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Road Tests

Road Test: Holden Barina

By Peter Maniatis - 4/May/2006

Holden BarinaCheap doesn't have to mean nasty, and Holden's new Barina is a case in point. Though it is cheap, costing $13,490 for the 3-door hatch and undercutting the popular Hyundai Getz by $500, it's also got a modicum of style and does what it's asked without any major complaints.

And it's reason for being? Holden needed a budget-priced light car that was at the other end of the spectrum to its well-mannered and increasingly sophisticated Astra range. The previous model Barina, while a very good car, wasn't competing as strongly as Holden had hoped in a market where price is often the clincher.

With more people flocking the light car market as petrol becomes a more expensive commodity, Holden needed a new entry-level motor vehicle, and in order to revitalise sales in the light car segment and rival cars like the Hyundai Getz and Kia Rio, Holden has released the TK Barina (formerly the Kalos), which can be sold for much less than the outgoing Opel-sourced Corsa/Barina, yet still has a stylish look and feel.

In my view, Holden’s strategy of moving their marketing of the small car segment to the more accessible end of the consumer market bodes well with this Korean version of the well to do Australian Beep Beep brand, as after having tested it, I can report that there are no fundamental flaws to the happy little car, which not only shows how much Korean auto manufacturing has advanced in the last five years, but also shows a commitment from Holden to not release junk into the marketplace.

for detailed specs on the Holden Barina.

Make: Holden
Model: Barina
Price: $13,490
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Engine: 1.6-litre, inline 4-cylinder, petrol
Seats: 5
Safety: 2 airbags (front driver/passenger)

Holden Barina
Holden Barina

Holden's cost effective TK Barina
is brilliant around town thanks to its
small size, and has loads of standard
features, such as air-con & dual airbags

Engine: Holden 1.6-litre inline 4-cylinder petrol

The transversely mounted 1598cc L4 engine has a cast-iron engine block and a alloy head, featuring 4-valves per cylinder actuated by belt-driven dual overhead camshafts (DOHC). The fuel injected engine has a 9.5:1 compression ratio allowing 91/95 RON gasoline, and features a 45 litre fuel tank.

Max Power: 77kW @ 6000rpm
Max Torque: 145Nm @ 3600rpm

The Korean born Barina is sensational value for money for what it is and what it does, and for a large chunk of its target market - young, first time buyers and/or drivers - it makes a very good first impression, scooting from A to B without braking the bank or your chafing your style.

It's an attractive vehicle by and large, featuring a sort of European rear end and flared wheel guards, and at the front the angular headlights and familiar Holden grille work well. Will it still look pretty in five years time? That's another question altogether.

Back in my day your first car was often a clapped-out hand-me-down from Grandpa, with a poorly maintained engine that guzzled fuel (not that it was a problem back then). The Barina meanwhile is frugal little vehicle, packing a 1.6-litre 4-cylinder engine that will chew through 6.9 litres of petrol per 100 kilometres on the combined cycle with the 5-speed manual transmission. We managed to get slightly better mileage than the manufacturers quote when driven gently, and the 4-speed automatic returns 7.8L/100km.

For all intents and purposes, people that would be attracted to this Barina are most likely looking at driving their dollar further at the time of purchase, and in running costs the Barina shapes up quite well.

The car drove nicely in and around the city, where it will probably see most use, and with its light controls you're never left fighting the car when driving about. It's the perfect vehicle for zipping in and out of coffee shops and squeezing into the tight city car parks without any fear of scraping panel work, as it has very compact dimensions, measuring just 1670mm in width and less than 4 metres in length (3880mm).

Out on the freeway (or should I say toll way), driving was a little less sure footed than around town, but still held its own. On the open road the chassis failed to excite as much as the previous model, and though it is super light, tipping the scales at just 1116kg, the car feels a little wooden when coaxed through a corner. But considering it's target demographic, I don't think this will be of consequence to most buyers.

The efficient little 1.6-litre engine provides adequate shunt in most situations - except when lining up against an SS Commodore at the traffic lights. Developing 77 kilowatts of power and 145Nm of torque, the engine revs cleanly and there's nothing inherently wrong with it. The gearbox isn't quite as polished. Clutch operation is fine, but the gear shifter doesn't inspire rapid changes.

The ride quality is better than it's handling abilities I think, and internally the Barina felt remarkably spacious with plenty of head room for taller bodied drivers and passengers. I liked the inclusion of speed and engine revolution dials [some people call them the speedometer and tachometer - Ed], both of which have a great finish, and other features like key, seatbelt and headlight warning buzzers plus the practical steering wheel-mounted audio controls give you the impression that this car is worth more than its asking price.

By and large, the interior materials are modern (if cost conscious) and the general styling the car's interior felt very 2006 and quite pleasing for something in the budget car bracket.

Notably though, it lacked in some areas, such as the brakes, which are drums at the rear - but the target market it is going after won’t care too much. I'm sure it saves a few hundred dollars off the price tag, keeping it competitive in its field - but it just gave this reviewer the feel that corners were being cut.

If you weren't told the car had drums on the rear though, there's a good chance you wouldn't pick it, as braking is not too bad, even with 200mm rear drums, and when you consider the standard features, such as air conditioning, driver and front passenger airbags, immobiliser, power steering, remote central locking, electric windows and mirrors, the sub $14,000 price represents value. 

There's also a trendy-looking 6-speaker CD stereo with MP3 compatibility, which will be of great interest to younger buyers, and the centre console looks good, with intuitive HVAC dials and buttons. The boot is quite small, as are the rear seats, but this is a tiny vehicle and a hatchback at that. About 200 litres of space is on offer in the boot, and that expands to 1190 litres when you fold down the 60:40 split-fold rear seats.

Overall: 3.25/5

For what you pay, you get quite a bit of kit in the Barina. It's not the fastest, or best-looking, or even the most sophisticated motor vehicle out there, but it's a bargain, and the rate that oil prices are rising, it makes good fiduciary sense.

All in all, the new Barina is a great value for money runabout with enough modern functions to appeal to a wide range of drivers, and in particular the youngsters looking for a new car with a decent warranty. In fact, at it’s price, why not buy two so you don’t have to share the car on weekends? It is easy to operate and drive (if a little uninspired), is fuel efficient, and even has an effective sense of style.



  • Frugal Engine
  • Smart Interior
  • Running Costs
  • Rear Drum Brakes
  • Gear Shifts
  • Boot Space

Comments on the review? The Car? Your Car? Email us.

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