Over almost three decades since its introduction as a Holden-badged Suzuki, the Holden Barina has grown into a sporty small car, with impressive looks similar to both its cheap and cheeky Spark and mature mid-size Holden Cruze siblings.
Ondrej Koromhaz, an Australian design team member seconded to the GM Design studio in South Korea, was given the task of reshaping the small car into a truly global car that’s sold in more than 60 countries, as the Chevrolet Aveo and Sonic.
Explore the 2011 Holden Barina Range
Producing a car with a more masculine look than before, Koromhaz has drawn inspiration from the motorcycle with headlamps flanking a double-decker radiator grille designed to keep under-bonnet temperatures at optimal levels.
Wheels have been shifted to the four corners of the car producing not only a solid stance but a strong contribution to driving stability through ten-spoke 15-inch alloys that add to the sporty ambience.
The Barina flexes its design muscles with formidable flanks and broad shoulders leading the way to rear doors that include concealed handles giving the car a hint of a sporty coupe. Rear lights also take their cues from the motorcycle.
The theme extends to the cabin interior with motorcycle-inspired instruments at the centre of which is a digital speedometer incorporating an analogue tacho.
Engine and Transmissions
The new Barina is no mere well-oiled muscle flexer. The overt masculinity is backed up by power in the form of one of the biggest powertrains in the segment. A 1.6-litre four-cylinder DOHC petrol engine puts out 85 kW of power at 6000 rpm, plus torque of 155 Nm at 4000 rpm and is mated with a standard five-speed manual transmission or optional six-speed automatic transmission with Active Select.
Holden says the manual returns a fuel economy figure of 6.8 litres per 100 kilometres on the combined urban/highway cycle with the manual and 7.3 with the auto. The best we managed was 6.1 on a mainly motorway run in a manual, with numbers in the sevens around town.
Among a raft of engine upgrades a redesigned cylinder head, block and crankshaft give greater structural strength, improved heat management and an overall weight reduction of three per cent. There’s a toothed timing belt that requires change intervals every 10 years or 160,000 km, whichever comes first, while piston-cooling oil jets enhance lubrication, resulting in increased engine longevity and extended maintenance intervals
Electronic stability control is standard and incorporates anti-lock braking, traction control, electronic brake force distribution and emergency brake assist should brake pressure need to be boosted in an emergency.
All this, plus six airbags – dual front, front side and side curtain – the driver and front passenger with seatbelt pretensioners, and pedal release system has led to the new Barina winning the maximum five-star safety rating from the Australasian New Car Assessment Program.
Inside the Barina cabin – one of the biggest in class – there is stretch out room for the front occupants, with good legroom for those in the back, though it’s better suited to two adults than three back there.
The boot takes an average load – 290 litres with the rear seat backs up but, this is doubled to 653 litres with the 60:40 backs folded flat. Storage includes pockets on both sides of the centre stack and upper instrument panel for smaller items. The double-storey glove box has two concealed areas complete with USB and auxiliary outlets, with a recessed channel to take an MP3 player cable.
Though no hot hatch, the new Holden Barina is a thoroughly pleasant car to drive, with the 1.6-litre five-speed manual offering above-average performance for a car in this class. A firm but comfortable ride elicited no complaints from occupants, while favourable comments on the car’s design were forthcoming from more than one onlooker.