Price, running costs and looks are factors light car buyers agonise over. The Holden Barina has two of the three criteria down pat and updates to its six-speed automatic have brought it back into the game on weekly fuel expenses. With a youth-oriented interior that now has the My Link apps-based infotainment system, it is on the money as a practical inner-city commuter.
The CD kicks things off at $15,990 with a 1.6-litre engine and five-speed manual gearbox. The auto costs another $2500, which makes the self-shifting CDX at $20,490 the pick of the pair.
It runs on 17-inch rims fitted with decent Continental rubber, reverse parking sensors, heated front seats, fog lamps and the My Link infotainment system. The price puts it ahead of the pack - the top-selling Mazda2 Genki costs the same money with a manual ‘box, as does the Ford Fiesta Zetec.
Holden is leveraging smartphone technology and software apps to avoid the headache of infotainment systems that date within 18 months of a car’s launch. It’s a smart move - providing the apps suit the market.
The Red Lion sees internet radio as a big selling point, along with an apps-based satnav system due next year. My Link copes with most smartphones and, by being just the interface, should stay contemporary long past its rivals.
The auto gearbox is now good for 6.3L/100km, which is a mere 0.2 of a litre more - or a couple of aggressive take-offs from the lights - than the likes of the Fiesta, Kia Rio or CVT-equipped Suzuki Swift.
A clean and modern look without too many fussy lines helps explain the Barina’s external appeal. The distinct dual headlamps give it an upmarket look and the chrome highlights on the CDX say you’ve got the premium package.
It looks good inside, too … just don’t touch. The plastics are marked improvement on the Barina Spark but are still far from best in show.
No worries here. The Barina’s five-star ANCAP rating is at the high end of the light car scale, with a rating of 35.32 out of 37. Six airbags are standard and the basic structure was praised by the crash-testing body for its rigidity. Just don’t hit a Commodore ... size still matters.
Local input into the suspension and steering can be felt from the first decent turn. The Barina rides well on its 17-inch rubber and quashes secondary jiggles over rippled road as well as any car in this class.
There’s no wallowing, little body roll and a sense of solidity when it does hit decent bumps. The electric power steering is trick. Around town it is light enough not to make parking an issue but there’s never an issue of not knowing where the wheels are pointed.
There is enough play on centre to cope with back-seat glances by frustrated parents or distracted teens without putting the car into the next lane but as lock is applied, it is rewardingly direct. And there’s head and leg room for two adults in the back, along with enough cargo space - 290 litres - to fit a couple of overnight bags.
The updated Barina is a good reason why Holden engineers should be unleashed on products brought in from South Korea. They’ve turned an average car into a good one. Between the clean looks, decent ride and tech-based interior, they should be able to lure more than a few first-time new car buyers into a Barina.
Holden Barina CDX
Price: $20,490 (sedan adds $500)
Warranty: Three years/100,000km
Resale: 51 per cent
Crash: Five stars
Safety: Six airbags, ABS, TC, ESC, EBD
Engine: 1.6-litre four-cylinder, 85kW/155Nm
Transmission: Six-speed auto, FWD
Dimensions: 4.04m/4.4m (L), 1.74m (W), 1.52m (H)
Spare: Inflation kit (full-size spare a NCO)
Thirst: 6.3L/100km, 151g/km CO2
Price: from $15,690
Engine: 1.3-litre 4-cylinder, 63kW/121Nm
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Price: from $15,290
Engine: 1.4-litre 4-cylinder, 79kW/135Nm
Transmission: 6-speed manual or 6-speed auto
Price: from $15,990
Engine: 1.4-litre 4-cylinder, 70kW/130Nm
Transmission: 5-speed manual