HOLDEN BARINA SPARK REVIEW
Vehicle style: Light five-door hatch
Price: $12,490 (plus on-road-costs)
Engine: 1.2 litre petrol, naturally aspirated in-line four cylinder
Outputs: 59kW @ 6400rpm / 107Nm @ 4800rpm
Transmission: Five-speed manual transmission
Official fuel efficiency: 5.6 L/100km
On test fuel efficiency: 8.3 L/100km
CO2 emissions: 128g/km
There is a surge of popularity in affordable light ‘city’cars. Holden has tossed its hat into the ring with the fresh and funky 2011 Barina Spark.
It is aimed straight at fashion conscious young city drivers - women uppermost - and, though it’s not the best buy in the class, it comes with a well-featured safety list and frugal thirst.
- Quality: While the design is cheery and colourful, the mismatched surface finishes let things down. Controls are where they should be however and we like the motorcycle-style instrument cluster with its large, clear speedometer.
At the price, the seat fabrics and tactile surfaces feel reasonably appealing and durable.
- Comfort: The compact Spark offers a comparatively commanding driving position, but limited seat adjustment and steering wheel travel won’t suit all drivers. Small windows in the rear can also make things a little claustrophobic for rear seat passengers.
- Equipment: A sporty body kit, alloy wheels, auto-off headlights, heated side mirrors, 14-inch alloy wheels, front electric windows, four-speaker MP3 compatible CD sound with aux-in, USB connectivity and steering wheel controls and remote central locking help make the Spark CD feel less spartan than its price suggests.
- Storage: There’s a good range of different sized pockets across the dash and doors. Boot space measures 170 litres with the rear seats up, and, after a fussy multi-stage operation, increases to 580 litres with the 60:40 bench folded.
ON THE ROAD
- Driveability: Outputs from the 1.2 litre four-cylinder engine look good against the opposition on paper, but the reality is different.
On the road it is a sluggish performer and overtaking moves need some forward planning. Add hilly terrain or a carload of people and the gearbox needs to be rowed along to keep up with traffic.
The turning circle is good however and the Spark is highly manoeuvrable and easy to drive around town.
- Refinement: Although smooth and quiet at idle, and unobtrusive enough around town, it soon gives way to a buzzing engine note at highway speeds.
While the gearshift is well-defined the numb clutch can catch new drivers out.
- Suspension: The Barina Spark sits on MacPherson strut front and torsion bar rear suspension. Body roll is minimal - reasonable for the class - and, for a small light car, the suspension is surprisingly compliant on patchy city roads.
- Braking: There is nothing special in the front disc brakes and rear drums, but we found they worked well.
- ANCAP rating: Not tested (European NCAP test result: 4 stars)
- Safety features: ESC, ABS, brake assist and brakeforce distribution. Dual front, side and cutain airbags, collapsible pedals, three-point seatbelt and adjustable head restraints in all seating positions and front pyrotechnic seatbelts.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
- Warranty: Holden’s factory warranty period is 3 years/100,000km.
- Service costs: Holden does not provide dealer servicing cost guidelines; speak to your dealer about scheduled servicing costs.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
- Nissan Micra ST ($12,990) - Although offering slightly less equipment, the Micra is an easier proposition to live with on a daily basis. Better build quality and easier rear seat access equate to better value. (see Micra reviews)
- Suzuki Alto GLX ($12,490) - Light weight and a well sorted chassis make the Alto fun to drive. Seating lacks comfort however and it lacks the flair to the interior of the Spark. (see Alto reviews)
- Proton S16 G ($11,990) - Incredibly cheap, but lacking essential safety equipment such as ABS and a passenger airbag.
Note: all prices are Manufacturer's List Price and do not include on-road costs or dealer delivery.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Bold style both inside and out ensures the Barina Spark makes a statement. It also comes with a host of safety features that add to its appeal as a ‘first car’ for a young driver or as a city commuter.
On the road however, the lack of urge from the engine and vague clutch diminishes the Spark’s appeal. Potentially worth considering but only after careful comparison with Nissan’s excellent new Micra.