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Chevy Spark screams spunk

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The stats

• EPA rating (city/highway): 28/37 mpg

•Base price, base model: $12,995

•Base price, test model: $15,970

•As tested: $16,720

Prices include destination charges .

By Larry Printz The Virginian-pilot
Friday, Dec. 28, 2012, 8:58 p.m.

City dwellers and those who have trouble parallel parking: Rejoice! Chevrolet has introduced the Spark, the first minicar that the bow-tie brand has sold in the United States.

Looking like a Chevrolet Sonic that was left in the dryer too long, the aggressively sculpted styling makes the most of the available sheet metal, despite clownishly oversized headlights that are the same length as the hood of the car. Still, the Spark has a distinctively spunky look despite its short-but-tall stance and feminine colors.

Climbing inside, there are no mock metallic accents or leather seating surfaces. Instead, this car's honest design reflects its price in the pecking order. The overall design is fun and strangely refreshing.

That all said, I wasn't thrilled to find a four-speed automatic transmission on the test car. While good for an EPA rating of 28 mpg city, 37 highway, the five-speed manual transmission returns 32 mpg city, 38 highway — closer to what you'd expect given the size of the car.

As you might expect, the Spark's fuel economy comes at the expense of performance. Its 1.2-liter four-cylinder engine produces 84 horsepower — enough to power this car adequately around town. Highway merging calls for a long on-ramp, lots of patience, or an empty highway. The spark in the Spark comes from style, not engine power.

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