Old vs. New: 1986 Chevrolet Sprint Plus vs. 2016 Chevrolet Spark LS

1986 Sprint vs. 2016 Spark

The 2016 Chevrolet Spark is all new and is just getting onto showroom floors around the country. Bigger, better looking and more powerful than the outgoing model, the new Spark looks to be a contender in the subcompact segment.

Thirty years ago, however, Chevrolet also had a new subcompact hatchback. For the 1986 model year, the company added a four-door version of their tiny Sprint, called the Sprint Plus.

The Sprint was a captive import, a Suzuki Cultus with a Chevy bowtie. It was designed and built in Japan, and was also sold in Canada as the Pontiac Firefly. Chevy would later add in a turbocharged hot-hatch version of the Sprint, but for sake of comparison, the standard, four-door Plus is the best option.

2016 Chevrolet Spark front
2016 Chevrolet Spark

The Spark is designed and built in South Korea by GM Korea, the fruits of GM’s purchase of Daewoo. It’s the successor to the Daewoo Matiz and is sold around the world as the Opel Adam.

For being 30 years apart in age, the two cars are remarkably similar in size. The old car is actually longer than the modern hatchback, with a slightly shorter wheelbase. However, the Spark towers over the Sprint by more than five inches and is two inches wider.

Inside, the similarities continue. Thanks to the taller profile, the Spark has more headroom, but the Sprint actually has more front legroom. Shoulder room is very close, too, but the Spark does have a little more rear legroom.

Behind the seats, the Sprint has a mere 8.8 cubic feet of cargo space to the Spark’s 11.1. With the seats down, the Spark’s advantage grows even more.

1986 Chevrolet Sprint Plus
1986 Chevrolet Sprint Plus (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

Under the hood, though, the old Sprint just can’t compete. The wheezy 1.0-liter three-cylinder engine puts out only 48 horsepower and 57 lb-ft of torque. The updated 1.4-liter four-cylinder in the Spark makes 98 horsepower and 94 lb-ft of torque, a substantial increase over the old model.

The Sprint’s lack of power does pay dividends at the pump. At 44 mpg city and 50 mpg highway, the old car beats the new by 14 mpg city and 9 mpg highway.

Even at the base LS trim level, the Spark’s level of options puts it in a different league than the Sprint. The base Spark has traction control, ABS, stability control, a stereo with auxiliary port and standard air conditioning, all things that the Sprint would never have in its lifetime.

Which one would you rather drive? Start the conversation in the comments below.

1986 Chevrolet Sprint Plus vs. 2016 Chevrolet Spark LS

1986 Chevrolet Sprint Plus 2016 Chevrolet Spark LS
Price: $5,870 ($12,738 in 2015) $12,660
Engine: Inline-3 Inline-4
Displacement: 993 cc 1,399 cc
Horsepower: 48@5,100 rpm 98@6,200 rpm
Torque (lb-ft): 57@3,200 rpm 94@4,400 rpm
Fuel economy (city/hwy): 44/50 30/41
Transmission: 5-speed manual 5-speed manual
Wheelbase: 92.3 in 93.9 in
Length: 148.4 in 143.1 in
Width: 60.2 in 62.8 in
Height: 53.1 in 58.4 in
Weight: 1,565 lbs. 2,248 lbs.
Headroom, front: 37 in 39 in
Headroom, rear: 36 in 37 in
Shoulder room, front: 50.4 in 50.8 in
Shoulder room, rear: 49.7 in 49.8 in
Legroom, front: 42.1 in 41.7 in
Legroom, rear: 31.7 in 33 in
Passenger volume: 78.3 cubic feet 83 cubic feet
Cargo volume, seats up: 8.8 cubic feet 11.1 cubic feet
Cargo volume, seats down: 20.2 cubic feet 27.2 cubic feet


Check out TFLcar’s last review of the Spark, the 2014 model: