2012 HOLDEN BARINA REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Five-door light hatchback
Price: $15,990 (plus on-roads)
Fuel Economy (claimed): 7.2 l/100km
Fuel Economy (tested): 7.5 l/100km
Holden’s got a bold new look for the Barina. It looks pretty good; and, unlike the previous model, the purposeful new lines will appeal to both male and female buyers.
It’s no hot-hatch though, nor is it the best-built light car on the market.
However the new TM Barina does have a compelling pricetag and a long and appealing equipment list. Good enough for your hard-earned? Read on.
Quality: It’s typical entry-level fare inside the Barina. The plastics are hard and the switchgear feels pretty cheap; there were also a few bits of rattling trim evident on rougher surfaces.
It’s a sub-$16k car so it’s unreasonable to expect high-grade materials and soft-touch everything (and it’s a huge improvement on the previous-gen model), but there’s plenty of room for improvement inside the Barina.
Comfort: The front seats are surprisingly good, but the lack of height adjustability for the front passenger is a minor irritation.
For the driver though, there’s not much to complain about. The steering wheel adjusts for both reach and rake (many light car tillers are tilt-only affairs), and there’s plenty of head, leg and shoulder room.
That thick C-pillar and small rear window heavily compromises over-the-shoulder vision however.
Backseaters may also feel a little hemmed-in by the thick window frame of the rear doors, but headroom and legroom is fairly generous for a light car. The rear seat squab could do with some extra under-thigh padding though.
Equipment: Only a single grade is offered in the 2012 Barina, however the standard equipment levels should please the majority of buyers.
Air-conditioning, cruise control, power windows, power mirrors, Bluetooth integration and an iPod-ready USB audio connection are all standard features.
Is there much more that you’d want for a light commuter car? A reversing camera or parking sensors would make good options perhaps, but aren’t available for the Barina.
Storage: The Barina’s 290 litre boot isn’t big, and the 60/40 split rear seatback doesn’t fold flush with the floor. There are 653 litres with the back seats folded though, which is a handy amount of space for a light car.
In-cabin storage is also decent, thanks to cupholders that are accessible from the back seat, a lidded cubby in the upper dashboard, a proper glovebox and a number of open nooks either side of the centre stack.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: The Barina’s 85kW is, plainly put, a bit underwhelming. It needs lots of revs (over 4000 at a minimum) to deliver decent acceleration, and throttle response is quite slow.
Steep hills often require changing down a cog or two and the standard five-speed manual could do with more closely-stacked ratios to keep the engine in its sweet spot.
The manual is easy to use though. The clutch pedal is light and the shifter throw is tight and pleasingly precise.
Refinement: Driveline vibration, wind noise and tyre roar are quite well suppressed, but at high RPM the thrashy engine note penetrates the firewall.
Our press car also had a persistent squeak from somewhere within the dashboard, and the clutch pedal made an annoying creak each time it was depressed.
Suspension: Spring and damper rates are very soft, but the result is a ride that is surprisingly comfortable over rough, poorly-maintained roads.
Turn-in response is also good, however the soft suspension tune produces a lot of body roll in fast corners.
Around town though, we’d say the Barina’s suspension is ideal and with reasonable feel from the hydraulic power steering.
Braking: There’s discs up front but old-tech drums at the back, and while the pedal response and feel is good, the Barina’s rear end feels a bit unstable during heavy braking from highway speed.
ANCAP rating: Five stars
Safety features: Front, front side and curtain airbags, three-point seatbelts for all seats, collapsible pedals, traction control, stability control, ABS, EBD and brake assist.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: 3 years/100,000kms
Service costs: A complimentary service is set for 3000km, with scheduled servicing scheduled for every 15,000km/12 months. Costs vary, so consult your local Holden dealer for service pricing.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Nissan Micra Ti ($16,990) - Available for a touch more cash than the Barina, the Micra Ti packs lots more equipment - like a proximity key, reversing sensors and climate control.
Can’t stretch the budget to the Ti? The mid-grade Micra ST-L is more than a match for the Barina - and costs just $14,990 too. (see Micra reviews)
Toyota Yaris YR ($15,690) - Interior revisions bring more space, but the entry-grade Yaris 5-door only gets a 63kW 1.3 litre engine. It feels more solid than the Barina though - both in on-road dynamics and in terms of build quality. (see Yaris reviews)
Mazda2 Neo ($15,790) - The Mazda2 never fails to put a smile on our dial whenever we drive one. Its entertaining chassis, willing 76kW 1.5 litre engine and ultra-precise gearshifter make it a hoot to drive, and it’s not too bad at doing commuter duty either.
The interior is starting to date though, and it’s not as practical a cabin as the Barina’s. (see Mazda2 reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The new Holden Barina's ultra-soft ride might not be to everyone’s tastes, but for those who plan to use this car purely as an inner-urban commuter, then it’s just about perfect.
Also good is the long equipment list - you get a lot loaded into a sub-$16k purchase. What isn’t perfect, though, is the build quality. It’s better than the last Barina, yes, but still needs improvement.
We’d also recommend choosing the automatic instead of the manual tested here. The auto smoothes out the engine’s flat spots, and masks the lack of low-down torque.