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Barina Spark only as manual

The so-called Barina Spark starts from $12,490 for the CD and $13,990 for the CDX. The base model goes in under the forthcoming $12,990 Micra and packs more standard kit than the Indian-made Alto. But the newest Korean-built Holden comes only with a five-speed manual to drive its meagre, if game 59kW/107Nm 1.2-litre 4-cylinder engine.

Although its marketeers are adamant that the take-up of manuals remains strong in the micro-budget end of the light car segment, Holden is also entirely targeting women buyers (skinny and preferably blonde ones, judging by its product presentation) who are traditionally far more given to automatics.

Suzuki spokesman Andrew Ellis said that in 12 months on the market, half the Alto's buyers wanted the four speed auto version. Nissan has not bothered with a manual Micra.

At least the manual helps the Spark achieve competitive fuel economy of 5.6 litres per 100km, with Co2 emissions of 128g per kilometre, earning it the Federal Government's top green star rating.

But the Barina Spark is not, strictly speaking, "the" new Barina. Known elsewhere in the General Motors world simply as the Spark, Holden happily admit tacking on a Barina badge to capitalise on its strong local recognition.

The replacement for the current Barina - a car Holden Chairman and Managing Director Mike Devereux told Carsguide would be "bigger, sportier and aimed more at men" - arrives next year.

Until then the aging current model remains on sale next to the Spark.

"This could be almost made for the daughters of those who are buying the VE Series II Commodore," Devereux says of the Spark, which is part of new model offensive that sees 10 new models in the next 20 months.

Built for now in Korea (production will switch to South Africa), the Spark is strong in safety fixtures but yet to secure a five star crash safety rating. The lack of standard stability control in Europe sees it carry four sparklers.

Here, ESC it is standard on both variants, along with ABS and six airbags, which will help its ANCAP cause.

The CD has 14-inch alloys and front fog lamps. The CDX's wheels grow by an inch, IT has power windows for all four doors picks. Design quirks include hidden rear door handles and a motor cycle-like instrument cluster.

Joining Barina Spark in the light-car segment late next year will be its "true" Barina sibling, based on the global Aveo small car. It is styled by Holden's Ondrej Koromhaz.

In the next segment up, the global Cruze will be built here from early next year, the sedan joined by the Holden-designed Cruze hatchback late in the year.

The upcoming new Captiva also shared its global debut with the Cruze hatchback concept and Barina/Aveo production car at the Paris Motor Show.

Devereux told Carsguide he wanted a bigger SUV in the Holden range along the lines of Mazda's CX-9.

"You'll see us filling out our model range, but you won't see us vomiting cars onto the market."

As to the possibility of Opel - which supplied the old and much-loved Barina and Astra - Devereux said the brand was currently going into Chile and "looking at a number of markets where a German-engineered car is desirable".

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