This is the home of automobile road tests in South Africa. We drive South African cars, SUVs and LCVs under South African conditions. It also just happens that most of the vehicles we drive are world cars as well, so what you read here probably applies to the models you can get at home.
*To read one of our road tests, just select from the menu on the left.
*Please remember too, that prices quoted were those ruling on the days I wrote the reports.
We try out the Chevrolet Spark LS
Enough room for grownups
Just in case you're not up to date yet: the old Chevy Sparks, the badge-engineered Daewoo Matiz 800cc and 1-litre minicars are now known as Spark Lite L and LS. The Chevrolet New Spark introduced this past July is a completely new design from the worldwide General Motors conglomerate. Two models share a four-cylinder, 16 valve, DOHC 1 206cc engine developing 60 kW at 6 400 rpm and 108 Nm of torque at 4 800 rpm. The General stresses that these new Sparks are not simply Korean. They are world cars designed, developed and engineered with input from GM units around the globe. OK, they're built in Korea, but you have German, French and many other nations' cars built in South Africa, so your point is?
For small city cars priced around R120 000, equipment levels are pretty good with the basic L model sporting 14 inch steel wheels fitted with 155/70 R14 tyres, power steering, air conditioning, rear window demister and wiper, intermittent windscreen wipers, RDS radio/CD player with MP3 compatibility and auxiliary USB port, driver and front passenger frontal airbags, alarm/immobiliser system and key operated remote central locking.
The radio/CD on the press car was an early production unit with the small USB port as found on satnavs. Nobody in Pietermaritzburg could offer the correct adaptor cable, but after I pointed this out to GM engineers in Port Elizabeth, an order for dealer stocks was placed with the factory. July-onward cars have been fitted with the standard USB socket.
Upscale LS variants gain remote controlled, heated electric side mirrors, alloy wheels, power windows at the front, remote boot release, a smarter radio/CD unit, ABS, EBD and autolocking doors. They lock at 40 km/h and open again as you turn off the ignition. Boot capacity is given as 170 litres and is a practical shape that should hold a reasonable quantity of groceries or whatever you need it to. The spare is full-sized (alloy on the LS) and the rear seatback splits 40/60 to increase loading area. The cushions lie about 90 percent flat when folded, but there are no head restraints on them.
Rear seat head- and legroom is sufficient for six-footers seated behind driver and front passenger of similar height. Entry and exit for taller people is pretty painless but remember to duck slightly as you do so, as the doorframe could catch you. The driver is favoured on this car as his or her seat features height adjustment and only she is granted a makeup mirror. Being an entry-level car, there is no reach- or height adjustment for the steering wheel either.
There is a medium sized and practically shaped glove box (GLOVE box? Who wears gloves and sticks them in the cubby?), five storage slots scattered throughout the cabin, bottle holders in the front doors and seatback pockets for the kids' colouring books. As mentioned in our launch report, there is enough shoulder room for grownups to co-exist without nudging each other all the time.
Performance is good for a 1200, with 100 km/h coming up in just over 13 seconds and going on to a maximum speed of 163. Turning over at about 3 800 rpm at 120 km/h in top gear (fifth) the engine is no busier than those of other small naturally aspirated cars. Throttle response at 120 is actually quite strong; leading me to wonder whether a sixth gear for cruising might be a possibility in future generations. So how is it over Pietermaritzburg speed humps? The Spark LS rated as "quite good," which for a short car with little wheels is close to excellent.
Price: R125 495
Engine: 1 206 cc four cylinder DOHC 16 valve
Power: 60 kW at 6 400 rpm
Torque: 108 Nm at 4 800 rpm
0 - 100 km/h: 13,4 seconds
Maximum Speed: 163 km/h
Average fuel consumption: 7,0 l/100 km
Tank: 35 litres
Warranty: 5 years/120 000 km
Service plan: Optional at R6 600 - 3 years/60 000 km
This is a one-man show, which means that road test cars entrusted to me are driven only by me. Some reviewers hand test cars over to their partners to use as day-to-day transport and barely experience them for themselves.
What this means to you is that every car reviewed is given my own personal evaluation and receives my own seat of the pants judgement - no second hand input here.
Every car goes through real world testing; on city streets littered with potholes, speed bumps and rumble strips, on freeways and if its profile demands, dirt roads as well.
I am based in Pietermaritzburg, KZN, South Africa. This is the central hub of the KZN Midlands farming community; the place farmers go to to buy their supplies and equipment, truck their goods to market, send their kids to school and go to kick back and relax.
So occasionally a cow, a goat or a horse may add a little local colour by finding its way into the story or one of the pictures. It's all part of the ambience!
Want to ask a question, comment or just tell me you thoroughly disagree with what I say? That's your privilege, because if everybody agreed on everything, the world would be a boring place. All I ask is that you remain calm, so please blow off a little steam before venting too vigorously. Contact me here
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