With a slightly longer wheelbase and lower roof, the redesigned 2016 Chevrolet Spark casts aside the gawky, tall stance for a more adult profile. To compensate for the 1.6-inch height reduction, the new Spark aims to maintain headroom by lowering the seats. That means drivers don’t sit quite as upright as before. New seat designs with high-density foam promise improved comfort, one of the many shortcomings with the current model.

A bigger 1.4-liter engine brings 14 extra horsepower, for a total of 98. That’s a much-needed upgrade. With an aluminum block and head, and an integrated exhaust manifold, the new engine is lighter than the old 1.2-liter. Buyers can still choose a five-speed manual or continuously variable automatic transmission. Chevrolet says the stiffer body structure will give the new Spark a more refined driving experience with more precise handling and a quieter ride.

The MyLink smartphone connectivity system gets the same seven-inch color display with a new icon-based menu that drivers can pinch and swipe to make selections. Better yet, the new model gets a physical volume knob and more hard buttons.

Most importantly for a small car, the new Spark will offer the latest in active safety equipment, such as forward-collision alert, lane-departure warning, and blind-spot warning. We’ve consider all worthwhile safety features.

All these changes bring the Spark some much-needed maturity. We’ll see if they turn it into a more pleasant car overall once it goes on sale late this year.

See our complete 2015 New York auto show coverage.

—Eric Evarts

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