Car Buyer Labs

Car Buying Advice, Tips and Reviews

A woman is getting into a teal 2021 Chevy Spark parked in front of a storage unit home.

Is There Still a Spark of Hope for the Supermini?

The 2021 Chevy Spark is marketed as one of the cheapest cars on the market. It is a stylish and cute little subcompact car that is sure to catch drivers’ attention. Particularly for drivers in the city, it’s a great car to snag impossible parking spots and save you trips to the gas station. For many, just the look of these cars is enough to get their attention. After all, who can blame them, they are super adorable. Not only adorable, but their ability to handle tight turns responsively in an urban environment makes them feel fun to drive. If you can get all that for the lowest price of any car, what isn’t to love?

Upon closer inspection, it looks like the base model of the 2021 Chevy Spark is missing some features that most drivers would consider standard. They are possible to get as individually priced options that can be added, though. So what is missing from the base model Chevy Spark that needs to be added for it to have what you expect and does it still have the advertised competitive price after all is said and done?

A red 2021 Chevy Spark is shown from the side driving on a cobble stone road.

Base Model: 2021 Chevrolet Spark LS

The Chevy Spark starts baseline with the LS model. The starting MSRP is $13,400, which is super affordable for a new car. Across all trims, the Spark is armed with a small 1.4L 4-cylinder engine that maxes out at 98 horsepower. The following key features are what come standard with no added options:

  • 15” steel wheels: Steel wheels are standard across the trims and are excellent for tight maneuverability and confident control while you navigate the city streets. They are a little heavier than the alloy option but sturdier.
  • 4G LTE and Wi-Fi: For a base tech feature this is actually pretty nice. Having advanced connectivity right in the comfort of your car for no extra cash is hard to beat.
  • 4-speaker audio system: There are larger 6-speaker audio systems available for the Spark at additional cost, but honestly, I don’t know how many people will need to blast their music in this tiny vehicle. It isn’t like this is an SUV with so much space and so many passengers that you need noise zones.
  • 60/40-split/fold rear seats: The seat split ratio provides plenty of room for the driver and front-seat passengers while leaving room for up to two passengers in the back. If you need extra storage and less people, you can always fold the seats in the back to expand the normal 11.1 cu.ft. of storage into 27.2 cu.ft.
  • Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration: Seamless integration with your Apple and Android devices with access at your fingertips on the 7” touchscreen. Again, these tech features are nice, flashy, and great draws to the base model.

Did you notice what was missing? Probably not. Something that isn’t advertised on the base model of the 2021 Chevy Spark is the distinct lack of small, creature comforts like power windows, power locks, and cruise control. This won’t necessarily be a dealbreaker for some buyers, but for others, these small conveniences have become standard. Unless you don’t mind hand cranking your windows, or maybe you are just interested in saving as much money as possible, these missing features could turn you off from going with the LS trim.

So what does the next trim level look like, and what does it offer? The 1LT, for most, will be considered the consumer base model. Starting at an MSRP of $15,300 it jumps up a bit more expensive than the LS and is closer to other subcompact competitors

Trim Above the Rest: 1LT

The 1LT trim is slightly higher priced but comes with many powerful features that some drivers will consider standard. Unless you are really trying to save every penny, we recommend this trim as a good baseline model. In addition to the power windows and locks, the 1LT comes with the additional standard features:

  • LED daytime running lights: These stylish lights won’t help you see the road any better, but they will make you more visible to other drivers. As a flashy addition that doubles as a safety feature, this is a pretty great addon.
    Cruise control: One of the other features many will consider a standard that is bizarrely not present on the LS. While not always useful in urban driving, if you plan on taking
  • the Spark on highways, you will enjoy the convenience and added fuel efficiency.
  • 15-inch alloy wheels: The same size as the standard steel wheels, these alloy options are much lighter, but a little less durable.
  • Heated/power-adjustable side mirrors: These heated mirrors will keep you from being snow blinded in the cold and lets you adjust them from inside. This is a nice feature that you’ll be glad to have when the winter hits.

The 1LT seems to be the trim that brings the Spark up from an incredibly affordable subcompact car with a few analog features back into the 21st century of vehicle expectations. How does it stack up to some of the competition? At the 1LT level, the Spark is closer to the Honda Fit (MSRP starting at $16,190) and the Kia Rio (MSRP starting at $15,850). If we are in the same general price point, what factors can we look at to properly gauge the value of the Spark we are building in contrast?

The black rows of seats in a 2021 Chevy Spark are shown from above.

Size Matters Not…Or Does it?

A big part of the appeal of the subcompact is the smallest factor: the size. As we have mentioned before, the subcompact’s distinctly diminutive size makes it ideal for navigating tight city streets and parking in small, impossible spaces. The flipside to the small size is sacrificed power and storage space as well as passenger space. Of course, these are all features of the subcompact, so they don’t have to be considered negative.

The Spark’s total length is 143.1-in, which is a full 22-in smaller than the Honda Fit and 33-in smaller than the Kia Rio. If you need something as small as possible and aren’t looking to carry lots of cargo, the Spark takes the trophy for being the smallest in class. This does mean having less total cargo space than the others but folding the rear seats in the Spark takes the normal 11.1 cu.ft. of cargo up to 27.2 cu.ft. You may not be able to load it up for a road trip, but it will certainly get all your groceries home.

Spark: Make it the Best for You

The 2021 Chevy Spark is cute, customizable, and affordable. It lacks certain features at its base trim that will force many drivers to spend more on added options and trim levels that bring the price tag closer to some very appealing competition for the subcompact. The Spark’s small size is hard to beat in class which may be what you are looking for, but comes at a distinct lack of comparable storage space as other subcompact cars, even with the back seats folded down.

Where the Spark seems to shine is in flexibility, which you will need to have to get the most of what you want from it. If you are on a shoestring budget and are okay with a few less convenient features while maintaining some great tech features, the Chevy Spark’s base trims are an excellent choice for you. You’ll be saving extra money with the combined 32-33 MPG anyway. That said, if you have some extra cash in your new car budget, the higher trims (1LT, Activ, and 2LT) turn the Spark from the barebones subcompact into a city-dweller’s dream car.

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