Seat Time: 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV

May 27th, 2014 at 3:00pm

2015 Chevrolet Spark EV

Seat Time is a chance for us to share our impressions of vehicles being tested in the Autoline Garage and at media previews from around the globe.

Reviewer: John McElroy
Manufacturer: General Motors
Make: Chevrolet
Model: Spark EV
Type: 4-door hatchback
Competitors: Fiat 500 EV, Honda Fit EV, Mitsubishi i-MIEV
Price: Base: $27,820. As tested: Same
Made in: Changwon, South Korea
Drivetrain: 100 kW motor generates 130 hp and 400 lb.-ft. of torque.
EPA Ratings: 119 MPGe, 82 mile range

Final Impression:

2015 Chevrolet Spark EVThe car companies have got it all wrong when it comes to selling electic cars. Instead of their “save the planet” marketing messages they should be selling these cars based on their fun-to-drive quotient.

With 400 pound-feet (542 Nm) of torque on tap, the Spark just flies off the line. If you see an opening in traffic, just go for it. No need to mash the pedal down and wait around for the engine to rev up and the transmission to kick down. No, you just go. Point the Spark where you want it to be and it’s there. In fact, I felt rather smug blasting off the line at traffic lights, watching the startled looks of the motorists behind me as this dinky little bug of a car car shot away in a flash.

Better still, with its battery pack giving the car a low center of gravity, the Spark feels very sure footed whiile weaving its way through traffic and scooting into tight parking spots.

Yes, EV’s have lmiited range and can take forever to recharge with 110-volt outlets (20 hours!). But plenty of people have the kind of commute that an EV could easily satisfy, including the Spark. And you can now order an optional DC charger for Level III charging, though I don’t have a clue where to go to do that.

But this is not the only EV kid on the block, so why choose the Spark? The Nissan Leaf has a similar price and a lot more interior room, but is not as fun to drive. The Honda Fit is as fun to drive, offers a lot more versatility, but is significantly more expensive. And while the Fiat 500 EV has a decent lease price and a good fun-to-drive quotient, it just doesn’t have the interior room.

Another advantage. If connecting to the cloud is your thing, the Spark seems to have a slight edge on the others, at least for the moment, with its MyLink infotainment system and its popular embedded apps.

But a word to the wise if you’re aching to get an EV: lease, don’t buy. It’s not so much that the technology is going to leap forward tomorrow (it’s not) but we keep hearing that the resale value of used electrics is really bad. By leasing an EV you don’t have to worry about the value of the car suddenly plummeting.

Bottom line: I liked this car. I wish I had more than a few days to test drive it and see if some of my enthusiasm wore off as I dealt with the range limitations. But as far as EV’s in this price range go, the Spark is a very viable competitor.

2 Comments to “Seat Time: 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV”

  1. DonC Says:

    Continually amazed that some have such difficulty understanding depreciation on EVs. Basically electrics may not have good resale if you look at the depreciation from MSRP but they have very good resale value if you look at depreciation after tax credits. Since the intelligent approach considers the latter not the former, it’s pretty clear the idea that EVs have poor resale is ridiculous.

    For example, a well equipped Chevy Volt might have an MSRP of 37K. But after credits and rebates in CA you’ll pay only $28K, assuming you can’t negotiate a discount off MSRP. 50% depreciation over three years, which is pretty standard, would result in a resale value of $14K.

    Think you could buy a three year old Volt for $14K? Good luck. Not happening. You’d be lucky to find one for $20K. Probably more like $21K – $24K. This is more like 14% less than you actually ended up paying, which is incredibly high.

    Doesn’t mean you shouldn’t lease. You can get great leasing deals and sometimes they make more sense. But since a lease payment is primarily depreciation, the great leasing deals are just a function of high resale values. Put differently, Finance 101 will tell you that you can’t have great leasing deals AND poor resale values. This isn’t rocket science, just basic subtraction and division.

  2. StanG Says:

    DonC claims you can’t have great deals and low residuals. Even though DonC mentions federal and state tax rebates, he fails to recognize electric vehicles to not trade in the free market.

    Put differently, Finance 101 tells you is all about supply and demand. Finance 201 tells you you can’t make more money by selling more cars at a loss. Finance 301 tells you government interferes with the free market and if you want to stay in business, you have to knuckle under and build cars nobody wants even with big taxpayer funded rebates.

    After you get your MBA and ween yourself from the liberal rants of your professors, the real world tells you electric cars do not make financial sense and only exist due to government mandates.

    Put differently, if you need to keep Obama’s eco-stormtroopers happy and California passes legislation requiring X percent zero emmissions cars by 20XX, and cities want to oulaw internal combusion and a percentage of the Democratic Base believes recharging your electric RAV4 with a stationary bicycle a la Ed Begley, Jr. is a lifestyle that needs to be forced down our throats regardless of the cost…..

    Congratulations! You’ve woken up in 2014 where Kiddie Finance 101 doesn’t apply and GM losing money on lease deals on EVs with low residuals is the very least of their problems.

    This isn’t rocket science, just basic observation of a government manipulated marketplace.