Daewoo Matiz / Chevrolet Spark


Debut: 2009
Maker: Daewoo
Predecessor: Matiz Mk1 (1998)



 Published on 11 Dec 2009 All rights reserved. 

GM's second global car appears as Daewoo or Chevrolet, as pictured here.

Nick Reilly has just been named as the CEO of Opel / Vauxhall. Before this appointment, he spent 7 years in Korea, founding GM Daewoo and growing it to be an indispensable part of General Motors. Today, GM Daewoo not only becomes a high-volume production center of GM but also its R&D center for small to compact cars. Its first global responsibility was Chevrolet Cruze / Daewoo Lacetti. The second is this one, Chevrolet Spark / Daewoo Matiz II.

In Korea, the new Matiz is called "Matiz Creative" in order to distinguish from the first generation car still being sold there – although this situation is not expected to be long. You might remember the original Matiz. It had little to remember except its tasteful design by Giugiaro. The new Matiz is also a design-led product, but this time more aggressive, more in-your-face. While it might has more showroom appeal to young customers, it is likely to age more quickly than the old car which lasted for 11 years. The car has a volume-optimized profile similar to Suzuki Splash, but it is a little narrower and lower. Compare with the old Matiz, however, it is wider and longer by nearly 100 mm, and taller by 30 mm. This result in a spacious cabin truly capable of seating 4 adults.

New Matiz is a design-led product...

However, the interior gives us a mixed impression. Functionally, it has nothing to offend. Visually, it tries hard to be funky – in particular the single gauge instrument pod and a small LCD information display – but the center console and glovebox look outdated. The plastics are also quite cheap, failing to match its arch-rival Hyundai i10, let alone the more matured European minicars. The plasticky faux alloy trim and the dark ambience did nothing to raise its visual quality. GM Daewoo has yet to manage quality vs price as well as its rivals. A second production site at India might explain why it did not choose classier materials, but isn't Hyundai i10 also produced in India ?

Like other small cars, the Matiz is easy to drive around town due to its compact size and lightweight. It suspension is clearly tuned for comfort, which is not much of a surprise. Understeer comes early, but body roll is well managed. There is some NVH issues on the preproduction car when it rides over large bumps, but considering the chassis comprises of 66% high-strength steel and 16% ultra-high-strength steel, a little more acoustic materials and suspension fine tuning will easily solve the problem.


Quality is missing here...

The Matiz / Spark offer two small engines to satisfy the basic needs: a 70hp 1.0-liter 16-valve and a 82hp 1.2-liter 16-valve, both equipped with port deactivation to increase exhaust gas recirculation and save fuel. In town, the smaller engine has just enough pull to keep up with the traffic. The larger engine has more mid-range punch, but it screams noisily approaching 5000 rpm, leading to poor refinement on highway. Daewoo's manual gearbox also lacks a satisfying gearshift, which is vague and imprecise.

The new Matiz / Spark look promising from its exterior design and packaging, but in fact it is an average product like its predecessor. While it fulfills the basic needs for 4-people transportation, it offers no more refinement or sparkle than the class average. I wonder why Chevrolet calls it Spark.

A Spark whose driving lacks sparkle...

Verdict: 
 Published on 25 Jul 2013 All rights reserved. 
Spark EV


California launched the controversial ZEV (Zero Emission Vehicle) legislation as early as 1990. After countless of arguments, bargaining and revisions, the regulation is finally coming into force. By model year 2015, large manufacturers like GM, Ford, Chrysler, Toyota, Nissan and Honda have to sell at least 3 percent ZEVs in the state (though there are ways to lower the limit by selling other clean vehicles like plug-in hybrids). For GM, it means about 3,000 units a year. The definition of ZEV is either full electric vehicles or hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Since fuel cell is not matured enough to be commercialized yet, the only way to fulfill the regulation is to build electric cars. This is why we saw many electric small cars launched lately, such as Mini E, Smart Fortwo ED, Fiat 500e, Toyota iQ EV, Honda Fit EV, Ford Focus Electric and this, Chevrolet Spark EV.



GM's take on the EV conversion is much the same as its rivals. The Spark is chosen as the basis because it is small yet roomy enough to accommodate the large battery pack. This 21 kWh lithium-ion battery occupies the space under the rear seat and between the rear wheels, something made possible by the compact torsion-beam rear suspension. Weighing 254 kg, it actually helps lowering the car's center of gravity and improving the front-to-rear balance to 52:48. Up front, the petrol engine and gearbox are replaced with a permanent-magnet electric motor good for 140 hp and an astonishing 400 lbft of torque, and a single-speed step-down gearbox. The power electronics and inverter are also located under the bonnet. Inevitably, the regular car's engine-driven air-con, heating and servo pump have to be replaced with electrified units, while the new LCD instrument is designed to display EV info like battery level and expected range. The suspensions are stiffened to cope with the extra weight. The brakes are upgraded to all-round discs. The rear tires are widened to reflect the altered weight distribution. Nothing really surprises.



Outside, the EV has its main grille covered, and the lower grille now incorporates automatic shutter to reduce drag at high speed. Speaking of drag, extra aero kits like skirts, underbody panels and air deflectors installed fore of each wheel reduce its Cd to 0.325, but even that figure is hardly remarkable these days.

On the road, the combination of strong torque and 140 horsepower successfully overcomes the extra weight of 300 kg, allowing the Spark EV to accelerate briskly. 0-60 mph time is quoted at a remarkable 7.6 seconds, far faster than the standard car's 11.2. To conserve battery, the speed limiter cuts in at 90 mph, but that is more than enough for anyone wanting to buy a green car. In corners, the EV also shows better balance than the standard car, although its low-rolling resistance tires struggle to cope with the strong torque if you are more aggressive on throttle. The steering is slightly more responsive and, surprisingly, free of torque steer, although communication is still lacking. Not so good is the braking, which is ruined by the non-linear transition between regenerative to mechanical braking.



The most important question is: is the Spark EV practical enough to compete with conventional cars? With a quoted range of 82 miles (132 km), it should be sufficient for intra-city use, but it won't be as versatile as conventional cars until one day when fast charging stations are widely available across the country – by then this car might have retired already. However, apart from range and charging time, the rest of the package is highly practical. The cabin is just as roomy as the standard car. The boot is shallower and its capacity is reduced by 25 percent, but you can fold the rear seat back to expand the load bay. More concerning is pricing. In the USA, federal government offers an incentive of US$7500 while California pays another $2500. This reduces the starting price to $17500. Still, it is $5000 more expensive than the petrol Spark. Moreover, even with this premium the EV is going to make a loss for GM. If not because of the California ZEV regulation, this car would not have been produced. That is why the car will not be sold in most other states of America. There is still a long long road to go before EV can become popular.
Verdict:
Specifications





Year
Layout
Chassis
Body
Length / width / height
Wheelbase
Engine
Capacity
Valve gears
Induction
Other engine features
Max power
Max torque
Transmission
Suspension layout

Suspension features
Tires
Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)
0-100 mph (sec)
Daewoo Matiz 1.0
2009
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
3595 / 1595 / 1520 mm
2375 mm
Inline-4
995 cc
DOHC 16 valves
Port deactivation
-
70 hp
68 lbft
4-speed automatic
F: strut
R: torsion-beam
-
155/80R13
910 kg
-
-
-
Chevrolet Spark 1.2 (EU)
2009
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
3595 / 1595 / 1520 mm
2375 mm
Inline-4
1206 cc
DOHC 16 valves
Port deactivation
-
82 hp
82 lbft
5-speed manual
F: strut
R: torsion-beam
-
155/70R14
939 kg
102 mph (c)
11.4 (c)
-
Chevrolet Spark 1.2 (US)
2012
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
3675 / 1598 / 1550 mm
2375 mm
Inline-4
1249 cc
DOHC 16 valves
Port deactivation
-
84 hp
83 lbft
5-speed manual
F: strut
R: torsion-beam
-
185/55TR15
1029 kg
102 mph (c)
11.2*
46.9*




Performance tested by: *C&D





Year
Layout
Chassis
Body
Length / width / height
Wheelbase
Engine
Capacity
Valve gears
Induction
Other engine features
Max power
Max torque
Transmission
Suspension layout

Suspension features
Tires

Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)
0-100 mph (sec)
Chevrolet Spark EV
2013
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
3720 / 1625 / 1590 mm
2375 mm
Electric motor
-
-
-
-
140 hp
400 lbft
1-speed
F: strut
R: torsion-beam
-
F: 185/65R15
R: 195/65R15
1355 kg
90 mph (limited)
7.6 (c) / 7.9*
-




















































Performance tested by: *C&D





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Spark EV


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