Acting tough: US-market Chevrolet Spark gets a bolder face.

You know that the world is a changing place when a car like the Chevrolet Spark is launched in North America. This little tyke would probably fit into the wheel arch of one of the full-sized bakkies (or 'pick-ups' in American English) that regularly feature on the top seller list.

Yet it seems that fuel prices, the recession, global warming and the accompanying emissions legislation has all caught up with the car industry and even the Americans are being asked to downsize.

To compensate for the squeeze, GM has added some sparkle to the American-market Spark that's being unveiled at the Los Angeles Motor Show tomorrow, with a few features that distinguish it from the global version that South Africans know.

The most notable change to the exterior is a bigger and bolder front bumper/grille combination - remember that front number plates are not compulsory in the Land of the Free, and GM's designers have taken full advantage of this.

Americans will also enjoy more gadgetry in the cabin, with certain models offering the MyLink internet-enabled infotainment system with the first seven-inch colour touch screen radio in its class (which, incidentally, includes just three cars - the Scion/Toyota IQ, Fiat 500 and Smart Fortwo).

That's the cool part. Sadly, engineers did not manage to fit a small-block V8 into the Spark's little 'hood', meaning Americans will have to make do with the same economical 63kW 1.2-litre 16-valve motor that the rest of the world gets.

It does go one-up on the safety front, however, with ten standard airbags to help ease the worried minds of those who will brave US streets in what is, in relation to just about everything else there, an automotive dwarf.