Sometimes you just have to think small. The Chevrolet Spark and the FIAT 500 are two entries that strive to provide efficiency and fun in a package that’s sized for zipping around crowded city streets.
FIAT has been building tiny cars for decades on end and knows how to make them charming. The Spark doesn't enjoy that kind of pedigree, but has played well to American audiences. Which approach to pint-size transportation works better for us?
What the Spark Does Right
The Spark's 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine produces 98 horsepower and comes with a five-speed manual or continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). The Spark delivers 34 mpg in combined driving with the manual and 35 mpg with the optional CVT. Acceleration is leisurely, but we did find the Spark more engaging to drive than most vehicles in this class.
Interior fit and finish are cut above what we expected for the price. Everything feels screwed together well, and Chevy's high-tech MyLink infotainment interface comes standard.
What the 500 Does Right
FIAT 500 manages to both pay homage to its lovable ancestors and look hip, trendy and modern. The driving experience is a similar story: today’s 500 easily captures the maneuverability and driving enjoyment of vintage FIATs while providing up-to-date features that buyers expect, like a six-speed automatic transmission.
The 500’s 1.4-liter engine produces 101 horsepower in base form, and 135 horses in the Turbo model. Either way, the distinctive exhaust note and precise steering are pleasant companions on any journey. Pushing the Sport button on the dash noticeable sharpens both the steering and throttle response. Even though the 500 isn’t the fastest thing on the road, it’s certainly fun to drive.
Has Chevy beaten Fiat at its own game?
The Spark certainly has several merits that work in its favor, starting with two extra doors. Buyers will also appreciate its sophisticated infotainment system.
On the other hand, we prefer the 500's traditional six-speed automatic and its sportier suspension tuning. It's easily one of the more playful cars on the road.
Our Verdict: FIAT 500
Bells and whistles on the surface are nice, but it’s character that really counts.