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The term “cheapest car” used to be a byword for depressingly horrible, but that may not be the case anymore. Here in 2022, with the cost of everything rising and the average price of a new car cresting $47,000, can you find a good new car on the cheap?

The 2022 Chevrolet Spark is the cheapest new car sold in the USA. With an MSRP of $13,600, one might expect this to be a thinly disguised golf cart with doors. But as it turns out, the Spark is not as dreary as you think.

Performance and economy

A blue Chevrolet Spark driving along a street.
2021 Chevrolet Spark | Chevrolet

The diminutive Spark doesn’t really have performance, as such. What you get, regardless of trim level, is a 1.4-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine with a microscopic 98 horsepower. That’s not enough power, and the Spark struggles to 60 mph from a standstill in 10.7 seconds. 

It is, fortunately, economical. The Spark is definitely efficient with an EPA-estimated 38 mpg on the highway, but its rivals, the Nissan Versa and Kia Rio do better.

A five-speed manual transmission is standard on all trim levels, which is great for drivers who like to row their own gears. If that’s not you, then a CVT is available for an additional $1100. 

Trim levels and equipment

Chevrolet Spark interior view showing dashboard, steering wheel and infotainment screen.
2021 Chevrolet Spark | Chevrolet

There are four trim levels available from Chevrolet. The base model is the Spark LS, followed by the 1LT, Activ, which is like a “crossover-lite” trim, and then the top-spec 2LT. All trims come with a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system that includes Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, two USB ports, and the option to add a WiFi hotspot. A six-speaker sound system with steering wheel controls is standard on every trim except the base LS.

If you are after a suite of active safety features, you will be disappointed, as there is only automatic emergency braking and lane departure warning available. Those are both optional extras ($295) and are only available on the top trim 2LT version with the CVT.

I think it would be a tad optimistic to expect much in the way of luxury-car amenities. Keep in mind this is a small, economy hatchback. Despite that, Car and Driver notes that the interior is actually decent, with good quality and attractive textures.

What is the 2022 Chevrolet Spark like to drive and live with?

A 3/4 front view of a red 2021 Chevrolet Spark parked in a driveway.
2021 Chevrolet Spark | Chevrolet

According to both Car and Driver and MotorTrend, the Spark is decent fun to drive. Both sites note nimble handling and give it top marks for offering a manual transmission. 

Amazingly, these cars are active in motorsport. The Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) allows them to race wheel-to-wheel with other economy hatchbacks in the B-Spec category. 

It is important to note that the Spark is a car for around town or in a big city. It would not be ideal for a cross-country road trip. As you would expect from a vehicle that is only 143-inches long, it is not what anyone would define as roomy. It is a very tight squeeze to get four people inside. 

Is the 2022 Chevrolet Spark a good car?

A silver 2022 Chevrolet Spark Activ parked along a street.
2022 Chevrolet Spark Activ | Chevrolet

If you are looking for a small, agile, around town or city car, for not a lot of money, it is worth considering. We recommend avoiding the base LS trim and going for the 1LT. The 1LT has better standard equipment, and you’ll still have money left over for a fun color like Blue Glow or Nitro Yellow and some accessories like color-matched wheel inserts. 

The power may be anemic, but you will be guaranteed to use 100% of it. Cheap used to mean terrible, but in the 2022 Chevrolet Spark, that is no longer the case. It offers good value, good equipment, and a better experience than some rivals, like the Mitsubishi Mirage

Related: 2021 Chevy Spark Vs. 2021 Mitsubishi Mirage: Which Is The Best Value