In a self-confessed product renaissance, Holden expects to launch 10 new models over the next two years and following our earlier introduction to Holden’s all new small car entrant, the Holden Barina Spark, it chose Melbourne as the location to launch its latest small car, the Barina.
A little known fact about the Holden operation in Melbourne is that it’s part of only two other global locations (North America and Europe) that designs concept cars for the GM empire. Part of the Barina’s initial concept design was penned locally by Holden designer Ondrej Koromhaz and includes part of the Holden design language.
Needless to say, the new Holden Barina is a vast improvement on the outgoing Barina and an even greater improvement on the first Barina, built in 1985 and on display to the media this morning. The new Barina brings with it a fresh, masculine style that offers drivers of both sexes an option when shopping for a small Holden car.
Sharp and striking lines flow from the front and rise progressively towards the rear, where the rear passenger door handles are integrated into the top of the door – much like those seen on the recently launched Holden Barina Spark.
Modern design elements include exposed motorbike-style headlights that are mimicked at the rear with the taillights. Owners can also accessorise their Barina with unique design options such as coloured headlight clusters and side weather shields.
If you’re anything like me, you would think the exposed headlights pose an aerodynamic challenge for the Barina, but Holden Lead Development Engineer, Adam Shaw, told CarAdvice, “there is no significant detriment to open headlights on the Barina”. Mr Shaw continued to say that there isn’t a build up of air in that segment of the car, which is the reason that open areas of the body like the headlights don’t pose an aerodynamic disadvantage.
Under the bonnet you will find Holden’s third-generation 1.6-litre four-cylinder double overhead camshaft petrol engine. The engine produces 85kW (at 6000rpm) and 155Nm of torque (at 4000rpm), and is the largest engine in its class. The official fuel consumption figure for the five-speed manual is 6.8L/100km, while the six-speed automatic clocks in at 7.3L/100km.
Inside the cabin, an upbeat and stylish interior sets the Holden Barina apart from its competition. The instrument cluster has been taken from the Barina Spark and moves with the steering wheel. The cluster features an analogue tachometer and digital speedometer, with an optimal shift indicator in the five-speed manual variant.
Dual glove boxes allow ample stowage for odds and ends, with the top glove box featuring an iPhone holder and an area for sunglasses. Cargo capacity is pretty impressive for a car of this size. There's 290 litres of cargo capacity available with the rear seats upright, and a cavernous 653 litres available with the rear seats folded flat.
In terms of standard features, the Barina is well and truly loaded. USB and auxiliary input connectivity allows for connection of MP3 portable devices and iPods. Bluetooth telephone connectivity extends to Bluetooth streaming, allowing music to be played wirelessly from an MP3 device.
There’s also a single disc CD player that comes with MP3 compatibility and four-speakers. The audio and cruise control is managed via steering wheel controls with small grip tabs. Air conditioning, and electric windows and mirrors also make the standard features list.
Driver and front passenger legroom and headroom is excellent. Visibility looking forward is good, but the C-pillar causes a slight blind spot at the back. Rear passenger legroom and headroom is reasonable, with the rear seats offering a surprisingly high level of comfort.
With a five-star ANCAP safety rating, the Barina is backed by six airbags and electronic stability control (ESC) across the range. Drivers can also expect 15,000km or yearly service intervals (whichever comes first), as opposed to six monthly service intervals on some of the Barina’s competitors. Chevrolet's version of the Barina, the Sonic, is available with 10 airbags in North America, but Holden says it chose not to introduce the Holden Barina with 10 airbags as it met the five-star ANCAP rating with six airbags.
The new Holden Barina range is very simple to understand. There’s one model, with one engine and two transmissions. Pricing starts from $15,990 for the five-speed manual Barina, with the price rising $2000 for the six-speed automatic transmission. Holden is also offering drive away pricing, starting at $16,990 for the five-speed manual Barina. The new Barina will be built in South Korea.
I started off the drive route in the five-speed manual Barina. The clutch is light and easy to operate and is matched with a short throw gear lever. While brake pedal feel is initially firm, the pedal has progressive feel throughout its travel.
With peak torque produced higher in the rev range, the Barina needs to rev to make it up steep hills. Luckily, the engine isn’t overly noisy and offers very reasonable NVH (noise vibration and harshness) levels at the top end of the rev band.
A small shift light indicator on the manual suggests optimal shift times to reduce fuel economy and ensure the car is travelling in the right gear.
The six-speed automatic is a stark contrast to the manual. Where the manual felt a little bit tired during stressed driving situations, the automatic rose to the occasion and supported the driver with quick shifts and consistent gear selection.
Drivers after a sporty drive can also use a Ford Focus-esque gear selector dial on the side of the gear shifter.
The ride on bumpy roads is superb and can only be likened to the European Ford Focus I handed back just last week (just without the price tag). The suspension is firmer than the outgoing Barina, resulting in far flatter cornering and a sportier ride. It’s by no means jarring and offers an excellent compromise between sportiness and comfort.
The new Holden Barina hits dealerships at the beginning of November and is expected to be a sales success for Holden. If you’re in the market for an entry level Mazda2, Ford Fiesta, Toyota Yaris or any other vehicle in this hotly contested segment, you would be crazy not to test drive the new Holden Barina.