wheels CotY 2017: Best city car

Easy to maneuver and fun to drive (when you manhandle it…) the Spark is a deserved winner
By Imran Malik, Features Writer
|
March 03, 2017
Photos: Stefan Lindeque/ANM
Photos: Stefan Lindeque/ANM(1/2)
Photos: Stefan Lindeque/ANM
Photos: Stefan Lindeque/ANM(2/2)

We live in a region where SUVs and sportscars rule but, believe it or not, there are other segments here such as the city car. Granted, these are interspersed between all those Ferraris and Range Rovers, but they’re there and they keep a large majority of drivers on the move. So they’re really important and we’ve driven a number of them, the best being the Aveo, Spark and the Prius.

The former runabout features a 1.6-litre four-pot making 114bhp and which is mated to a six-speed automatic. In top-spec trim, it gets all sorts of goodies such as a multifunction steering wheel, Bluetooth, radio and phone handsfree controls. And with safety equipment such as driver and passenger dual air bags, along with useful driver aids (rear park assist) and a 7.0in MyLink screen, the Aveo isn’t bad.

The second Chevy on the list, the Spark, gets a smaller 1.4-litre four-pot making 98bhp and a CVT. That sounds terrible on paper, until you drive it with a heavy foot. Indeed, when manhandled, the little Spark zips around like a playful puppy and slots into the tinniest of parking spots too. Best of all, you can buy this hatchback with a manual and for that reason alone, it scores heavily. On the technical front, it has a 7.0in colour touchscreen, a SiriusXM satellite radio, keyless entry, cruise control, steering wheel-mounted audio buttons and a theft-deterrent system. Like the Aveo, it also gets rear-park assist along with front and rear side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and front-seat knee airbags. And at Dh51,000 our tester represents great value too.

As for the Prius, the world’s first mass-produced hybrid, it utilises a 1.8-litre four-pot with an electric motor making 121bhp. It has loads of tech (a head-up display and wireless charging, blind-spot monitor and rear cross-traffic alert) safety kit such as ESP and seven airbags, but we’re a bit puzzled by the Toyota; it’s frugal only if you drive it really cautiously and keep from awakening the petrol engine — you need a very light foot and this in return results in a very tedious drive. Ignore trying to achieve the claimed 4.5 litres per 100km fuel efficiency and it’ll chug back far more, however, at least it becomes a little more entertaining. But then, there’s the cost; it’s almost Dh100,000. That’s a lot of cash, especially for a city runabout.

So the Spark boasts great value for money, ease of use, and on these impossibly tight mountain roads it almost keeps up with things like the GTI. Around corners it’s a lot more capable than a car of this type has any right to be. Predictably then, we give the little Chevy the trophy because it does the lot with a cheeky smile on its face. It’s our Best City Car and deservedly so.