Car nuts agree that it’s fun to compare and contrast different models and suss out the hidden competitive advantages, but it’s rare to test out the merits of two extremes. Head to your local Chevy dealer and you’ll quickly see that the price chasm between Chevy’s cheapest vehicle and its priciest is wider than the Grand Canyon—tens of thousands of dollars wider.
It’s not that buyers will routinely compare such disparate vehicles, but doing so reveals the breadth of Chevy’s engineering prowess—and its ability to mass manufacture vehicles for budget seekers just as effectively as it fine-tunes top-of-the-line elite models. With specialty brands like Tesla stealing headlines, it’s easy to forget that Chevrolet has been in the game for much longer.
Versatility is probably the most important attribute of a large automotive manufacturer, but receptivity to consumer tastes and attitudes is also high on the list. Offering a diverse lineup is one arrow in Chevy’s quiver; and yet, within each model—whether it’s a tiny Spark hatchback or a goliath Suburban High Country—are extras and packages that help buyers customize their ride.
So, which Chevy model is cheapest, and which one tops the scales—hitting the six-figure mark? Here’s a closer look.
Bulk, Brawn, or Bells-and-Whistles: What Costs More?
First off, there’s an age-old debate over what contributes more to a vehicle’s price tag. Is it the power plant and underbody components, or is sheet metal real estate to blame? It could also be the infotainment screens and premium cabin finishes that tip the scales—or it might even be a combination of all three. Since design and engineering R&D get amortized, it’s tricky to isolate the true cost contributors.
Performance clearly adds price creep, as evidenced by the added cost of upgrading to a more powerful engine. Models like the Silverado 1500 pickup offer multiple powertrain configurations, including torque-rich diesels that tend to be the most expensive. Also, performance cost increases are evident on newer all-electric models. Take a look at the upcoming Silverado EV and notice the upscale RST’s six-figure price tag. That’s thanks in large part to its 664-horsepower engine and available 780 lb-ft of torque—not to mention the futuristic Ultium battery pack.
Still, size itself is arguably a big indicator of price. The tiny, subcompact Trax is $30,000 cheaper than its (very) big brother, the Suburban. One counterargument to the size-equals-cost assertion, though, lies in comparing Chevy’s midsize Colorado vs. the Silverado 2500 HD. The Colorado starts in the mid-$20s, while the larger, heavier, and substantially more capable 2500HD is less than $15k more. Sure, it’s a big price jump, but not as big as the Trax vs. Suburban. In short, size isn’t a consistent indicator—otherwise, HD Silverados should be far costlier than they are.
Meanwhile, fit and finish seem to be the second-biggest culprits after performance. Within many, if not most, of Chevy’s crossover models are trim ranges separated by well over $10,000 at either end. The cheapest Tahoe is about $20,000 less than the top-of-the-line High Country near-luxury version, and much of the difference lies in cabin appointments, technology, and upgraded features—larger wheels and concert-grade sound systems, for example.
Mini-Me: The Teeny, Tiny Chevy Spark
When investigating the price spectrum of Chevy’s lineup from a bird’s eye, no one can dispute that the diminutive Spark hatchback is the cheapest model in the lineup. Specifically, the entry-level Spark LS is a big saver. It starts at an unheard-of $13,600, yet still receives some pretty nice cabin features young buyers and commuters on a budget will appreciate.
For 2022, the Spark LS features a robust infotainment system with a 7-in. touchscreen. It’s compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, so streaming content is as simple as connecting your phone with a USB cable. It comes with a 5-speed manual transmission, which some driving aficionados will love but most will reject for the upgraded CVT automatic. The tiny, 1.4-liter four-cylinder offers just 98-horsepower and a whisper of torque, at 94 lb-ft.
As for the cabin, pity the fool who’s stuck in the back seat. A Lilliputian 37 in. of head room and 33 in. of leg room await. Cargo volume is equally sparse, sitting at 11.10 cu.ft. with the rear bench seat up, and a max volume of 27.20 cu.ft. when it’s folded down. It sounds unmanageable, but for less than $14k, what do you expect? The Spark gives budget buyers an option to buy new, which means warranty coverage and peace of mind.
Elite Performance: The Magnificent Chevy Corvette Stingray
On a first pass, it seemed the 2022 Suburban High Country would win for the most expensive Chevy in the lineup—but alas, the Corvette Stingray takes the prize. It’s no wonder, since this iconic two-seater performance coupe delivers big on performance, sprinting from zero to 60 in under three seconds and reaching a top track speed of 184 mph. The 2022 model is the most powerful Corvette ever.
Opt for the 2022 Corvette Stingray 3LT with the premium Red Mist Metallic Tintcoat and a full-length dual racing stripe, and your price hits around $75,000. From there, say yes to the Z51 Performance Package that adds Brembo brakes, a Z51 performance suspension, and more, and the price creeps up a little more. A set of 5-spoke aluminum wheels and a carbon fiber roof, high-wing spoiler, and special interior and exterior embossing add a few bucks more.
Chevy offers aficionado buyers the chance to take delivery of their new Corvette at the National Corvette Museum in Kentucky. You’ll get a VIP tour while you’re there, along with a drive-off ceremony and an interior plaque in your Corvette’s cabin—all for a small extra price. And, for $5,000, you can reserve and personalize a custom VIN number, an option commonly only seen on elite Italian luxury sports coupes.
Customize the cabin with special stitching, seat belt tensioners, and a suede microfiber steering wheel, and you’ll easily hit six figures, making the Corvette Stingray the most expensive Chevy in the lineup. But it doesn’t lead by much: a fully-loaded 2022 Suburban High Country outfitted with the High Country Deluxe Package, upgraded exterior paint, the Illumination Package, and the Enhanced Trailer View option put the price in the mid-$90,000 range.
Debate Settled: It’s All About Performance
At nearly $100,000, the high-performance Chevy Corvette clearly wins for the most expensive Chevy model, lending credence to the theory that performance features add up the most. It’s not just about the Corvette’s 6.2-L Supercharged V8, though, since a substantial amount of price creep can be found in the Z51 Performance Package, with its Brembo brakes and upgraded suspension.
There’s no doubt that the 3LT Corvette features a plush, luxurious cabin. Still, the Suburban High Country can be outfitted with even more premium cabin appointments. Try as you might, though, you won’t successfully price out a Suburban higher than a fully-loaded Corvette.
And then, there’s the humble Spark hatchback, anchoring the Chevy lineup as the cheapest model available. Comparatively, the Spark’s 98-horses are more like ponies compared with the Corvette’s robust 495-horsepower offering.
As a consolation, Spark buyers will get a back seat, which isn’t happening on the 2-seater Corvette. Fuel economy for the Spark and the Corvette sit at a combined mpg of 33 and 19, respectively (no surprise there). In every other category, though, the Stingray excels. As for audio, the Spark LS manages a 4-speaker stereo. The Corvette 3LT? A 14-speaker Bose Performance Series system.
Bottom line, whether you have $15,000 or $100,000, Chevy has a new model that fits your budget. They just couldn’t be more different.