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USA: First Drive: 2013 Chevrolet Spark

For the last time: the Chevrolet Volt is not a product of General Motors’ government bailout. It was conceived in 2007, when George W. Bush was still president, and was well under development by the time a banking crisis and thirty years of mismanagement caught up with old corporation. The Chevrolet Spark? Well, that seems like a different story. Although the minicar also debuted in concept form in 2007, then-vice-chairman Bob Lutz quickly dismissed the notion of actually selling it in the United States. It was only two years later, as GM geared up for intense negotiations with Barack Obama’s incoming administration, that a bound-for-U.S.A. Spark resurfaced at the Detroit auto show to prove that the company was serious about producing small, efficient cars. With the Americanized Spark due to arrive in dealerships late this summer — the heart of campaign season — we decided it was time to find out whether the Spark brings change we can believe in or is the harbinger of a socialist apocalypse.

wkward but charming
The best cheap cars, including the original BMC Mini and Fiat 500, transcend their proletarian price tag with cheerful styling. The $12,995 Spark tries to do the same. A bold front fascia, standard fifteen-inch aluminum wheels, and eye-searing colors like “salsa” and “jalapeno” ensure that it won’t disappear in a sea of larger, pricier cars. Alas, the four-door hatchback also may draw attention for its proportions, which are as goofy as those of a tween halfway through puberty. The Spark is more than a foot shorter but is 1.3 inches taller than the pricier Chevrolet Sonic. Huge headlamps span the length of a stubby hood. At least it’s not boring or dreary.
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