Way down at the bottom of the market, where even subcompacts can't fit, are micro-cars like the Chevrolet Spark and Scion iQ. As expected, they're economical and a cinch to spark, although you'll have to temper your expectations when it comes to things like comfort and performance.
With four doors and decent cargo space, the Chevy tries hard to be an agreeable commuter for the right driver. The Scion distinguishes itself by offering ample standard equipment for this class. Which approach works for us?
What the Spark Delivers
The Spark's rock-bottom base price leaves little room for luxuries, but you do get power windows, air conditioning and a stereo with an auxiliary input jack. The tall body with minimal overhang helps create enough room for four people, provided the two in back don't have to spend too much time there. You'll find sufficient cargo space behind the rear seat for several grocery bags, and a total of 31 cubic feet when it's folded -- more than expected in such a tiny package. If you expect to carry large items now and then, the optional roof rack is money well spent
The Spark runs with a 1.2-liter four-cylinder with 84 horsepower and a five-speed manual transmission. Whether you stick with the manual or go for the optional continuously variable transmission (CVT), the Chevy delivers 34 mpg in combined city and highway driving.
Does the iQ Measure Up?
The iQ manages to be even smaller than the Spark while offering additional standard features like a leather-wrapped steering wheel, power locks, an information display screen, and a Pioneer audio system with six speakers and a USB port.
Once you get past the equipment list, the iQ's smallness catches up with it. An indent in the dashboard allows the passenger seat to slide farther forward than in most cars, which is the only way to fit an adult in the backseat. The space behind the driver seat is only suitable for a small child. Coincidentally, when carrying its 3.5 passengers, the iQ can also carry 3.5 cubic feet of cargo. That's a ridiculously small capacity, but at least it grows to a merely poor 16.7 cubic feet with the rear seat down.
Fuel economy from the 94-horsepower 1.3-liter four-cylinder and standard CVT is quite good: 37 mpg combined. Zero to 60 mph takes 11.6 seconds, about a second slower than the Spark.
The Bottom Line
Everyone knows the Spark is small, but owning one doesn't require too much sacrifice. For some reason, the freakishly stingy iQ costs $4,000 more, which makes it pointless.
Our Verdict: Chevrolet Spark
The littlest Chevrolet wins this matchup by a TKO.