When GM said their new EV cranked out more torque than the standard Tesla Model S or a Ferrari 458 Italia, my interest was piqued. When they said their new EV was a front wheel drive car, I scratched my head. When they said it was none other than the Spark, aka the Daewoo Matiz Creative, I knew I needed to see what GM’s first pure-electric vehicle since the ill-fated EV1 was all about.
The Spark EV starts its life in Changwon, South Korea where gasoline and electric sparks are built by GM Korea. The heart of the Spark however comes from America. GM is building the permanent magnet motors in Maryland and rather than using LG batteries made in Korea, like the Chevy Volt, American-made batteries courtesy of B456 (formerly A123). (No, I’m not kidding.) Instead of shipping cars sans drivetrain, GM ships batteries and drivetrain to Korea, then they ship the completed car back to the USA.
Why does the Spark EV exist? Because of my home state of California of course. The California Air Resources Board has mandated that Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Ford, GM and Chrysler make a total of 7,500 zero emissions vehicles by 2014 and 25,000 by 2017. This just the start of the estimated 270,000 yearly production that will be required in 2025.
As with the gasoline version, the front seats are flat, firmly padded and offer little lumbar support. The hard plastics on the doors make for an uncomfortable place to rest your elbow but thankfully there is a padded armrest in the center for the driver only. This isn’t unusual for compact cars, but electrification makes for strange bedfellows and the Leaf, Focus EV and Fiat 500e are direct competition that all offer more driver and passenger comfort.
Because of the Spark’s narrow width the Chevy is a strict four-seater putting it on par with the 500e but one passenger behind the Fit, Leaf and Focus. It was surprisingly easy to put four tall adults in the Spark, a task that is more difficult in the considerably larger Focus because of its sloping roof-line. Still, passengers will be more comfortable in the Honda Fit which offers a bit more room for four, seating for five and more headroom all the way around. Despite the Leaf’s rear seat numbers being average, because of the way the seating position in the Leaf most people will find the Nissan roomier.
As with most gas to EV conversions, the Spark loses a bit of cargo volume in the process dropping 2 cubes to 9.6 cubic feet of cargo space. That’s slightly larger than the 500e but a long way from the Leaf’s spacious 24 cubic foot booty. Unlike the Fiat 500e however, GM chose not encroach on passenger footwell space for battery storage.
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