Chevrolet can't be too happy with the EPA numbers for its tiny Spark. Equipped with the 1.2-liter engine and five-speed manual, the smallest Chevy in history gets 32 miles per gallon in the city, 38 on the highway for a combined EPA number of 34 mpg. Not bad, but not what we and, presumably, Chevy, were hoping for. Add the optional automatic transmission, and the numbers drop to 28 city, 37 highway and a combined number of 32 mpg.
When we first saw the Spark at the Geneva show in 2009, the Spark was expected to get a combined number of 47 mpg, though that may have been forecasting a European rating.
With its small size and small, 1.2 liter, 85 hp engine, it's easy to think of the Spark as super efficient. The similarly-sized Smart ForTwo gets a combined EPA number of 36 mpg, while the larger Hyundai Accent gets 34 as well.
In fact, the Spark's larger stablemates, the Cruze Eco and Sonic, can do almost as well if properly equipped. Both cars gets a combined 33 mpg with the turbocharged 1.4 liter and manual six-speed transmission. The Sonic even breaks the 40-mpg barrier in highway driving and the Cruze Eco gets an even better 42.
The moral of this story? Looks like a sixth gear makes a huge difference in fuel economy. And if you don't mind paying a little more, you can get a larger Chevy with better EPA numbers.