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Holden Barina 2018 review

EXPERT RATING
6.1
In a world where light cars are increasingly excellent, there is little room for vehicles that struggle to offer something unique. And that means that, unfortunately, in 2018, the Holden Barina is nbf

The Holden Barina is a nameplate that is arguably better known than many of the others in the company’s line-up. It has been around longer than Trax, Equinox, Colorado, Trailblazer, Spark… in fact, longer than everything but Astra and Commodore.

The current-generation Barina itself has been around for a while, too: it launched way back in 2012, and it’s fair to say the market has moved on a long way since then. But so has the Barina, following a refresh late in 2016 - and it remains one of the roomier offerings in the segment, and one of the keener-priced cars, too.

The LT model trades up to 17-inch alloy wheels. The LT model trades up to 17-inch alloy wheels.

In fact, it managed to run eighth in terms of sales in the declining light-car segment in 2017… and yet, with nearly 4000 cars sold, there are still plenty of people interested in the Barina model. 

So, does it still stack up?

Holden Barina 2018: CD
Safety rating
Engine Type1.6L
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency6.6L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$13,750

Is there anything interesting about its design?   7/10

The Barina isn’t the most intriguing or attractive offering in the segment - that mostly has to do with the fact cars it competes against have changed quite a bit in the six years since the current-gen Holden launched.

There are more attractive rivals, but I think the update in late 2016 was definitely worthwhile. And in high-spec LT guise as you see here - with those stylish 17-inch alloy wheels standing out against the boxy silhouette of the Barina - it’s quite handsome. In fact, the LT for me is an 8/10, and the LS is a 6/10, so I’ve taken the average here.

  • The 2016 update included new enclosed headlights with LED daytime running lights (DRLs). The 2016 update included new enclosed headlights with LED daytime running lights (DRLs).
  • The rear got a makeover too, with a new rear bumper and revised tail-lights. The rear got a makeover too, with a new rear bumper and revised tail-lights.

The changes included new enclosed headlights with LED daytime running lights (DRLs) rather than the old ring-type headlights, a new grille, new front and rear bumpers, and revised tail-lights.

The interior isn’t quite as nice too look at, with loads of hard plastics of varying textures and qualities, while the ‘leather’ on the seats is unconvincing. It is pretty spacious, though..

How practical is the space inside?   6/10

The Barina has one of the larger interiors of the segment, thanks in large part to its high roofline. It measures a close-to-its-peers 4039mm long and 1735mm wide, but at 1517mm tall, it isn’t far off compact SUVs.

There is really good headroom front and rear, and the driver’s seat has height adjustment - meaning taller drivers can lower themselves in pretty nicely, but the passenger front seat doesn’t have height adjust, and it sits quite high.

The media system is a 7.0-inch touchscreen with two USB ports (one to connect, one to charge - both located in the top glovebox) and Bluetooth phone and audio streaming - and you get that system in both variants. The screen is supposed to have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but when I connected my iPhone it wouldn’t show up the mirroring screen… which was annoying, because there’s no sat nav.

  • Taller drivers can lower themselves, but the passenger front seat doesn’t have height adjust, and it sits quite high. Taller drivers can lower themselves, but the passenger front seat doesn’t have height adjust, and it sits quite high.
  • The Barina has one of the larger interiors of the segment, thanks in large part to its high roofline. The Barina has one of the larger interiors of the segment, thanks in large part to its high roofline.

The driver-info display may be a monochrome thing, but it is super handy to have a digital speed readout, and you can keep an eye on other key bits of info, like fuel use.

Back-seat legroom is adequate, but not exceptional - behind my own driving position (I’m 183cm tall) my knees were hard-up against the seat. You could fit two adults in the back pretty comfortably, but three would be hard work. If you tend to transport younger passengers, the dual ISOFIX and three top-tether child-seat anchors will come in handy.

Storage in the back is poor - there is no rear door storage at all, only one map pocket and no fold-down armrest. There’s just a single cup holder in front of the middle seat.

Up front there are two cupholders between the seats, and there are large pockets in the doors but they aren’t formed to hold bottles, so your fizzy might go flat from shifting around. The dashboard console is quite small, and there’s no covered armrest between the seats - but the driver gets a van-style armrest.

  • Up front there are two cupholders between the seats. Up front there are two cupholders between the seats.
  • Storage in the back is poor - there is no rear door storage at all, only one map pocket and no fold-down armrest. Storage in the back is poor - there is no rear door storage at all, only one map pocket and no fold-down armrest.

The biggest issue I have with the cabin is that the steering wheel is huge - like, it’s the same one used in the old Commodore, and it’s way too large for the Barina’s cabin - and the gear-shifter is oversized, too. Smaller features would make for a more spacious cockpit, and it’s a bit too easy to accidentally put it all the way down into M for manual mode, rather than D.

The boot of the Barina is fairly good for its size at 290 litres (VDA), and that expands to 653L with the back seats folded down in 60/40 formation - it’s a good cargo hold, albeit with a large, deep load lip, and there’s a space-saver spare under the floor.

There are some other little things that are good: the fact the electric windows have auto-down (and auto-up on the fronts). And some things that aren’t: the masses of hard, cheap-feeling plastics; the knobs and dials that don’t feel great to turn; and the seats are pretty uncomfortable.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   6/10

Holden will push to get a deal done when you’re in the showroom and ready to spend - so make sure you keep that in mind if you’re shopping for a Barina.

The entry-level LS Barina has a list price of $14,990 plus on-road costs for the manual, or $17,190 plus on-roads for the automatic. But realistically, you should be able to bargain and pay $15k drive-away for the manual and $17k drive-away for the auto - or maybe less: I’ve seen dealers listing LS autos at $15k drive-away. And Holden is also promoting a free servicing plan for three years.

The same can be said of the LT automatic tested here, which has a list price of $20,390 plus on-road costs. I wouldn’t expect to shell out more than $19k on the road for this spec, because sales are hard to come by in this part of the market - especially when you can potentially get a bigger and better Astra for similar cash.

  • The interior isn’t quite as nice too look at, with loads of hard plastics of varying textures and qualities. The interior isn’t quite as nice too look at, with loads of hard plastics of varying textures and qualities.
  • The LS has a 7.0-inch colour touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (supposedly!), plus a reversing camera. The LS has a 7.0-inch colour touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (supposedly!), plus a reversing camera.
  • Things you can’t get in the Barina? Sat nav, climate control, actual leather trim, rear-seat air-vents... Things you can’t get in the Barina? Sat nav, climate control, actual leather trim, rear-seat air-vents...

Let’s look at what each version of the Barina has in terms of standard specifications.

The LS has 16-inch alloy wheels, auto halogen headlights with LED daytime running lights, a 7.0-inch colour touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (supposedly!), plus a reversing camera and rear parking sensors.

The LT model trades up to 17-inch alloy wheels, plus it adds keyless entry and push-button start, a leather-lined steering wheel, 'Sportec' fake leather trim and heated front seats.

Things you can’t get in the Barina? Sat nav, climate control, actual leather trim, rear-seat air-vents, LED headlights, auto wipers, digital radio, head-up display...

There are six different hues to choose from, and only 'Summit White' is included at no cost. The other options - 'Nitrate Silver', 'Boracay Blue', 'Absolute Red', 'Son of a Gun Grey' and 'Mineral Black' - will cost you an additional $550.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   6/10

Powering the Barina is a 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, which produces 85kW of power and 155Nm of torque. There’s the choice of a five-speed manual or six-speed automatic, and the Barina is front-wheel drive.

Over our time with the car, we saw 8.8L/100km, which isn’t terrific for such a small car. Over our time with the car, we saw 8.8L/100km, which isn’t terrific for such a small car.

The outputs of the engine are decent for the class, but the weight of the Barina - a porky 1248kg - means it doesn’t feel as sprightly as some competitors, many of which are below 1100kg.

There is no high-performance model - the Barina RS that came out in 2013 lasted a few years, but was axed in 2016.

How much fuel does it consume?   5/10

Because the Barina doesn’t have a downsized turbo engine like some rivals, it is claimed to use a relatively high 7.2 litres per 100 kilometres for the manual model (LS only), while the auto version (in LS and LT guise) is said use even more, at 7.5L/100km.

Over our time with the car, we saw 8.8L/100km, which isn’t terrific for such a small car. A Mazda 2 has claimed fuel use as low as 4.9L/100km, and it doesn’t use a downsized turbo engine, either.

At the very least the fact the Barina can run on regular unleaded (91RON) means filling up will be a little cheaper.

What's it like to drive?   6/10

There are elements of the drive experience in the Barina that are fine, but not one part of it sets a benchmark for the segment. And in a class where almost every car is at least a little bit fun to drive - think the Mazda 2, Skoda Fabia, Volkswagen Polo, Ford Fiesta, Kia Rio, Peugeot 208, Suzuki Swift... I could keep going, but I'd prefer to drive any of those every day. Heck, even a Toyota Yaris or Hyundai Accent excites me more than this.

If all you do is potter from home to work, or home to the train station, there’s a good chance this will be fine as your means of conveyance. But if you’re the sort of person who wants a car they can enjoy, the Barina mightn’t be for you.

The transmission is not only busy, but it can be clunky when shifting, too. The transmission is not only busy, but it can be clunky when shifting, too.

The LT model with its larger wheels may look pretty good, but the ride is fouled by those rims. And while the grip from the Continental ContiPremiumContact 2 tyres is genuinely good, the steering can be slow and heavy at times, and there’s a lot of road noise on coarse-chip surfaces.

Those wheels are nice and might be acceptable in a sporty hatch, but the performance doesn’t match up - the 1.6-litre engine is a little bit gutless at times, with its lack of torque meaning the six-speed automatic transmission is quite busy shuffling through the gears. That’s not unusual in this class, but the engine isn’t very refined, and can get trashy at high revs.

The transmission is not only busy, but it can be clunky when shifting, too - I noticed a few times when it was going between second and third gears.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

3 years / 100,000 km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   6/10

The fact the Barina is still marked with a five-star ANCAP stamp is potentially a bit misleading - the car was tested way back in 2011 for 2012 models onwards, and the strictness of testing has changed markedly over that period.

As a result, the Barina range still features the must-have inclusions you would expect - a reversing camera, rear parking sensors, and six airbags.

But in a world where auto emergency braking (AEB) can be had in cars from just $14,190 (the Kia Picanto), the Barina lacks that latest tech. No Barina can be had with AEB, even as an option, and you can forget lane-keeping assist, blind-spot monitoring or any of those other nice technologies that could prove life-saving. It’s a ‘no’ for front sensors as well.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   7/10

Holden has rolled back that limited-time seven-year warranty, with the standard old three-year/100,000km plan in place once more. There is the option of extended warranty, with up to six years/175,000km available.

Holden requires the Barina to be serviced every nine months or 15,000km, which is reasonably lenient - some competitors require maintenance visits every six months/10,000km.

The costs are covered by Holden’s 'Know Your Cost Servicing' plan, with the first and second services priced at $249, the third and fourth at $349, while the fifth drops back to $249. No matter which way you look at it, it’s more affordable than a lot of competitors.

Verdict

Would I recommend you buy a 2018 Holden Barina? In a word, no. There are better light cars out there for close to the money - cars that are more modern, more sophisticated, more refined, more efficient and better equipped.

At this point in time the Barina still has its place - if you just need a cheap set of wheels, I guarantee you will be able to score a good deal. But if it were me, and it was my money - but I had to buy a Holden - I’d be checking out the slightly smaller Spark (and saving a few bucks in the meantime) or trying to stretch the budget to the larger Astra.

Is the Barina due for replacement? Let us know in the comments section below.

Pricing Guides

$14,990
Based on 28 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$13,750
Highest Price
$16,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
CD 1.6L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $13,750 – 15,990 2018 HOLDEN BARINA 2018 CD Pricing and Specs
CDX 1.6L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $14,990 – 16,990 2018 HOLDEN BARINA 2018 CDX Pricing and Specs
LS (5YR) 1.6L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $10,120 – 13,860 2018 HOLDEN BARINA 2018 LS (5YR) Pricing and Specs
LT (5YR) 1.6L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $12,320 – 16,390 2018 HOLDEN BARINA 2018 LT (5YR) Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
6.1
Design7
Practicality6
Price and features6
Engine & trans6
Fuel consumption5
Driving6
Safety6
Ownership7
Matt Campbell
Senior Editor

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