The least expensive vehicle currently on sale in the United States is the $10,990 Nissan Versa S. Another small, inexpensive city car is the 2014 Chevrolet Spark. Designed to be a funky around-town urban cruiser, the Spark brings some added design to the inexpensive vehicle segment. Both vehicles have a decent amount of standard equipment, but the Spark starts at $12,170 (before destination). Is the extra money worth it to upgrade from the basic Versa to the basic Spark? Lets compare their features and safety and figure out which one is best.
The Nissan Versa S makes more horsepower and torque than the Spark LS. The Versa makes 109hp and 107lbs/ft of torque from it’s 1.6L engine. The Spark makes only 84hp and 83lbs/ft of torque. People do not tend to buy these types of vehicles for performance, and neither of these are screamers. If raw horsepower is the key, the Versa is the vehicle to purchase.
Usually with small urban runabouts, fuel economy is one of the most important qualities. The Versa is rated at 36mpg on the highway, but the Spark is rated at 39mpg. In town, the Spark is even better, with a 31mpg rating over the 27 rating of the Versa. Actually mileage will vary, but both vehicles should save some money at the pumps. The fuel tank is a bit smaller in the Spark, but that helps keep weight down and make more room for interior space.
The major difference between the body of the Spark and the Versa is that the Spark is a hatchback. Typically, this setup allows for more rear headroom, and fold-flat seats that create a good sized storage area for hauling large items. The Versa has a traditional trunk. Storage space is not as easy to configure, but has more dedicated storage space than what a hatchback does. In small vehicles, we prefer a hatchback. We have had to haul large items in the past in a small car, and the rear hatch makes loading and unloading much easier.
In the safety arena, the Versa has a total of six airbags to protect occupants. However, the little Spark has a massive ten airbags. In addition, the Spark receives an Acceptable rating in the Insurance Institute of Highway Saftey’s extremely difficult small overlap front crash test. The Versa only managed to score a Poor rating. Both vehicles score Good ratings, the highest possible, on all of the other tests. In terms of safety, the Spark gets the nod for being a bit better.
Interior technology is similar on both vehicles. Both vehicles have decent radios, air conditioning, and power windows. A couple of additional Spark-specific features that we like are the oil life monitor and included OnStar. With an oil life sensor, the vehicle tells the driver when a service is required. This means the driver doesn’t have to keep track of mileage or worry about following a specific interval. OnStar is GM’s in-car telematics, and adds loads of convenience and safety features to the car. The important safety feature is automatic crash notification. If the Spark is in an accident, OnStar can dispatch a rescue squad to the accident location by using GPS coordinates. Additionally, if the owner locks his or her keys in the vehicle, OnStar can remotely unlock the doors for them. Unfortunately, OnStar does require a yearly subscription after the 6-month trial period.
Except for the horsepower, we like what the Chevy Spark offers over the Nissan Versa. For the extra money, the better fuel economy, extra features, and superior safety makes it our choice. The Versa is still a safe, inexpensive vehicle. For some, the looks of the Versa will be more appealing than the bold Spark, but we like small cars that look interesting. The Spark is interesting, and a vehicle we’d strongly consider.