Holden Barina Spark Review and Road Test

by under Review on 09 Feb 2011 02:03:19 PM09 Feb 2011
Price Range
$NaN - $NaN
Fuel Consumption
NaNL - NaNL/100km


 For young, first-time and budget-restricted car buyers the future has arrived – modern, safe, good-looking cars like the Holden Barina Spark question the wisdom of buying a used car.

It’s simple – for $12,990 and $13,990 - you get a state of the art compact car with state-of-the-art features, state-of-the-art mechanicals plus the confidence of buying a Holden with a full new car warranty.

For that money, many used cars don’t even come with air-conditioning.

Holden Barina Spark Overview

Holden Barina Spark is the Aussie version of a global compact car for General Motors which stemmed from the Chevrolet Beat concept car. It will be sold in 150 world markets and highlights GM’s post-Global Financial Crisis shift to launch smaller cars in keeping with today’s socio-economic mood. 


No surprise then that it’s so good – GM/Holden doesn’t do things by halves.

The five-door hatchback is available in two model grades – CD ($12,990) and CDX ($13,990) - and both are powered by a lively 1.2-litre, four-cylinder engine driving the front wheels via a five-speed manual transmission. Holden Barina Spark sells alongside the established Barina lineup - from $14,790 and powered by a 1.6-litre engine.

But in the flesh, Holden Barina Spark is a totally different car, a fresh newcomer with sharp, angular styling and a standout interior – designed with young buyers in mind.

And for young, first-time car buyers, the Holden Barina Spark, with standard Electronic Stability Control (ESC) and six airbags – dual front, front side impact and full length curtain airbags – brings certain peace-of-mind to parents.

Holden Barina Spark Engine

Holden Barina Spark employs a 1.2-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine providing 59kW of power at 6400rpm and peak torque of 107Nm at 4800 rpm (Suzuki Alto gets a 1.0-litre, three-cylinder with 50kW/90Nm). 


That’s enough to make the Holden Barina Spark a lively performer while returning combined cycle fuel economy of 5.6l/100kms. Holden Barina spark is rated at 128g/km for exhaust C02 emissions, giving it the maximum five-star rating in the federal Government’s Green Vehicle Guide.

Holden Barina Spark The Interior

We give Holden top marks for the interior of the Barina Spark – finally a design that’s breaks the mould. No conventional gauges here, instead you get a motorcycle-like cluster mounted on the steering column.

And that cluster is loaded with information (analogue speedometer, digital rev-counter and comprehensive trip computer information including outside temperature, fuel consumption and distance-to-empty) all displayed with modern graphics and stylish ice-blue backlighting. 


The ice-blue backlighting continues to the center console, which contains the air-conditioning controls and the audio system (four-speaker, MP3-compatible CD system with USB and Auxiliary input 35mm jack).

Colour coded silver (or red in our case to match the exterior colour) trim highlights provide a modern look and splash of colour.

Holden Barina Spark delivers a good driving position (although telescopic adjustment for the steering wheel would be nice) and we liked the modern design, three-spoke steering wheel. 


Like others in this segment, rear seat accommodation and luggage capacity are limited but still useful. The rear seat split folds 60/40 and when fully folded the Holden Barina Spark can absorb 580-litres of cargo (170-litres with the seat in place).

CDX models score perforated seat trim, multifunction steering wheel, front and rear power windows and an under-seat storage tray.

Holden Barina Spark Exterior & Styling

While there is a slight passing resemblance to the rest of the Barina lineup, the Holden Barina Spark is a stand-alone design.

Holden Barina Spark might be a compact but it highlights most contemporary automotive styling nuances – the distinct wedge shape, sharp-angled front-end with wrap-over, curved headlights, fin-shaped fog light apertures, the usual Holden grille, a large glasshouse and prominent sculpturing around the wheel arches (14-inch alloy wheels for Barina Spark CD and 15-inch alloys for the CDX). 


We liked the circular taillights which gave the rear an up-market look (CDX also gets a larger body-coloured rear spoiler).

Holden Barina Spark On The Road

We can confirm the Holden Barina Spark was untroubled by bucketing rain and severely flooded roads as our week behind the wheel coincided with Melbourne’s record-breaking Spring downpours. A few times in the city and over our mountain roads test loop, we needed to transverse large ponds with water lapping at the door sills – but our mighty little Barina Spark conquered the challenges easily.

The 1.2-litre engine impressively made the most of its 59kW/107Nm with commendable standing-start acceleration and comfortable mid-range acceleration on the freeway. 


Over the mountains, the Holden Barina Spark was nicely balanced with good turn-in and the expected, predictable understeer at the very limit. As usual for compact cars, severe mid-corners bumps did test the rebound of the shock absorbers but not in an unsettling way.

Around town, the Holden Barina Spark was really in its element – good visibility for the frequent lane changes necessary to dodge fast-stopping taxis and a miniscule turning circle, which made easy work of our CBD car park.

NVH (often a problem for compact cars) matched the best of the Alto and i20 and refinement levels were surprisingly low.

Holden Barina Spark Challenges

At speed on the freeway we were aware of wind noise in the Holden Barina Spark - mostly around the A-pillars.

At times we did find the five-speed manual transmission a little baulky – mostly when selecting first gear or down-changing from fifth to third.

And that groovy interior loses some points for the front seats which are a tad flat and unsupportive.

Holden Barina Spark Verdict

The Holden Barina Spark, Suzuki Alto and Hyundai i20 have lifted the game of budget-priced compact cars to new levels. In the Barina Spark, for under $14,000, you get so much performance, safety, breakout styling and practicality it’s ridiculous. 


And the Holden badge plus all those Holden dealers for after sales support.

Holden Barina Spark The Competition

Realistically Barina Spark goes head-to-head with the Suzuki Alto and Hyundai i20 and both are strongly credentialed in both specifications and value, but there’s no denying the funky interior of the Barina Spark scores big points – especially with younger buyers. Bottom line for all three: if this is your budget limit, don’t even think about a used car.

Holden Barina Spark Likes:

Standout interior; sparking styling; value

Holden Barina Spark Dislikes:

Wind noise; seats need more support; notchy transmission

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