Chevrolet has been on a roll of late, with its 42-mpg Cruze Eco compact sedan and 40-mpg Sonic subcompact compact sedan and hatchback. But the laws of diminishing returns have seemingly hit the even smaller 2013 Chevrolet Spark, as the EPA came out with its fuel economy ratings this week. And we’ll say this about them: They’re not as good as we’d expect them to be.
Equipped with the optional four-speed automatic transmission, the EPA certified the 82-horsepower car at 28 mpg city/37 mpg highway. We’d recommend the car’s standard five-speed manual transmission, though, as it’s not only rated at a higher 32 mpg city/38 mpg highway, but it’ll likely help keep the car in its small powerband a little more easily.
Evidenced by the car’s city fuel economy when optioned with the manual, its engine is plenty efficient. But when you’re dealing with such a small car, you have to start building upward to keep enough space for passengers. Aerodynamics take something of a back seat to packaging efficiency, which helps explain why the Chevrolet Spark doesn’t hit in the mid-40s when it comes to highway fuel economy.
However, compared to its closest rivals, the Chevrolet Spark appears to be right where it needs to be. In its most efficient configuration, the Fiat 500 is rated at 30 mpg city/38 mpg highway. Its automatic transmission drops highway fuel efficiency down to 34 mpg, and the EPA lists premium fuel as recommended for the 100-horsepower model.
The Scion iQ‘s highway fuel economy is also less than the Spark at 37 mpg, but its city economy is much higher, at 36 mpg. And the two-passenger Smart Fortwo is rated at 34 mpg city/38 mpg highway. But like the Fiat, it also runs best on premium gasoline.
The 2013 Chevrolet Spark will reach dealerships in the fall, complete with a 1.2-liter four-cylinder engine under-hood, as well as an all-electric version a little later. Prices are expected to start at just under $13,000, with the car topping out at less than $17,000 for a fully loaded model.