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The Chevy Spark isn’t the fastest new manual on the market. It has average reliability predictions and acceptable safety ratings. What makes the Chevy Spark stand out? It’s the cheapest new car you can buy with a manual transmission standard at every trim level. In a market where manual transmissions are getting fewer and further between, the Spark is a dying ember.

a blue Chevy Spark driving on a city street
2021 Chevy Spark | Chevrolet

The 2021 Chevy Spark has vintage vibes

Thirty years ago, inexpensive subcompact manual hatchbacks were commonplace. The 1990s were dominated by these small and versatile cars. The Chevy Spark brings the same energy to the contemporary market. It’s almost surprising not to find a cassette tape player in this car out of time.

Even the bright colors Chevy offers for the Spark feel like they’re from another time. The Spark’s pared-down interior houses some modern features but manual crank windows would feel right at home in this minimalist throwback.

Drivers who fondly remember cars like the Dodge Colt or the Nissan Micra will love the small and economical Spark. It’s an average car across the board, but it’s the last representation of a dying moment in automotive history. A living window into one of the most popular styles of car in the 1990s.

The Spark is a great starter manual

2004 Peugeot 407. Artist Unknown. (Photo by National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

Traditionally, inexperienced manual drivers have been encouraged to stick to the lower end of the price range. Learning to drive a manual transmission car takes minutes. Mastering a manual takes years. Limiting the amount of damage done in the middle is the real trick.

Sticking to an inexpensive and simple option gives new manual drivers room to drive without the stress. There’s less pressure when learning in a car that won’t cost an arm and a leg to repair.

Manual transmissions are enjoying a surge in demand. Market trends, the quest for maximum fuel efficiency, and stricter regulations have led automakers to eliminate most manual options. As manual transmissions become harder to find, more drivers have been motivated to keep the technology alive.

The lowest price around means giving up some comforts

Chevrolet logo on a chrome grille
Chevrolet logo | Justin Sullivan via Getty Images

There are some features conspicuously missing from the 2021 Chevy Spark. The interior may feel a bit dim. A single dome light lights it. No map lights, courtesy lights, or lit mirrors provide further illumination. The spark won’t fit a growing family, and rear passengers will feel the squeeze of the subcompact space economy.

It doesn’t have 19 cupholders. The instrument panel isn’t a futuristic tablet screen. Even the safety features are fundamental at best. For better or worse, the Spark feels like a blast from the past. For drivers genuinely interested in manual transmission’s pure minimalism, a basic interior may not be unwelcome.

Drivers who love the little comforts can opt for the LT trim package. For a few thousand more, drivers will get a loaded version of the Spark which stands up against similarly priced competitors like the Kia Soul or the Mitsubishi Mirage. Small hatchbacks haven’t entirely disappeared, but the Chevy Spark is the last of its kind.


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