2012 Holden Barina Hatch Manual Review

Overall Rating

  • Interior

  • On The Road

  • Ancap

  • Value For Money

  • See Full Specs

What’s Hot

A great improvement on the last Barina, nice gearshift and long equipment list

What’s Not

Interior quality not up to par

X Factor

Nice lines; a bit of edge to the style that will appeal to both guys and girls!

  • Country of Origin
  • Price
    $15,990 (plus on-road costs)
  • Engine
    4 Cylinders
  • Output
    85 kW / 155 Nm
  • Transmission
  • ANCAP Rating
  • Airbags
    Driver & Passenger (Dual), Head for 2nd Row Seats, Side for 1st Row Occupants (Front), Head for 1st Row Seats (Front)
  • L/100 km
  • C02
    162 g/km
  • Luggage Capacity
  • Towing (braked)
  • Towing (unbraked)
Tony O'Kane | Dec 26, 2011 | 8 Comments


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.


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: 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.


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.


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.

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Filed under: Featured, review, Holden, petrol, holden barina, barina, hatch, Manual, fwd, family, light, Advice, special-featured, 4cyl, 5door, 5m, 5seat

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  • Teabag says,
    4 years ago
    1 like
    Went car shopping with the missus last week and had a sit inside a Barina. The cabin plastics suck and the black plastic around the tail lights make it look unfinished.

    The fact that its so cheap means the missus is still considering it, but I hope she doesn't get one. Felt pretty gutless too.
    • Brad says,
      3 years ago
      Dont buy one mate, my mother and i brought 2010 models matching hers auto mine manual LEMONS WORST CAR EVER!!! an the new TM Batina is virtually the same just minor changes, my electrics, gearbox and engine were stuffed after 1 month of having it only 2000km on clock, holden were not helpful lost a lot of money on it, my mum kept hers an its worse. buy a Fiesta little bit extra but great cars.
      • rick says,
        3 years ago
        I have no idea what your on about. I have the new tm barina... and its amazing? no problems what so ever? and it drives great?
      • Emma says,
        3 years ago
        1 like
        I am in the middle of dealing with the worst lemon ever... Since 6 months old my TK 2010 model has been having problems. started out with engine light flashing, they changed sensors ranges but eventually changed whole sensors. problem continued. changed the crank angle sensor, possible changed something else, records are not well kept. Problem got worse, engine light would come one, car would shudder as if to stall, this kept getting worse, would loose power as if shut off and then come back, until it finally konk out all together. meanwhile dealer saying there is no problems. Finally they changed the whole fuel pump and assembly. within a year it was back again. Same symptoms as before, So they have done a top end clean, which "might or might not fix it" (the dealers words). within 3 weeks it was shuddering but worse again this time it lost power in a BUSY intersection as i was pulling out. NEARLY causing a massive collision. So back in it goes, this time they say they know the problem as the top end clean will eliminate some things to narrow down the gueseing game for the service dept. SO the result is a head clean and new valves... AND a letter demanding my money back.... am yet to hear anything.. BUT the deal will either be a new current model, the TM, or a full refund. I think i would prefer the refund as the review above does not exactly lower my fear of the impending major accident i may have if i continue driving it. But it is the cheaper small car on the market, unfortunately the only one i can afford... sad
        • JESS says,
          1 year ago
          HOLDEN BARINA 2013

  • Alexia says,
    3 years ago
    OMG I went a accident repair shop today because my Barina tk10 is just as much a LEMON as the above indicated.
    Since the sunroof leaked into the fuel box the problems have been never ending the car has been so many times back to holden that I was sick of it I have had 5 set of headlights replaced and they still say there is nothing wrong with the car.
    I had an accident yesterday because my reverse lights did not work I mean what more does Holden want, before they do something this is ridiculous. My first problem occurred back in 2011 literally 1 year after I bought it.
    I am so scared when I drive it because the electrics are doggy.
    Have logged a complaint with GM Holden, I just don't think they car.
    So where to from here.......what did you guys do in the end or are you still battling?
  • Aaron says,
    3 years ago
    1 like
    I own a 2007 TK model barina. Never had a problem with it since day 1. I've owned it for 3 years now and it now has 150,000kms on it. So far I haven't had to change anything or spend a cent (aside from the normal maintenance like tyres and servicing etc). In my opinion a lot of it comes down to how you look after your car. It is only the manufacturers responsibility till it rolls off the showroom floor. As a car owner, it is your responsibility to maintain it and if you don't even the most expensive top end car will not last. If you are unsure how to maintain your car have a look at your owners manual. It has lots of useful information that can help.
  • Jake says,
    3 years ago
    Just want to say as an owner I like it.

    It's very quiet and stable.
    drives heaps better than cheap jp cars.

    Those 2010 owners above, I understand your feelings.

    However this is no place for you to judge the 2012 model if you never own one.

    Talking about cheap inside, ford fiesta is much worse
    This car wins a lot of things against fiesta except for fuel efficiency
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