Page 2 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV review Electric motor and $50 …

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Chevrolet was the first automaker to offer Siri Eyes Free and its first implementation was the Spark. Eyes Free lets you interact with an Apple iOS device from your car. Press the talk button on the steering wheel and tell Siri what you want to do. The driver or passenger can make a phone call, get calendar information, create text messages, or play songs from iTunes. It’s voice-only interaction, nothing is displayed on the iPhone screen, and other apps are also locked out.

This may be more of a lockdown than some drivers want. Some apps can’t be fully accessed by Siri (no info shows on the cars’s LCD) unless you disconnect the phone from the car.

The Spark EV on the road

The Spark EV is quick enough. GM built its own oil-cooled electric motor and it’s powerful, with 140 hp (105 kW) and a truck-like 400 pound-feet of torque. All the extra weight is down low, with the 21 kWh lithium ion battery pack under the back seat, so it actually has a lower center of gravity than the gasoline Spark. The 0-60 time is also lower, around 8 seconds vs.

12-13 seconds. The slowest thing about getting going is waiting for passengers to find the rear door handle it’s at shoulder height along the door’s trailing edge.

My test car was Chevy’s Spark-EV signature color, electric blue. The color carries through to the cockpit including parts of the dashboard (old VW Beetles did the same thing). You will find it makes the car look cheap or, to some, very cool.

The instrument panel is mostly digital, with the requisite economy indicators and floating balls that travel up or down depending on nice you’re being to the battery pack. The range indicator was especially useful, showing expected mileage remaining as a band of possibilities: high, low, and likely mileage based on your recent driving.

For my most economical trip, I started with a full charge and indicated 97-mile range. In 80 miles of urban-suburban driving with the Eco button engaged and being conscious of my driving style, I ended with the range indicator showing 15 miles of battery life remaining. Using the 120V charger that comes with the car, restoring the battery to full charge took the better part of a day.

Tweaks to hike Spark EV s efficiency

Chevrolet tweaked a half-dozen components to help mpg. The upper grille of the engine compartment is sealed and the active shutters on the lower intake open only when air is needed to help cool the electric motor. Low rolling resistance tires boost mpg by 5-7%.

Tire deflectors, full-length underbody panels and diffusers, and rocker panels smooth airflow around the car. The Spark EV also has heavier suspension parts and bigger rear tires to deal with the electric model s 3000 pounds. Like the gasoline Spark, there are 10 airbags, or one for every 15 inches of length.

When I drove a gas-engine Chevrolet Spark, it bordered on painful. At 147 inches long (less than a Mini coupe), the car zips around town, then labors to reach highway speed and because of its wheelbase 1.5 feet shorter than a full-size car, the gas Spark bucks and pitches on expansion joints. But it’s cheap: $13,000 list price, or $16,000 with freight and automatic transmission for the cheapest model (1LT) that offers MyLink and an automatic transmission.

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