The superseded Holden Barina Spark never set the world on fire within the micro car segment. Cheap, yes. Cheerful, no.
But its replacement, the more simply named 2016 Holden Spark, launches with higher expectations. It’s the first properly new Holden to launch in some time, and it’s a car the company considers “a new benchmark”.
On paper, the argument stacks up. Not only does this model lead the segment in the all-important area of in-car connectivity — it gets Apple CarPlay/Android Auto integration on a large touchscreen as standard — but it gets localised Australian-developed steering and suspension to make it more liveable.
That said, the little Holden Spark also has its work cut out, because irrespective of its native qualities, people just aren’t buying the market’s cheapest cars like they used to. Sales of micro cars fell more than 30 per cent last year, and a similar amount the year before that.
But while many have been migrating to used vehicles instead of these budget-friendly offerings, the in-car tech and safety of the Spark is expected to lure people into Holden showrooms. No two-year old Yaris has CarPlay.
What people? Millennials mostly, aged between 18 and 29. Mostly unmarried, largely women, often living with parents, married to their smartphones, new to disposable income and keen on a first car with personalisation options such as the Spark’s changeable wheel inserts, body add-ons and cabin colours. Also, people “misunderstood” by car companies.
In other words, not typical Holden buyers. Maybe that’s why Holden wants to display the Spark — in part, anyway — at unique pop-up stores with free Messina gelati rather than dealerships, though you’ll have to buy them at the latter still.