Chevrolet is offering a way to recharge the new electric Spark in 20 minutes and a passenger who is always there: Apple's Siri virtual assistant.
General Motors introduced the $25,000 (before tax credits) five-door Spark EV on the eve of the Los Angeles Auto Show, which opens to the media Wednesday.
GM thinks that when the Spark EV goes on sale next summer it will have the best range in the segment and help the automaker build on the cachet garnered with the Volt.
Initially the Spark will be sold in only two states: California -- where it is eligible for the high-occupancy vehicle lanes -- and Oregon. Beyond the U.S., it will be available in Canada, Europe and South Korea.
The Spark can be charged in about seven hours with a 240-volt outlet. But the car has an optional fast-charging capability to reach 80% of battery charge in 20 minutes -- a first for an electric vehicle in North America.
The lithium-ion batteries provide 130 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque. The motor and drive unit are built in White Marsh, Md. The battery has undergone more than 200,000 hours of testing and has an eight-year or 100,000-mile warranty.
The Spark has two 7-inch display screens on which are programmed the controls for audio, phone and temperature, as well as key data such as the expected driving range based on driving habits and conditions.
The Spark EV comes with MyLink radio that uses a smartphone to access apps, including BringGo for navigation and TuneIn Internet radio, Pandora and Stitcher.
For those with Apple's 4S and newer iPhone 5, it means Siri is along for the ride.
The Spark, as well as the Sonic LTZ and RS, have systems that integrate Siri when the car uses Bluetooth to pair with an iPhone.
Siri also has an "eyes-free" mode that allows the driver to give her voice commands to play music, find a location, and access texts and calendars while keeping the screen from lighting up and distracting the driver.
A next generation of MyLink will debut next spring on the 2014 Chevrolet Impala. It will be able to link as many as 10 mobile devices and store up to 60 favorites including radio stations, contacts, destinations, music and other media.
The new MyLink system will feature a natural language voice recognition that allows customers to safely place calls, enter destinations, browse media, play music and control other functions simply by telling the vehicle what to do. There are no key phrases to remember and no need to look at a screen.
The 2014 Chevrolet Impala will be equipped with six months of OnStar's premium Directions and Connections service.
The biggest challenge of vehicle infotainment systems is the confusion and frustration customers have in trying to get their car to recognize and execute their demands.
Siri has also come under criticism for not recognizing different voices and dialects.
"It says a lot about our commitment to small-car customers that Chevrolet has announced that eyes-free capability will be available in the Spark and Sonic well before the luxury brands," said Cristi Landy, Chevrolet marketing director for small cars.
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