric motor, it will spin the inside front wheel accelerating out of turns and deliver a 0-to-60-mph time of just 7.6 seconds, according to Chevy–far faster than the gasoline version.

Encased in a strong composite material case and positioned below the load floor over the rear axle, the Spark EV’s 18.4-kWh lithium-ion battery is designed to deliver value, safety, quality, performance, durability and reliability.

A liquid thermal management system cools and heats the battery for a long life, and it is backed by an eight-year/100,000-mile warranty.

Owners can choose three levels of recharging for the Spark EV:

  • AC 120V charging – A 120V onboard charger and charge cord are standard. Plug in the cord into a conventional household outlet and the Spark EV is fully charged in about 20 hours.
  • AC 240V charging – This requires a dedicated 240V charging station and reduces recharging time to less than seven hours.
  • DC fast charging station – This optional feature permits the car to be charged using an SAE combo DC fast charger, which charges the battery to 80 percent of its capacity in 20 minutes – and a full charge in about 45 minutes.

Using a DC charging station, it will take approximately 20 minutes to recharge a depleted battery to 80 percent. Charge times will vary with the outside temperature. Charging will continue to 100 percent at a lower rate but greater than AC Level 2 charging. At 100 percent state of charge, the vehicle may continue to draw power to condition the battery. When battery charging is completed, the vehicle will stop the charge session. The system also includes a remote stop charge feature that halts DC charging with the push of a button on a remote key fob.

Chevrolet Spark MPG

The 2015 Chevy Spark gets 34 mpg combined, not even 40 mpg highway, but the electric Spark is among the most efficient EVs sold.

It’s hard to make very small cars very fuel-efficient, especially on the highway, where their poor aerodynamics use more energy to push aside air than longer, slipperier shapes. While the 2015 Chevrolet Spark is more economical than the average new car, its 34 mpg combined is lower than other minicars–though its performance and driving characteristics are undeniably better.

The 34-mpg combined rating applies to either version of the gasoline Spark, whether you choose the base five-speed manual gearbox or the optional continuously variable transmission (CVT). The atrocious four-speed automatic offered only in the Spark’s first model year, 2013, and its lousy gas mileage, are now history. Both of this year’s transmissions are rated at 39 mpg highway, though the manual is 1 mpg higher on the city cycle–32 mpg–than the CVT version’s 31 mpg.

The electric version of the Chevy Spark, however, new for 2014, is the second most -efficient vehicle sold in the U.S. It had the top slot until the launch of the BMW i3, which is rated at 124 MPGe against the Spark EV’s 119 MPGe. (The MPGe unit, or miles per gallon equivalent, refers to the distance an electric car can travel on the same amount of energy from its battery as is contained in 1 gallon of gasoline.)

The Spark EV gets a smaller battery pack for 2015, using a new lithium-ion cell from a different maker, but both its efficiency of 119 MPGe and its rated range of 82 miles remain the same. Based on what we’ve seen in our Spark EV drives, that electric range is a realistic number and should be easy to achieve.

 2015 Chevrolet Spark Photo Gallery

 

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