The sub-compact crossover is the hottest thing on four wheels right now, and it seems like a new model is being released every day. The segment is up nearly 30 percent over last year in sales in Canada. So it was no surprise that just ahead of the LA Auto Show Chevrolet launched their latest, the Spark Activ. What is a surprise is that it won’t be crossing the border.
This isn’t your regular crossover like the Chevrolet Trax or the Fiat 500X. This is more like an Outback Subaru or a Volkswagen Golf Alltrack. The recipe is a familiar one. You take your car, in this case, the Chevy Spark, and you add some things. Add a slight increase in ride height for a better step-in height and more commanding stance. Then some tires with more sidewall for a more off-road friendly look. From there, all you need is some dark unpainted plastic cladding, some off-road inspired faux rub-rails, and some roof racks. Out of the oven comes a compact crossover. This one even gets a manual gearbox as standard equipment. It sounds like the kind of car that will sell like Timbits in our market.
But we won’t be getting the Spark Activ. And that doesn’t make sense. Here’s why.
Canadians love small cars. Or at least we buy small cars. We have high taxes, high car prices, expensive gas, and long distances to travel. For those reasons, we love small cars and crossovers more than our southern neighbours. America’s best selling car is the Camry, ours is the Civic. It’s just the way the market works. We also love our base model cars with no AC and a manual gearbox, because we love to save money. Especially in Quebec. We even love hatchbacks, which are often shunned south of the border. That’s why Nissan brought us the X-Trail CUV and the Micra hatch, why Pontiac gave us years of G3s before the US got them, and why there have been many other cheap and cheerful cars that have been common sights in Canada but not sold in the US.
The one-size-up-from-the-Spark Chevy Trax is 74th in sales this year in the US. It’s 58th in Canada. The similarly sized Honda HR-V is at 69 vs 45th. That pattern holds true for nearly every compact vehicle. Smaller, cheaper vehicles sell proportionally better up here. Which is why when Chevy introduces the smallest CUV of all, it comes as a surprise that it’s not going to be sold here.
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