The new Holden Spark will finally be available for 2016 at dealerships across the country from April. This model promises a lot of customization tailored for drivers in Australia and has been extensively tested to make sure it meets road conditions here. No doubt there will be a flurry of Holden Spark Reviews coming out over the coming weeks.
At $13,990, not including on-road costs, it is priced higher than the micro cars it competes with. The Suzuki Celerio, Nissan Micra, and Mitsubishi Mirage, all come in a bit cheaper but aren’t offering the same range of features or engine power.
“We’ve been working as part of a global GM team to help develop the CVT transmission available on Spark for the Australian market. When combined with its 1.4-litre engine, we have been able to deliver a 16% increase in power and up to a 20% increase in torque,” says Ian Butler, Holden’s director of vehicle performance.
Early reviews are positive on the overall driving experience, saying the handling delivers similar to cars costing twice as much. While the 73kW power at 6200rpm won’t outperform the engines in the rival Mazda2, the Holden Spark has enough pep to be fun drive.
Holden engineers were involved closely right from the start of the development process. Their focus was on three major areas of engineering work, tuning the suspension, chassis controls, and calibrating the steering. The effect has been, as one review puts it, to make the spark “drive like a grown-up car.”
“We have introduced alternative dampers and tuned them correctly to improve road holding and increase body control. This gives the driver an improved ride balance, especially over some of the more challenging road surfaces we see outside the cities,” says Holden’s vehicle dynamics engineer, Rob Trubiani.
The adjustments to the steering control were developed in tandem with extensive drive testing to make sure the driving experience meets the needs of Australian customers. These changes give the car a smooth, refined handling at cruising speeds, and the ability to take on hills and to overtake over cars out on the open road.
It’s the chassis controls that bring the real features adding to the driving quality. These include hill start to assist, electronic stability control (ESC), traction control (TC) and ABS. These four features give the car a responsive grip on the road and leave the driver feeling in control.
The car also offers a set of features to appeal to the more tech-savvy out there. Standard features include a seven-inch colour touch screen and Apple CarPlay / Android Auto, making it the most affordable car to offer smartphone mirroring technology.That seven-inch screen is the central focus of the wing-shaped dashboard and adds to the pleasant interior of the vehicle. The instruments are easy to read, and there’s good overall visibility from the high-set driving position. Storage space, as you might expect, is not overly generous. Two adults can fit more or less comfortably in the rear seats, at least over short drives, but fitting four people’s worth of gear in the boot would be a challenge.
That seven-inch screen is the central focus of the wing-shaped dashboard and adds to the pleasant interior of the vehicle. The instruments are easy to read, and there’s good overall visibility from the high-set driving position. Storage space, as you might expect, is not overly generous. Two adults can fit more or less comfortably in the rear seats, at least over short drives, but fitting four people’s worth of gear in the boot would be a challenge.
Before releasing the model for sale, extensive road testing was done with a captive test fleet.
A group of 29 employees and student interns was selected to test continuously the cars over a three-month period. Engineers wanted to make sure that the design modifications delivered on what they promised.
“Our engineers were able to ensure the car handles and performs smoothly over a variety of road surfaces while our target market employees tended to be more focused on how the connectivity and convenience features integrated with their everyday lives,” Butler notes.
Overall the Holden Spark adds some excellent control and features to the microcar market. Time will tell if people are willing to pay more for a small car that delivers above its competition, but those that do are likely to enjoy the drive.
Holden Spark on sale from April 2016.
Spark LS – manual transmission $13,990
Spark LS – automatic transmission $15,690
Spark LT – automatic transmission $18,990