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Used Holden Barina Spark review: 2010-2012

Graham Smith road tests and reviews the used 2010-2012 Holden Barina Spark.


Some bright spark at Holden decided in 2010 that there was room in the market for a small city runabout that was pared back to the basics with the aim of maximising fuel economy. They called it the Spark, the Barina Spark to be precise, but we'll stick with the Spark.

There was a lot to like about the Spark if your driving was limited to the city and you spent much of your valuable time ducking and weaving through congested streets.

First and foremost it was small, tiny almost, but its miniscule external dimensions didn't mean it was cramped for room inside. Given its size it was actually quite roomy thanks mostly to a tall stance and clever use of what internal space was available to its designers.

Externally, its looks were modern and functional, its lines sharply defined and striking.

Inside, there was a funky instrument cluster mounted on the steering column, while the rear seats could be folded flat to create a useful space that could be used for a multitude of purposes.

While function and flexibility were important aspects of the Spark it was mostly about fuel-efficiency in a town environment, and here its driveline was key.

Under the steeply sloping bonnet lay a 1.2-litre four-cylinder engine producing only a modest 59 kW and 107 Nm.

Attached to that from launch was a five-speed manual gearbox, which presented issues for many of those the Spark was aimed at.

Many, if not most potential Spark buyers would have been trained and licenced to operate cars with automatic transmissions, so the idea of driving a manual with one of those damned 'tricky' clutches might have been enough to deter them from signing on.

That issue was resolved in 2012 when Holden added the convenience of a four-speed auto to the choice of gearboxes.

The 1.2-litre four was quite spritely, but needed to be stirred along in the gears. The auto made progress fuss free for the manually-challenged, but also increased the fuel consumption a smidgeon.

In light of the potential market - young townies - the Spark was accordingly equipped with plenty of features. Among a raft of features the CD had a CD player, iPod/iPhone and MP3 inputs, steering wheel mounted audio controls, and remote keyless entry, and the CDX had even more.


Forget the Spark if you're looking for a family car, that's not what it's about. While it might satisfy the needs of some families it's really aimed at young singles wanting neat and nifty transport that gets them around out crowded streets with little fuss.

Road safety experts tell us that young drivers are most vulnerable in the first year of their driving lives, which makes safety an important consideration for parents choosing a car for their kids.

Although ANCAP only gave the Spark four out of a possible five stars for safety it's still a car that's worth having on your shopping list.

ANCAP's rating was based on testing in Europe where electronic stability control (ESC) is optional. Here, ESC was standard, an important difference that would likely have resulted in a higher rating had it been crash tested locally.

With a comprehensive array of airbags and ESC the Spark was actually well equipped with safety gear.

Owners report that they are particularly happy with the Spark's fuel economy, and they also like the surprising amount of cabin space it has.

While it's not trouble free the Spark is not showing any issues that would cause buyers concern, and there have been no recalls applicable to the models under review.


Year Price From Price To
2012 $3,080 $6,050
2011 $2,530 $4,620
2010 $2,200 $3,850

View all Holden Barina Spark pricing and specifications

Pricing guides

Based on 22 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
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Range and Specs

CD 1.2L, ULP, 5 SP MAN $2,990 – 6,999 2010 Holden Barina Spark 2010 CD Pricing and Specs
CDX 1.2L, ULP, 5 SP MAN $3,799 – 7,500 2010 Holden Barina Spark 2010 CDX Pricing and Specs
Graham Smith
Contributing Journalist


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