The EPA has announced fuel economy ratings for the 2013 Chevrolet Spark, just as the new affordable small car is starting to show up on dealer lots. Powered by an 83-horsepower, 1.2-liter four-cylinder engine, the 2013 Spark gets 32/38 mpg city/highway with a five-speed manual transmission. Those estimates drop to 28/37 mpg city/highway with the optional four-speed automatic.

Chevrolet cites subcompact cars like the 2012 Fiat 500, Smart ForTwo and Scion iQ as the Spark’s key competitors. However, the ForTwo and iQ both get better combined fuel economy ratings from the EPA. The larger 2012 Hyundai Accent gets 30/40 mpg city/highway and matches the Spark’s combined fuel economy rating of 34 mpg.

Edmunds notes that the ability to achieve 40 mpg on the highway has become increasingly important to automakers’ marketing and advertising initiatives, but shoppers shouldn’t make assumptions based on vehicle size. “Consumers mistakenly may assume that the smallest cars in an automaker's lineup are the best fuel-economy performers, but that is not always the case as evidenced by the Spark, especially when it is compared to its larger siblings, the Cruze and Sonic.”

The 2012 Chevrolet Cruze Eco and Sonic are both capable of better highway fuel economy than the Spark and get a combined rating of 33 mpg. The EPA reports that the Cruze Eco and Sonic get 28/42 and 29/40 mpg, respectively, when equipped with a six-speed manual transmission. “Looks like a sixth gear makes a huge difference in fuel economy,” says Autoblog. “And if you don't mind paying a little more, you can get a larger Chevy with better EPA numbers.”

Shopping for a Chevrolet or an affordable small car? Check out the U.S. News rankings of this year's best cars. Then, look for a great deal on a new car by checking out this month’s best car deals. You can also find the best local prices in the area by using our Best Price Program. Also, be sure to follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.