2011 Holden Barina Car Review and Road Test

by under Review on 24 Oct 2011 03:15:29 PM24 Oct 2011
Price Range
$NaN - $NaN
Fuel Consumption
NaNL - NaNL/100km

Sharp, Holden style exterior looks; cutting edge interior; value


Compared to the segment’s benchmarks, the Barina is just a tad short in engine refinement and ride a

Holden’s all-new Barina small car ramps-up just about everything over its predecessor except the price. In fact the all-new Holden Barina is around $300 cheaper than the old model.

Looks are much better – this one actually looks like a Holden. And that’s probably because it was designed by a Holden stylist in the form of Ondrej Koromhaz was sent to General Motor’s Korean Design Studios to create the all-new Barina.


The great looks of the all-new Holden Barina are especially impressive for Mr Koromhaz and his team when you recall the previous Barina hatchback was created by Italian design powerhouse Giugiaro. Holden’s all-new Barina hatchback, like Ford’s just-launched, locally-created Ranger ute, both serve to reinforce the talent pool in our local automotive industry – and how smart GM and Ford are by using the teams from ‘Downunder’ for global projects.

Holden Barina Overview

Currently Holden only sells the Barina as a hatchback although a sedan version (also sourced from GM's Korean manufacturing plant) follows next year. Car Showroom has just spent a week in the entry-level Holden Barina five-speed manual ($15,990) – the only other model is the six-speed automatic which will require an extra $2K ($17,990).


Now with a more powerful engine, alloy wheels and cruise control - plus standard ESC and six airbags for five-star ANCAP safety - you get a lot of car for your coin in the all-new Holden Barina. And that’s non-negotiable in our tough compact car market where the Holden Barina squares-off against such credible new rivals as the all-new Toyota Yaris, Ford’s German-sourced Fiesta, the Volkswagen Polo, Hyundai Accent and Kia Rio.

Against that lot, Holden counters with its broad dealer network and an all-new Barina which looks good inside and out, has lots of grunt and is sharply-priced.

Holden Barina Engine

Holden has stuck with GM’s Family 1, Generation 3, 1.6-litre, four-cylinder engine for the all-new Barina. Now with double continuously variable valve timing and re-designed head, block and crankshaft – all for lighter weight/cleaner emissions - GM has certainly been busy with the 1.6-litre.

For this latest model, power is up to 85kW at 6000rpm and there’s extra torque – now 155Nm at 4000rpm. Matching that modest output increase, GM has wrung-out slightly better fuel consumption – 6.8l/100kms for the Holden Barina manual as tested or 7.3l/100kms for the automatic. 


A few comparisons. Ford Fiesta delivers 88kW/151Nm/6.1l/100kms from its 1.6-litre, Mazda2 slips-in with 76kW/137Nm/6.4l/100kms from its 1.5-litre and Hyundai tops the charts with its 1.6-litre Accent good for 91kW/156Nm/6.0l/100kms.

As we write this, Toyota’s all-new Yaris line-up has not been launched.

Holden Barina The Interior

All-new Holden Barina has borrowed some modern interior cues from its trendy smaller sibling, the Barina Spark. And that’s good because the Holden Barina Spark has finally breathed some life and innovation into small car interior design, particularly with ‘motorcycle-style’ instrumentation. 


Those clever instruments have been improved for the all-new Holden Barina and inclusion of most information within the compact binnacle gives the Barina a totally new slant on dashboard design.

We also liked the new trim materials used throughout and the rather sporty steering wheel added a quality look. Audio is i-Pod compatible and includes Bluetooth streaming. 


Rear seat accommodation is on-par with others in the segment and all-new Holden Barina delivers luggage capacity of 290-litres (rear seat in-place) or 653-litres with the 60/40-split rear seat folded.

Holden Barina Exterior & Styling

Unlike its predecessor, the all-new Holden Barina has been thoroughly ‘Holdenised’ in the looks department. This is most obvious in the Holden ‘family’ front grille, but overall you get the impression, the all-new Holden Barina – crafted by Holden stylist Ondrej Koromhaz while he was working at GM’s studios in Bupyeong, South Korea – ahead of all other small cars can handle the rough-and-tumble of say life in Mt Isa.

As well as the front-end, the side of the all-new Holden Barina is very well done, with a modern, rising glass-line highlighted by clever rear doors with handles concealed in the rear side window frames. 


We also liked the rear-end treatment with nice inclusions like the contemporary tail-light designs.

Stylish 15-inch alloy wheels tie-together a very cohesive look for the all-new Holden Barina.

Holden Barina On The Road

Our week with the Holden Barina coincided with ‘home duties’. No jetting-off here and there to drive exotic cars, just local work, school and sports duties with the Car Showroom juniors – exactly the environment in which most small cars operate.

And it’s in that environment in which the all-new Holden Barina excels. It’s just so convenient – light and easy to operate, good all-round visibility, easy rear-seat access thanks to the wide-opening back doors, good luggage space (290-litres with the rear-seat in-place was sufficient for school, baseball, netball, etc) and a handy 10.06-metres turning circle for easy parking.

GM has given the all-new Holden Barina a reinvigorated chassis, much stiffer all-round and with a new 21mm diameter, hollow front anti-roll bar. Over our high-speeds mountain roads test loop, the all-new Holden Barina was safe and predictable, but ultimately not in the ‘pin-sharp’ league of say the Ford Fiesta or Volkswagen Polo.


Chassis balance and refinement were reasonable, but the performance of the 1.6-litre engine was blunted by the five-speed manual’s cumbersome ratio swaps (admittedly our test car’s clutch was showing some signs of abuse presumably from some of our automotive media mates). And the Europeans also provide better steering response.

But a word on cruise control. The all-new Holden Barina has cruise as standard, but not so long ago it was noticeably absent from the specifications list of many rival small cars.

Cruise control is cheap to fit, saves lives and saves demerit points/speeding fines – make sure your next new car has it standard – the all-new Holden Barina does.

Holden Barina Challenges

New Holden Barina has nailed the looks department (outside and inside), is safe and certainly value-for-money. It’s just lacking that final ‘X-Factor’ in the ride/handling/performance department to match it with the latest European rivals and also the ‘big-name’ Koreans.

But do buyers in this segment prioritize driving dynamics over the strength of the Holden brand and nation-wide dealer network?

Holden Barina Verdict

Holden has raised the standard in every department for the all-new Barina and its good-looks are a credit to the ‘home-grown’ talents of an Australian designer. Like the Ford Ranger ute, the all-new Holden Barina shows the major contribution our local stars can make in the global car plans of major manufacturers – not built by Aussies, but created and developed ‘Downunder’.

Holden Barina The Competition

The problem for Holden and others in this segment is Volkswagen has brought an outstanding toy to the sandbox in the form of the Polo. But in order to get close to the Holden Barina’s 85kW/155Nm, you’re looking at the Polo 77TSI which starts at $19,850. 


We’re fans of the other German-sourced vehicle in this category – the Ford Fiesta. In fact, helped by its value proposition, handy diesel and petrol engines, great style, quality and driving dynamics, the Ford Fiesta has genuine claims to be the best in this class.

Hyundai’s new Accent and Kia’s new Rio are also standouts while the Honda Jazz and Mazda2 are perennial performers.

Look out for the arrival of the all-new Toyota Yaris range.

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