2012 HOLDEN BARINA REVIEW
What’s Hot: Well equipped, comfortable ride.
What’s Not: Automatic gearbox bettered by 'twin-clutch' competition, high boot load-lip.
X-Factor: Edgy gender-neutral style won't do its cause any harm.
Vehicle Style: Five-door light hatchback
Fuel Economy (claimed): 7.3 l/100km
Holden’s replacement for the 'TK' Barina is finally here - the sharply styled 2012 'TM' Barina.
Designed by Australian Ondrej Koromhaz, its edgy breezy lines are certain to appeal to younger buyers. But its strengths are more than skin deep; for underneath lies a value-packed commuter-friendly hatchback.
Quality: The 2012 Barina’s interior quality and feel is significantly improved over its predecessor. Fit and finish is better, switchgear feels better under the hand and the textured dash plastics are more modern.
Comfort: It may be a small car, but thanks to a high roofline, there’s ample room for four adults.
The front seats offer decent support and the steering wheel adjusts for reach and rake. Rear-seat comfort is aided by decent legroom and headroom, although children may struggle to see over the Barina’s high beltline.
The instrument binnacle moves with the steering column too, although the digital speedometer could use a faster refresh rate.
Equipment: There’s only one specification level available, but with luxuries like cruise control, Bluetooth phone integration, USB audio input with iPod connectivity and air-conditioning all as standard, the Barina’s equipment level (at the price) puts it among the better buys in the light car segment.
Storage: The boot has a high lip which can make loading larger items a pain, but its 290 litre carrying capacity is more than enough for a couple’s weekly shopping (not quite enough for a modern pram though). Folding the 60/40 split rear seats increases cargo capacity to 653 litres.
The front doors carry large storage bins, and small cubbies either side of the centre-stack can carry odds and ends like wallets and keys.
A lidded cubby above the glovebox contains the USB input for the audio system, and has ample space to store music players while in use.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: The 1.6 litre petrol four-cylinder is a development of the old Barina’s (now called ‘Barina Classic’) engine, and produces 85kW and 155Nm - gains of 9kW and 10Nm respectively.
When paired with the optional six-speed automatic gearbox it feels strong enough away from the line and has a bit of zip for normal commuting.
It's at its best at higher revs though - that's when it feels strongest. You'll be dialling up more than 4000rpm on the tachometer if you're looking for urge on steeper hills - particularly with a passenger or two aboard.
The gearbox is almost unique at this end of the market, with six gears and a 'manumatic' Active Select mode that’s accessed by a rocker switch on the gearshifter itself.
While it offers plenty of ratios, manual gearchanges can’t match the lightning speed of the Ford Fiesta’s and VW Polo’s twin-clutch automatics. It also has a tendency to hunt through the gears excessively when going up inclines.
That said, it’s definitely the better transmission for the Barina, with the manual only having five gears and feeling decidedly underpowered because of it.
Refinement: The use of thicker glass and additional sound-absorption mats helps quell noise, and improvements to the engine-mounting hardware keeps vibration down too.
The engine however sounds harsh and buzzy when asked to work hard- it's not as smooth as some.
Suspension: The suspension tune is soft and very much comfort-oriented, and does a good job of ironing out tram lines and choppy asphalt.
There’s some body roll in corners, but at no point during the drive program did we question the Barina’s dynamics. There may be sportier light hatches on the market, but the Barina is definitely one of the most comfortable.
Braking: Pedal response could do with a little sharpening, but otherwise the performance from the disc/drum brake package is good.
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 automatic ($18,990) - It may only have a four-speed auto and less power and torque than the Barina, but the Micra makes up for it with a spec sheet that includes a proximity key, parking sensors, dusk-sensing headlamps, foglamps and climate control. (see Micra reviews)
Ford Fiesta CL Powershift ($18,990) - The Fiesta’s 1.6 litre powertrain compares favourably with the Barina’s, and its six-speed dual clutch transmission boasts better refinement and sophistication.
However as the base model in the Fiesta range, its equipment list is sparse. Buyers wanting maximum value and safety equipment would be better off going for the cheaper Barina. (see Fiesta reviews)
Hyundai Accent Active automatic ($18,990) - The Accent’s 1.6 litre engine puts out 91kW and 156Nm, but is backed up by a four-speed automatic.
It’s a size larger and its spec list almost equals the Barina (only cruise control is conspicuously absent). (see Accent reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The TK Barina was best described as ‘underwhelming’, but the new 2012 Barina is a far better proposition.
It's pleasant to pilot, has decent power for urban driving and features enough mod-cons to keep your average Gen-Y motorist happy.
It’s a good all-rounder and we'd comfortably recommend a close look, especially for those in the market for a neatly styled city commuter.