Confirmation today from Holden the ‘hot hatch’ market really does start closer to $20,000 than $30,000. It’s the excellent, new Holden Barina RS and, for $20,990 (manual) or $23,190 (automatic), you get a hot hatch to rival any fancy German with a sticker starting with +$27,000.
Yep there’s been a seismic shift in the hot hatch scene and new car buyers are the winners.
Holden Barina RS Overview
Here’s how it works: the Holden Barina RS gains the turbocharged 1.4-litre engine from the Cruze, sports suspension (lowered by 10mm and with 15mm firmer springs and firmer dampers) and exterior/interior enhancements which are just right.
By the way, that kit includes leather-trimmed sports seats.
The Barina RS lineup is simple (and it’s hatchback only):
RS manual $20,990
RS automatic $23,190
Holden Barina RS Engine
Power comes from Holden’s 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine we know from the Cruze. Maximum power is 103kW at 4900rpm and peak torque of 200Nm arrives at 1850rpm. Fuel consumption is rated at 6.5l/100kms.
Drive is via either a six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic with sequential manual function operated by clever buttons on the gear-lever.
There’s also good things underneath – sports suspension lowered by 10mm, 15 per0cent firmer springs, firmer dampers and a unique recalibration of the power steering. In fact the steering work for the Barina RS model sold around the world was done locally by Holden engineers.
Holden Barina RS The Interior
Here’s where things realty crank-up for the Holden Barina RS - how do standard, leather trimmed, RS-branded sports seats sound? Sound even better as the fronts are heated for those chilly winter days (or the way things are going here in Melbourne those chilly November days!).
As well, there are alloy sports pedals, an excellent leather-wrapped, flat-bottom sports steering wheel and RS-branded sports mats.
And let’s not forget a premium look thanks to piano black trim highlights and of course the best-in-class seven-inch touchscreen for the Holden MyLink infotainment system which, amongst its embedded apps, has BrinGo satellite navigation.
For a $20,000 - $23,000 car we’d call that very impressive.
Of course we reckon the Holden Barina gets off to a tremendous start inside with its sporty motorcycle style dashboard (at last something different in design). That includes an analogue rev-counter and digital speedometer all housed in a compact little display which is space-efficient and easy-to-read.
The steering wheel adjusts for rake/reach and with height adjustment for the drivers’ seat an A1 driving position is assured.
Holden Barina RS Exterior & Styling
One of the major reasons we’ve lobbied for a sports version of the current T300 series Holden Barina is its exterior styling – even as standard it’s always looked racy.
So top marks to Holden for the additions included in the Barina RS – unique front and rear fascias, front fog-lights and very stylish 17-inch alloy wheels.
Combine those wheels with the 10mm lowered ride height and the Holden Barina RS looks very saucy and ready for action.
It looks especially saucy in its new and exclusive body colour – ‘Orange Rock’.
Holden Barina RS On The Road
A rarity these days – to fully exploit the performance capabilities of the Barina RS, Holden let us loose on its world-class proving ground at Lang Lang in Victoria. Too bad record-breaking November rains were coming down by the bucket-load.
But rain, hail or shine, the terrific turbocharged Barina RS is a nicely-developed pocket rocket which will enchant performance drivers.
Sure 103kW/200Nm isn’t going to power a Space Shuttle, but in a vehicle which weighs only 1249kgs - 1275kgs it’s very tasty. Combine that with a slick-shifting six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed auto which operates fantastically well as a self-shifter and the Holden Barina RS begs to be driven hard.
And through the twisty stuff the Holden Barina RS was a revelation. That’s the result of excellent suspension development, smartly tuned ESC and of course a good chassis.
The Barina RS was firm and precise without being unpleasant, got the power down smartly without too much understeer when pressing-on and responded well to mid-corner throttle changes when required.
That’s advanced stuff for a hot hatch priced well below $25K.
Exiting the city we were driving a manual Holden Barina RS and the traffic congestion on the flooded roads was just monumental. But no worries - despite its performance potential, the Holden Barina RS was light to operate and easily manoeuvrable.
Holden Barina RS Challenges
No left footrest – all cars with sporty aspirations should have one.
Holden Barina RS Verdict
‘Hot Hatch’, ‘Warm Hatch’, ‘Souped-Up Compact’ – you can debate the classification but the bottom line is a new sub-segment has blossomed and however you look at it, the Holden Barina RS is at the pointy end of the field. We’ll call them ‘Sub $25K Hot Hatches’ and they’re a mixed bunch united under one umbrella – they’re all great value-for-money.
And FYI performance cars fans, small capacity turbocharged cars are the future – consider, in another price universe of course, the Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG and CLA 45 AMG.
We’ve always thought the current Holden Barina with its sharp, purposeful looks and motorcycle style dashboard could be transformed into a great hot hatch and Holden has again over-delivered – it’s terrific to look at and great fun to drive. But, like the VF Commodore, we’re startled by the pricing – we reckon Holden could justifiably peg a $23,000 starting sticker for the Barina RS, but at $20,990 (manual) and $23,190 (automatic)…well you certainly get a lot of car.
Unlike some rivals, you can buy a Holden Barina RS with the confidence there’s an over-stiff and poorly developed suspension set-up which will wear you out within weeks.
And unlike some rivals, the Barina RS wears a Holden badge so your nearest dealer with full service and after-sale backup is likely right nearby.
Holden Barina RS The Competition
Well the Holden Barina RS rockets into Car Showroom favouritism in this category, but it’s not without some classy competition – not the least of whicn comes from arch-rival Ford in the form of the technically-fascinating Fiesta Sport. The Ford technical star in this league with its remarkable three-cylinder, 1.0-litre engine. Priced at $20,525, the German-origin Fiesta Sport is also a Car Showroom favourite.
Suzuki Swift Sport has reined in this league for some time and for good reason – a punchy 1.6-litre engine and motorsport heritage more than justify its $23,990 sticker.
Kia Rio SLS isn’t really in the ‘hot-hatch’ league of the Holden Barina RS but at $19,990 and $21,990 the good-looking Rio range-topper with its handy 1.6-litre engine is a ‘must-consider’.