Bright Spark

General Motors had the good grace to loan me a R125 495 Chevy Spark LS for the Christmas holidays while the car biz closed up shop.

Here’s my holiday diary of what you can expect when living with one. The Chevy Spark isn’t what I’d rank as the best supermini on the market; normally I’d have said the Daihatsu Charade or Citroen C1 were good little cars . However, this was the perfect opportunity for the South Korea-built Spark to win me over.

Day 1: A bright red Chevy Spark is delivered to my house and looks to be in good condition with 9 445km on the clock. Excited about taking ownership of it, I put a fake Mercedes Benz keyring on the key as I plan to have the keys hanging out of pocket at end-of-year parties.

Day 8: The Spark has just been sitting in my driveway collecting dirt as I haven’t had the time to drive it. The look of it isn’t growing on me. It looks like someone punched it in the face, and even with the alloys, the wheels are too thin and the arches aren’t filled enough.

Day 10: First drive. I climb inside and am suitably impressed with build quality; a huge improvement over previous Sparks and Aveos. Plastics are sturdy and inoffensive.

Day 12: Beginning to be annoyed by lacklustre instrument display and centre fascia that only shows me my airbag status. Why is that even there? This is the high specification LS and I feel like I’ve been deprived of specifications such as the empty gaps for front fog lights.

Day 15: A week into driving it and amazingly I haven’t been put off it yet. The handling and road-holding are mediocre but steering is direct and the engine is winning me over. The 1,2-litre four-cylinder has plenty of go for a little supermini; it easily does 120km/h on the highway, but most importantly it pulls effortlessly in top gear.

Day 16: Annoyed with the fuel filler button near the driver’s door. Every time I climb out my trousers catch the button and I accidentally open the fuel cap.

Day 17: A week’s worth of driving and I’ve done 700km from a 35-litre tank. That’s an average of 5,0-litres per 100km, which is 0,4 better than the claimed figures. Attention students: that means 120km for every R50 you put in and 35km in reserve after the dial says empty. You owe me a drink.

Day 25: Have totally settled with the Spark in my daily routine. The driver’s seat is genuinely good and even being a six foot two-er, I haven’t felt uncomfortable once. Boot space for your average beach trip is a bit tight, but the rear seats take two people comfortably and can fold flat. Radio and MP3/CD player is bang on. Air-conditioning in the LS is welcome in 35 degree Cape Town heat.

Day 28: I catch a glimpse of Transformers 2 on TV and feel an odd sense of pride when I see my Spark. Still think it looks better with the big, pimped wheels though.

Day 31: Avoiding calls from Chevrolet, genuinely don’t want to give it back.

Verdict: So, that’s seven positive entries versus three negative entries. I’m still not a fan of the looks, and there are a few annoying little titbits here and there. But at the end of the day, after 2 212km, nothing’s gone wrong. It’s been a brilliant holiday companion.

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