It’s more fun to drive a slow car fast than a fast car slowly, and the 2017 Spark is a per­fect ex­am­ple of this, says wheels’ Imran Malik

Friday - - Editor’s Letter -

Chevy’s new Spark is like a cute puppy that en­joys rough play. We test.

Ididn’t ex­pect much from the 2017 Spark – which got a hefty redesign last year – and it’s not be­cause I have any­thing against the lit­tle Chevy per se. No, scratch that; this one has a CVT and, sadly, it isn’t like one of the units that al­most feel like a con­ven­tional au­to­matic – such as Nis­san and Audi are now mak­ing. Stick the lever in D and the bands get to work, chan­nelling the power mus­tered up by the four-pot to the front wheels. But the 1.4-litre moans in­ces­santly in the process and feels like it’s stuck in first (if it ac­tu­ally had a ‘first’...), but a strange thing started to hap­pen the more I drove it. The Korean-made su­per­mini grew on me... when I be­gan to man­han­dle it.

Yes, the trans­mis­sion re­ally got on my wick dur­ing my test drive of the up­dated five-door, but when I think about it, that’s the only neg­a­tive. And the fact that GM of­fers this model with a proper gear­box (a five-speed man­ual, woohoo!) means I can even look past this lit­tle idio­syn­crasy. If I were ever to buy a Spark, I would ob­vi­ously spec it with a row-your-own, but in spite of the CVT, I grew to en­joy many other facets of its be­ing.

Start­ing with its diminu­tive di­men­sions, squeez­ing it into all sorts of nooks and cran­nies – which be­came pro­gres­sively smaller – was a fun lit­tle chal­lenge. At just 3,635mm long, it seemed to shrink even more when pre­sented with the tini­est of spa­ces to park in. That’s not its only party trick – it takes the prac­ti­cal­ity stakes up a notch, what with a roomy cabin that af­fords lots of head and shoul­der room for the front seat pas­sen­gers. How­ever, legroom in the back is at a pre­mium – but the ma­te­ri­als used aren’t. The dash and door cards are made from un­sightly grey and black plas­tic (granted, this is com­mon on cars in this price

It gets up and goes like a PUPPY SCAMPERING af­ter a ball; it’s not the most re­fined but once it’s gath­ered some pace, it af­fords a SMOOTH drive. The soft sus­pen­sion has been tuned to soak up road im­per­fec­tions

range) and al­though this may not look too ap­peal­ing, it is most def­i­nitely hard wear­ing.

There are fur­ther high­lights in there such as the boot – it mea­sures 311 litres, but drop the back seats and this amount grows to 764, more than enough to carry a few suit­cases or the week’s gro­ceries. On the tech­ni­cal side of things it packs a 7in colour touch screen in the cen­tre stack, a Sir­iusXM satel­lite ra­dio and there are a host of other ameni­ties such as key­less en­try, cruise con­trol, steer­ing-wheel­mounted au­dio but­tons, power win­dows, and a theft-de­ter­rent sys­tem.

Some of the safety kit in­cludes rear-park as­sist, four-wheel an­tilock brakes, front and rear side airbags, full-length side cur­tain airbags and front-seat knee airbags. That’s quite good – but with only 98 horse­power and 127Nm of torque from the four-pot, this isn’t what you’d call a quick car.

It gets up and goes like a puppy scampering af­ter a ball; it’s not the most re­fined but once it’s gath­ered some pace, it af­fords a smooth drive. The soft sus­pen­sion has been tuned to soak up road im­per­fec­tions but it man­ages to prove quite nim­ble when you throw it around in the cor­ners.

How­ever, when you need to over­take slower-mov­ing traf­fic (that’ll be all the other su­per­mi­nis on the road .... ), the CVT makes a real meal of it but does the job, even­tu­ally. It prob­a­bly isn’t the ideal com­pan­ion for long high­way com­mutes, what with those mod­est per­for­mance fig­ures and the fact it gets blown about by faster-mov­ing traf­fic (it weighs a tad over 1,000kg) , but it re­ally comes into its own around town. It’s able to keep up with the oth­ers on the road far bet­ter and wheel­ing it proves more fun too as it darts from left to right. And, aside from fit­ting into al­most im­pos­si­ble gaps, it has a very im­pres­sive turn­ing cir­cle too; it’s as if it could spin around on its own foot­print. With a yank of the hand­brake and a sharp flick of the steer­ing wheel, it can.

It may not be the quick­est, but you don’t turn to a Spark if you want per­for­mance, or do you? As the say­ing goes, ‘It’s more fun to drive a slow car fast than to drive a fast car slowly,’ and in­deed with your teeth clenched and your foot floored, this is an en­ter­tain­ing car and I can just imag­ine how much more fun it’d be with a man­ual.

We deal with congested roads on a daily ba­sis, it’s just a part of liv­ing in a big city and so it’s easy to un­der­stand the ap­peal of su­per­mi­nis. They’re easy to park, get good mileage and can carry you and three oth­ers from A to B with­out a fuss. They also won’t break the bank (the base Spark re­tails for Dh45,000) and even if for 2017 GM has only added some new colours and a re­vised dash, this is still a fab lit­tle car – but re­mem­ber, that’s only when you start to drive it like it’s a hot hatch froth­ing at the mouth.

70 This nifty city car is com­pact on the out­side, but has plenty go­ing on in­side. The cen­tre con­sole packs a 7in touch screen

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