New Spark is built on an all-new, stronger platform. Engine size has increased from 1.2 to 1.4 litres; an efficient CVT automatic sits beside it, though there’s also a manual should you want one.
The Holden Lang Lang proving ground south-east of Melbourne was used extensively during Spark’s design and testing stages. GM-Holden is keen to point out this facility will remain in operation as a key part of the GM global empire long after Holden’s Australian factories close late next year.
Holden Spark comes in two equipment levels, the base model LS which is priced at $13,990 with a five-speed manual gearbox or $15,690 with a CVT automatic. The higher-specced, CVT-only, LT has a recommended retail of $18,990.
The LS comes with 14-inch steel wheels, the LT gets 15-inch alloys. Spark LT also has a smart key with push-button starting, cruise control, and a leather wrapped steering wheel.
Holden Spark has a sleeker, more stylish appearance than the superseded Barina Spark. There’s a bold front grille and relatively narrow A-pillars. The Spark has ‘hidden’ door handles at the top of the rear doors in an attempt to give the appearance of a three-door hatch.
New Spark is lower and slightly longer and sits on an extended wheelbase. It retains the tall stance as that’s necessary to give reasonable interior room in any very small car. The double-stack GM grille works particularly well because of the tall front of the Spark.
Boot capacity is always a compromise in cars in this class in order to give reasonable legroom in the back seat. There’s a luggage volume of 185 litres in the Spark, but it can expand to 985 litres with the 60/40 rear seatbacks folded.
ENGINE / TRANSMISSION
The new 1.4-litre four-cylinder engine generates up to 73 kW of power at 6200 rpm and torque of 128 Nm (CVT auto) and 124 (five-speed manual gearbox), both when revving at a pretty high 4400 rpm.
A large central display unit with a 7.0-inch colour touchscreen dominates the centre of the dashboard. It uses Holden’s MyLink system and is compatible with both the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto systems. These link through a USB cable, to project smartphone displays, including satellite navigation, onto the Spark’s touchscreen.
Siri Eyes Free and voice recognition software as well as steering wheel audio controls reduce, but don’t eliminate, driver inattention. It’s still vitally important that drivers always have two eyes on the road and pay 100 per cent attention to what’s happening around them.
The entry-level Spark LS gets six airbags; electronic stability program; ABS brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution; traction control; hill-start assist and two IsoFix child seat anchor points. Spark LT adds a reversing camera and rear parking sensors.
Being a ground-up design means it was relatively easy for the Spark to gain a five-star ANCAP safety rating.
Some of our initial testing was done at Holden’s Lang Lang proving ground so that we could push cars significantly harder than we would on public roads. Recent rain had left the surface quite slippery but apart from a couple of slight wiggles the Spark gripped the road securely, was well-balanced through the corners and generally showed a surprising level of refinement for such a small car.
On normal roads in our home territory of south east Queensland we found the Spark to be pretty smooth and quiet for its size. It’s no Caprice, but is not a noisy little machine like many small cars of yore.
Around town its size and good visibility make it a breeze to drive and park.
Handling is good thanks to the extensive Australian engineering in this area. It’s no hot hatch but it feels good and sends its messages through the steering and the seat of your pants. Understeer moves in to slow you down if you push too hard, but it’s unlikely many owners will drive in that way.
On country roads Spark cruises with little trouble and even at 120 km/h (surprisingly we didn’t crash…) on the M1 it was nowhere near breathing hard.
Fuel consumption was in the five to six litres per hundred kilometres range on motorways in our CVT equipped Spark, rising to a still very reasonable eight to nine litres when punted around town in traffic.
Rarely have we seen a car improve so dramatically as the Holden Spark, albeit from a pretty low base. This is now a very good city car that can confidently be taken out onto the open road and cope with more demanding conditions than its predecessor. While not the cheapest in its class those who enjoy driving are likely to be happy to pay the extra.
AT A GLANCE
Spark LS 1.4-litre five-door hatch: $13,990 (manual), $15,690 (CVT)
Spark LT 1.4-litre five-door hatch: $18,990 (CVT)
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Holden dealer for drive-away prices.
SPECIFICATIONS (Holden Spark LT 1.4-litre five-door hatch)
Capacity: 1.399 litres
Configuration: Four cylinders in line
Maximum Power: 73 kW @ 6200 rpm
Maximum Torque: 128 Nm @ 4400 rpm
Fuel Type: Petrol 91 RON
Combined Fuel Cycle (ADR 81/02): 5.8 L/100km
CO2 Emissions: 128 g/km
Continuously variable transmission
DIMENSIONS, WEIGHT AND CAPACITIES:
Length: 3595 mm
Wheelbase: 2385 mm
Width: 1595 mm
Height: 1522 mm
Turning Circle: 9.6 metres
Kerb Mass: 948 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 32 litres
Front: Ventilated disc
Three years / 100,000 km