Base Camp: 2021 Chevrolet Spark LS
Every week, wheels.ca selects a new vehicle on sale in Canada and takes a good look at its entry-level trim. If we find it worthy of your consideration, we'll let you know. If not, we'll recommend one that earns a passing grade.
The year is 2021 and, yes, you can still buy a brand-new car for a mite over $10,000 from the folks at Chevy. With many of its direct competitors either having increased in price or departed the market entirely, this is one of the least expensive ways to get that intoxicating new car smell.
A row-yer-own manual transmission is connected to a 1.4-litre Ecotec four cylinder engine, making 98 horsepower and roughly the same amount of torque. If this doesn’t seem like a lot, you’re absolutely correct but it is worth noting a base model Spark isn’t even 12 feet long and weighs just a hair over 1,000 kilograms. If one happens to lose their on-street parking thanks to an overzealous snow plow operator, simply pick up the Spark and hang it on a wall or put it in your pocket.
Ok, so it isn’t really that small. It is, however, decently roomy inside for a quartet of reasonably sized humans. Front head- and legroom actually measures on par with that of the much larger Malibu, though passengers will feel the pinch in their shoulders and hips thanks to the Spark’s narrow body. Once inside, passengers will find a large 7-inch infotainment touchscreen with USB inputs, Apple CarPlay, and – stunningly at this price – capability for 4G LTE WiFi. A tilt steering column and cloth seats helps the driver get comfy. Note at this end of the price pool the windows are manual and there is no air conditioning.
Spotting a base model Spark isn’t all that difficult, thanks to a set of 15-inch steel teacups masquerading as wheels covered with plastic hubcaps. Black side mirrors are manually adjusted though there is a rear wiper, something for which Porsche charges extra on its 911 sports car. A trio of paint colours are offered at zero dollars, including the natty Red Hot hue shown here.
What We’d Choose
There is always room for an entry-level subcompact car at our table, especially in pockets of a Canadian market that puts an admittedly odd emphasis on cheap and cheerful hatchbacks. There is a definite allure to being the first owner of a vehicle, one that is fully covered under warranty and has only been driven by your own right foot. Finding that experience for roughly $10,000 is becoming vanishingly rare.
Still, the base model Spark is absent equipment some drivers rightfully refuse to do without, and air conditioning is at the top of that list. Adding that feature means walking to either an automatic-equipped or next-level LT car, both of which represent a price jump of roughly $4500. At this level, that’s adding nearly 50 per cent to the base car’s purchase price.
If you’re content with 2/60 air conditioning (two windows down, travelling 60km/h), then the Spark LS represents a unique value proposition for folks seeking a new car wearing a decidedly used-car price tag.