Holden Spark Hatch LS : Review & Road Test
Review by Michael Tancredi - 10 August 2016
The Spark launched in Australia a couple of months back in two versions, the LS (a bare bones model) and the LT (an auto version and, more or less, with the optional extras included). The Spark fits the micro-car segment and is sold as Holden's entry level vehicle. Yes, it is small, but it makes up for that in it's stylish look, zippy performance and relatively frugal fuel consumption. The base model price for the LS and LT is $13,990* and $18,990* respectively.
Previously called the Barina Spark this micro model is Holden's entry point into the small car market. Built in South Korea the model has has undergone extensive fine tuning to adapt the suspension, transmission, steering and chassis to meet Australian road conditions. As a result, we found our test Spark's handling and performance well up to our expectations over a variety of road conditions and driving situations.
Holden's Executive Director – Sales Peter Keley, said "... the completely redesigned car offered customers greater performance, efficiency and refinement, along with new safety and connectivity features."
The Spark is a fun car to drive. It's not what one would call a powerful vehicle but what it lacks in power and acceleration it more than makes up for in handling and manoeuvrability. It gets you in and out out of traffic, away from the lights and away of corners with zip and pizzazz. The handling is excellent and moving through traffic, turning corners and getting in and out of tight parking spots is effortless with the highly responsive and sensitive electric power steering (EPS).
The Spark is a extremely comfortable and easy vehicle to drive. The driver has an excellent view in all directions as well as a clear view of all instrumentation. The vehicle provided a firm ride on all road surfaces and the suspension (front Independent McPherson strut, rear compound crank with springs and shock absorbers) handled unsealed roads effortlessly. Road noise up through the tyres was negligible at lower speeds but as the speed climbed passed 60kpm there was a concomitant increase in road noise. All still within manageable limits.
The short sloping bonnet didn't present any visual distraction to the driver and provided easy forward vision therefore providing an unobstructed forward when parking nose to kerb. However, the front sensors would have helped.
The 1.4L 4-cylinder engine is fairly zippy and responds well under acceleration. Acceleration is sufficient to enable safe overtaking, assuming a reasonable wind up. The five speed manual transmission was smooth and all gears were easy to engage both up and down the range. A flashing indicator on the dash provided helpful gear change suggestions. On the flat the vehicle performed admirably but with a full passenger load gears changes were required more frequently and if faced with even moderate inclines often a drop back to at least third was required.
We took the Spark over a mixture of terrains: freeways, suburban streets and up and down winding country roads. We pushed it into corners and accelerated out of bends and drove over sealed and unsealed roads. It performed very well on all surfaces and when pulling out of bends or chicanes at speed. In the main, the vehicle held its line beautifully under hard braking (front disk brakes, rear drum) at various speeds on various surfaces.
The Holden Spark LS and LT are only available in a 1.4L, 4-cylinder, DOHC (with 4 valves/cylinder and multi-port fuel injection) petrol engine. The engine has a power output of 73kW @ 6200rpm and generates torque of 124Nm @ 4400rpm (128Nm @ 4400rpm for the LT).
The LS comes standard with a five speed manual transmission although Continuous Variable Transmission (CVT) automatic is available as an optional extra. The LT comes standard with the CVT automatic.
The stated average fuel consumption for the Spark under controlled conditions is 5.2 L/100km for the LS and 5.5 L/100km for the LT. According to the on-board computer we clocked it at 7.7L/100km over suburban streets, highways and freeways and we pushed it pretty hard at times. Our actual consumption compared reasonably to that obtained under controlled conditions.
CO2 claimed emission under a variety of driving conditions for the 154g/km for the LS and 166g/km for the LT. As a guide, the Australian national average carbon emissions from new passenger and light commercial vehicles was 192g/km [Carbon Dioxide Emissions from New Australian Vehicles 2013 : Information Paper May 2014*]. For those conscious of their CO2 footprint this represents a better than average result.
Recommended fuel is 91 RON.
(*The represents a 3.4% reduction from the results of the 2012 Guide.)
Exterior: 3.00/5 (3.75 with Design Pack)
The Spark sits in the micro category and measures in at 3595mm long, 1595mm wide and 1476mm high and has a wheel base of 2385mm which is slightly longer wheelbase and is lower than the Barina Spark. Small enough to manoeuvre into the tightest parking spot.
In profile it presents a rather sculptured look with quite pronounced swage line across the top and bottom of the doors and a bold curved swage line through the rear door and blending well with the tail lights. For its size it has a lot of glass for the front passengers. whereas the rear window and rear door windows are quite small in comparison. Having said this, there is enough glass to give it a light and airy appearance. The flow of the side windows gives the impression that the roof line tapers to the rear but there is still plenty of head clearance for rear seat passengers. The roof line is finished with a smallish rear spoiler.
The front profile of the vehicle is solid with a largish two tiered grill comprising a black geometric mesh. The front halogen headlights are large and wrap to the side and include daytime running lights. To either side of the lower grill is a recessed area in black that houses the parking lights and, in the LT, the fog lights.
All in all, apart for the distinctive swage lines the look is rather pedestrian, but for an additional charge for the Design Pack the exterior look can be greatly enhanced by adding a colour coordinated grill surround, mirror caps, spoiler and, on the LT coloured insert on the wheels. Our test vehicle included the red mirror caps and spoiler extras.
The Spark LS sits on 14" X 5" steel wheels and the LT, 15" alloy wheels within 165/65R14-97T and 185/55R15-82H tyres respectively.
Apart from the grill, fog light surrounds, lower window edging and side mirror mount the body is one solid colour. There are seven paint options from which to choose (2 standard and 5 prestige, with the prestige incurring an extra $550 charge). Our test vehicle came in prestige Nitrate Silver with Solar red mirror caps and spoiler.
The Holden Spark has been awarded a 5-star ANCAP safety rating with an overall score of 33.60 out of 37.
Standard with the Spark are: Front and side impact airbags for driver and front passenger and full length side curtain airbags.
Other standard safety features include:
- anti-lock braking system (ABS) with;
- electronic brake-force distribution (EBD); which varies the amount of force applied to each of a vehicle's wheels, based on road conditions, speed, loading, etc;
- brake assist (BA); which applies extra force when braking if it senses an emergency situation;
- electronic stability control (ESC) or electronic stability program (ESP); which improves a vehicle's stability by detecting and reducing loss of traction (skidding) by detecting loss of steering control by automatically applying the brakes to wheels individually;
- traction control system (TCS), which limits wheel spin during acceleration so that the drive wheels have maximum traction; and,
- hill start assist control (HAC); to prevent the car from rolling when starting on an incline.
Rear park assist sensors and rear view camera are available as optional extras on the LS (as the Driver Assistance Pack).
The Spark in keeping with it's low cost is stripped back to the bare essentials, minimalist interior. Upholstery in the LS is black cloth (leather trim in the LT) with pale blue geometric patterned inserts. This looks quite effective and funky. Seating is quite firm for the both front and rear, with the front seats providing some support for the flanks.The rear seats easily accommodate two passengers and they have more than enough head room although leg room could become a bit tight. With a tall driver and/or front seat passenger, leg room for rear passengers comes at premium. The door inserts and dash was comprised of hard moulded plastic.
Rear cargo space is quite limited and could hold two small suitcases or three or possibly four large shopping bags with its 185 litre capacity. For much more space the rear seats fold forward (60/40 split) provides 985 litres. The mechanism for folding the seat forward is a relatively straight forward two step process, releasing the bench and folding that forward and then releasing the back (after removing the head restraints) and folding those forward. What to then do with the restraints?
The instrumentation layout is pretty basic with two circular over lapping dials (upper speedo, lower tacho) and petrol gauge and a small rectangular screen to provide basic on-board computer readout information. The instrumentation is easy to read both day and night and has largish grey numbers on a black background with aqua gauge markings and red needles.
The driver is in easy reach of all buttons, dials and controls (although there are a limited number of these). The steering wheel houses the basic controls to manage the volume, selection of audio device and telephone. The controls are easy to manipulate with the right thumb and were intuitive to use. On board computer settings were managed by a button and dial on the blinker slick.
The MyLink infotainment system, managed via the 7" touch screen, provides for a range of inputs, including CD, USB (x2), and Bluetooth©. Pairing a device was straightforward and intuitive. Sound was delivered via an six speaker system. Sound was adequate. The MyLink system also provides a visual display for the climate control system.
The MyLink system also includes Carplay® and Android Auto (compatible with Apple® & Android systems respectively). Both perform similarly and allow most all the functionality of your mobile devices, including Google or Apple Maps, to be displayed and actioned via the MyLink touch screen. Connectivity requires plugging in the phones cable.
Standard in the Spark is a climate control / air conditioning system. Swapping from heating to cooling was quick and the air volume delivered through the vents was adequate. The fan got a bit noisy if set at 2 or above on a 0 to 4 scale.
There was sufficient storage space for all the paraphernalia (papers, cups, etc.) that one accumulates and needs to store. The Spark does not have a central front seat arm rest / storage compartment.
Our test vehicle was fitted with pretty nifty looking alloy pedals as an optional extra - adds a touch of sporty flair.
The micro sized Holden Spark is a solid looking vehicle that is improved in looks markedly by the simple addition of the optional Design Pack. Replacing the Barina Spark, this rendition is quite a nippy vehicle to drive with great manoeuvrability and road holding performance and is frugal with fuel consumption.
While the Spark has a rather spartan interior and is has minimal features, it does support Carplay® and Android Auto and the LT does come standard with the Driver Assistance Pack.
This is a car pitched at the entry level market where a new driver can concentrate of driving the vehicle and gain the necessary experience without all the potential distractions so often included in vehicles today.
* Prices are manufacturer list prices only, for the drive away price please contact your local authorised Holden dealer.
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