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  • Showroom appeal; roomy interior; quiet cabin; strong body; much-improved steering
  • Ride a tad lumpy; handling lacks finesse; raucous engine; unintuitive auto; hefty kerb weight

6 / 10

2013 Holden Barina CDX Review
2013 Holden Barina CDX Review
2013 Holden Barina CDX Review
by Daniel DeGasperi

When the all-new Holden Barina launched late last year, it was heavily criticised for its recalcitrant auto, patchy ride quality, inconsistent steering and breathless engine. Holden, understandably, was disappointed. But to its credit, the company has taken those criticisms on board and tweaked the Barina for 2013.

The running changes coincide with the addition of an auto-only $20,490 Holden Barina CDX spec level to sit above the existing $15,990 manual/$17,990 auto Holden Barina CD grade. The new flagship, like the entry-level model, is available in both hatch and sedan body styles.

For $2500, the CDX adds 17-inch alloy wheels, foglights, ‘Sportec’ (or man-made leather) trim with heated front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearshifter, four-function trip computer, and rear parking sensors.

The flagship grade also debuts GM’s ‘MyLink’ entertainment system, to be rolled out on VF Commodore, Trax and Malibu next year. The MyLink system, accessed via a seven-inch touchscreen, works like a smartphone, using third-party ‘apps’ to control both music and navigation options. The touchscreen offers high quality graphics and an intuitive interface – no other light car currently offers a seven-inch touchscreen standard.

The ‘Pandora’ application will soon be launched, which steams online music the car’s speakers, using a Bluetooth connection from an internet-equipped phone. Select a song from Pandora’s online playlist, then the system automatically creates a playlist based on the user’s taste. A 40 second advertisement is played after every four songs; the system’s only cost. Pandora will use, at worst, 1.5-2Gb of internet data per month, according to Holden.

2013 Holden Barina CDX Review
2013 Holden Barina CDX Review
2013 Holden Barina CDX Review
2013 Holden Barina CDX Review

Other apps include Stitcher, which offers internet radio stations and podcasts without Pandora’s extra functions, BringGo, which provides satellite navigation functions, and Siri, which as with its use on the Apple iPhones, answers the most random of questions, from the weather to finding a nearby petrol station.

The Holden Barina CDX also utilises a fuel-saving electro-mechanical power steering set-up, where the CD still gets the old hydraulic power assistance unit. Together with a revised six-speed automatic, combined consumption falls from 7.3L/100km to 6.3L/100km.

Coincidentally, if not interestingly, the new 1.6-litre six-speed auto drivetrain is given the same fuel sticker as a 1997 SB Barina Lambada 1.4-litre four-speed auto, so there’s some progress there…

Holden also claims the new steering is backed by suspension tweaked by local engineers, while the excellent Continental PremiumContact tyres provide extra grip.

Our drive in the Holden Barina CDX automatic was limited, but enough to feel the worth of the new electric steering. It’s much more consistent than the old unit, pleasingly light and lacking artifical resistance. On-centre feel is still lacking, creating a nervous dead-patch in the first movements that sharpens as lock is wound on. The system is at its best working through its full rotation, but this still isn’t a steering set-up to match a Volkswagen Polo, let alone a Ford Fiesta or Mazda2.

2013 Holden Barina CDX Review
2013 Holden Barina CDX Review
2013 Holden Barina CDX Review
2013 Holden Barina CDX Review

The ride, on 50-aspect tyres, seems lumpier than on the previous CD, although wind and road noise are well containted, with the new-generation Barina continuing to be one of the quietest cars in its class. Handling is of the composed and grippy, rather than playfully entertaining, variety, however the Barina is at least above-average in this regard, competitive with rivals from Kia and Hyundai if not Volkswagen, Ford and Mazda.

The feeling of body strength is reflected in the Barina’s hefty 1249kg kerb weight – 184kg more than a similarly strong and quiet Suzuki Swift – and reflected again in the performance deficit.

Holden’s 85kW/155Nm 1.6-litre four-cylinder is essentially carried over from the TK generation, which itself dates back to the 2002. It isn’t the smoothest or quietest engine, but its slow-to-rev nature can at least partially be blamed on the mass it needs to push.

Although upgraded, the automatic remains reluctant to hold shorter gears to minimise flaring and ratio hunting. Instead, the gearbox works with light-switch simplicity – if the throttle is pushed, it kicks down, if the right pedal is released, it slurs into the tallest ratio.

There’s little intuition to be found with this gearbox in either auto or manual mode – the buttons on the side of the gearshift lever don’t work nearly as effortlessly as a tipshifter on the gate, or paddles behind the steering wheel.

2013 Holden Barina CDX Review
2013 Holden Barina CDX Review

For showroom appeal, the Holden Barina CDX has plenty. For just $20,490 it is feature packed for the same price as only slightly larger base models in the Corolla class. It is also quieter than many of them – including Lancer and Mazda3. However the Barina also lacks the cabin quality of Swift and Polo, the wonderful dynamics of Fiesta and Mazda2, and the flexibility of a Honda Jazz.

Except for its features and quietness, and despite the upgrades, the Holden Barina remains an average light car.

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2013 Holden Barina CDX Review
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  • Mikey

    ” no other light car currently offers a seven-inch touchscreen standard.”  Did you forget the Peugeot 208?

    • Grumpy

      hahahaha, hasnt everyone?

    • DoubleBlue

       Actually quite a nice looking Holden [when ya look at what else Holden offers]. Just pleased “it”,Barina FAILS at everything else [compared to the other brands].!

  • http://www.bryanbyrtrenault.com.au/ Modern Man

    seems like another great product let down by the packaging.

    love the screen hate the car.

  • Golfmother

    Bury it .

    • Reg

      Along with the polo

      • Golfmother

        Polo runs rings around this piece of Daewoo junk , another pseudo holden unreliable and boring , when will they learn to make proper cars .

        • Henry Toussaint

           It’s not that Unreliable…I think the Golf is more unreliable than this.

    • Karl Sass

      Needs pop out windows lol

  • $29896495

    So many things to dislike about this car, and so little space to write.

    OK first things first, I can tell you there are going to be a lot of people complaining about excessive data costs on their phones. The average plan runs 1 to 2 gigs of data, subtract from that the data needed to run your smart phone, then incidental downloads, big bills will start rolling in just because you have the nerve to want to listen to the radio.

    Next, artificial leather is plastic vinyl !!! I hate that dash. The exterior. The engine. Thank God I’ve only ever seen ONE on the road since they were released. Another US/Korean flop.

    • MisterZed

      You’ve only seen one? I see about 1 an hour… in the past year I’ve probably seen 50 of them.

      • $29896495

        Really? You must be looking at every one they’ve sold. Even though there is a Holden dealer here, I seriously have seen just one and I do get around. (in a nice way) There are more Mazda 2s, Hyundais, Fiestas, Kias, and even OPELS (there is no Opel dealer near here) It would appear that I’m not the only one who doesn’t think much of it.

        • Jim

          More Opels? You have to be lying with that statement, they’ve barely sold a few hundred Opels yet I’m fairly sure they’ve sold close to 10,000 of these Barinas since its release.

          • $29896495

            I’m afraid, for you, I’m not lying.  I don’t know about the rest of the country, I can only talk about the areas of Sydney I travel. In fact see a few jazzes about too. Still NO Barinas. 

            I believe the last figure I saw for sales was about 900, divide that by 6 states, gives you 150 a state or very roughly, 1,800 a year for say NSW where I am. Multiply that by 3 for the number of years on the market gives 5,400 for the entire state. Divide that by 3 for major cities, gives 1800 per city. No wonder I don’t see any. That must make it almost a collectors item, being so rare.

          • Jim

            Ok. Your last statement is quite funny.

          • Aussie and Proud

            you must be lying or living in West Berlin more New Opels than Barina’s what drugs are you on????

    • Aussie and Proud

      have you ever driven the car…………no……………another idiot, because it’s a Holden it fails the test sight unseen so to speak…….grow up and accept the car for what it is a cheap mode of transport, how can you even compare a Polo to a Barina, they only have size in common

      • Jim

        Look you can compare any car to any car, the Barina is a small hatch as is the Polo. But aside from that I like your attitude; this car isn’t terrible, as the review here and in carsguide says. The Holden badge to many warrants an instant fail as a car, even though those that bag them have usually not driven one.

      • $29896495

        If you read the post with out bias toward Holden, you would see I am reporting what I have seen on the roads. Nothing can be truer. I have sat in them and in fact driven them. I used to own a “Holden” Astra SRI, and on the many occasions I would be visiting the Holden service department to get something fixed they f**ked up, I would while away my time with the cars on display. As well as take the odd test drive.

        So, that being said, last numbers I saw on this site for sales to date for the year, was rather than 900 plus some, for a month, as I calculated above, but 900 plus some for a year. which is very bad. Even at 900 a month its pretty woeful.

        I did not compare the Barina to the Polo, though in Europe the two are pitched against each other. There is nothing wrong in a car just being transport, but it has to be fit for purpose. As for my and others opinions on how it looks. They are quite legitimate. Also the statements about quality of manufacture from the Daewoo plant. As for being a cheap mode of transport, it’s not that cheap.

        Anyone considering this car can do better with any number of cars, and people realise this, that’s why it’s not selling.

        • Kd

          Barina normally sells around 900-1300 per month. Your 900 YTD is total bull dust.

          • $29896495

            Hi Kd how are you? Up above that comment you’l see I did a calculation based on 900 a month. Still not many all things considered. Didn’t see any today either. 

  • Latin Fish Names

    That dash is abysmal… and lots of cheap looking hard plastic.  I truly hate the look of this thing inside and out and the sedan manages to look even worse!   These global budget Chevys are terrible GM… take a look at Opel and you may end up designing some appealing cars.

  • The Real Wile E

    People who buy these probably think it’s made in Australia

    • Jim

      I don’t agree. A surprisingly high number of people think that Holdens aren’t built at all in Australia anymore, just check the comments on their Facebook page.

      • The Real Wile E

        Not sure that would be a statistical sample

  • MisterZed

    Easily the best looking car in it’s class. Shame about the engine though – US model gets choice of 1.8L or 1.4L turbo (same engines as the Cruze). 1.6L is not enough. US model also gets 10 standard airbags, while we only get 6.

  • Rocket

    Best feature is a touch screen…………………………………..

  • Martin

    I hate that cheap and nasty interior. Why can’t GM use decent quality plastic on the touch point areas instead of that Tupperware-like hard plastic?

  • Redneko210

    Agree with Mister Zed. Apart form the fact it’s shamefully built in Korea with down graded engine, suspension, brakes, perhaps plastic… this car could have been a gem. Love the look. Hate it’s over priced $$ here is Australia.This new CDX model cost just as much as the 1.4 if not 1.8 turbo in USA, and it doesn’t even come with real leather or 4 disc brakes OR a manual option. GM should have skipped bringing it back as a Barina and brought a new small car to Holden, preferably keeping it as a Sonic. And BOOOOM! I could’ve bought one!

    • Lindsay

      The Opel Corsa’s back, so if you want a proper Barina, that’s your car.

  • Golfmother

    Not as good as the VW Sausagepolisher due out Q3 2013

  • gtrxu1

    20k will get you in to this Barina.That’s good value with all the standard equiptment.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/FFLU42DZJ4E23NZKHN3UXJU44Q Aazz

    I like the look of the Rio SLi/SLS better plus it’s 1.6L produces 103kw’s.
    The Mazda2 Genki also looks the goods.

  • Jeff

    Would any one buy a Barina, if they had the choice of buying one of the other small brands ?

    • $29896495


    • Hayley

      I bought a brand new Barina hatchback about 6 months ago and I love it. I looked at all the other options and it was by far my favourite. Ticked all the boxes and I got it for 15 990.

  • holdenlover

    Well I just bought a Holden Barina CDX 2012 model, quite happy with the purchase, not as good as a commodore but I guess the better the engine, the more petrol it will consume, which I’m mainly worried about. Overrall not the greatest but not the worst either. Will see how it goes

  • Angel

    I just bought this car and am totally in love with it. My phone bill has not even gone up its still the same. People thinking theirs extra costs there really isn’t. And for fuel efficiency is great. I use to pay $60 a week in fuel now with this car i only pay $35. Its saved me more money then anything> Best Car Eva!

    • Iyo

      Your review was 3 years ago. What is your view on the car now? I’m contemplating of buying one. Thanks

  • Scott

    Bury it alright already has problems with knocking in the steering