When it comes to hot hatches, the 2016 Chevy Spark is arguably as far removed from the segment as it gets. While its lightweight chassis and compact size are ideal for a performance platform, its 94-horsepower four-cylinder engine makes the Spark feel like a heavily governed go-kart instead of a sporty hatchback that’s fun to drive.
But if the Chevy Spark RS heading to the 2015 SEMA Show is any indication, that is sure to change. Though it’s just a concept car at this point, it’s not uncommon for SEMA cars to become production models if they are well-received. And if the current hatch craze says anything, it’s sure to be a car that will attract plenty of attention at SEMA.
As far as domestic competition is concerned, Ford is currently leading the charge with its turbocharged trio of hot hatches. The Fiesta ST, Focus ST, and Focus RS all offer the utilitarian advantage of a hatchback with the exhilarating performance of a sports car — making them appealing to both enthusiasts and the practical-minded alike.
For reasons unknown, both General Motors and Dodge have seemingly shifted their focus away from the segment altogether despite its increasing popularity. But slowly but surely, it looks as if Chevrolet might be catching on with the unveiling of the Spark RS concept.
In addition to its Corvette Z07-styled wheels, a carbon fiber front splitter and rocker extensions transform the Spark from a “cute” compact to a respectable tuner. A wider stance and lowered ride height give the Spark an aggressive look that increases the model’s appeal to a larger audience.
While the exterior modifications made to Spark RS give it a muscular appearance, we’re hoping it’s not just another form-over-function dress-up package. Though Chevrolet claims the current Spark’s four-cylinder engine with variable valve timing will allow Spark owners to experience pure driving exhilaration, that’s only directed to those who are upgrading from a tired 1970s VW Beetle.
Despite Chevrolet’s futile marketing attempt, the Spark’s current engine is fuel-efficient and nothing more. Admittedly, it’s a great one at that, with its stellar 40 mile per gallon highway rating. But if speed is your thing, 94 horsepower simply isn’t going to cut it.
Chevrolet has yet to announce if the Spark will receive an engine upgrade, but we’d like to see the 1.4-liter turbocharged Ecotec that’s currently available in the larger Sonic. The Spark’s excellent fuel-economy would be preserved, but performance would certainly receive a big boost — literally!
Though 138 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque still doesn’t sound like much, it’s worth noting that the current Spark weighs less than 2,400 pounds, fully optioned. To put things into perspective, adding a turbocharger to the Spark’s 1.4-liter engine would be the equivalent of dropping a Hayabusa engine in a golf cart. Okay, that might be a stretch, but it will certainly give the Spark RS a potent powerplant to match its striking looks.
If the Spark RS hits the market, its closest competitors would likely be the Mini Cooper S, Ford Fiesta ST, and Fiat 500 Abarth. It’s lesser performance and smaller dimensions likely won’t appeal to Golf GTI and Focus ST shoppers unless they’re looking to downsize significantly.
The Spark RS concept was brought to life thanks to a collaborative effort between Chevrolet’s design team in North America and Korea. As to whether or not it will become a production model, a lot depends on how the Spark RS will be received at SEMA. For the future of the hot hatch industry, we’re hoping it steals the spotlight.
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