BARINA RS REVIEW
Vehicle style: Light-segment five-door hatch
Price: $23,190 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 103kW/200Nm 1.4 litre turbo petrol | 6-spd sports automatic
Fuel economy listed: 6.5 l/100km (91RON) | tested: 8.7 l/100km
Sporty hatches are the cheeky upstarts of the car market. They are decidedly firmer in the ride, more precise in their handling and genuinely fun to drive.
Like the Barina RS which we found was a bit of a surprise from Holden.
For performance cars, Holden is better known for its potent large sedans than small hatches, but it’s done a pretty good job of ‘warming-up’ this one.
It’s easily the best car to wear the Barina badge.
Quality: Despite the appealing-looking leather seats, the interior doesn’t make a great first impression. There’s too much hard plastic on the dash and a very cheap-looking instrument binnacle.
The surfaces marry well however, and the leather facings to the seats and contrasting stitching add a touch of class.
Comfort: The leather-appointed front seats look to be adequately bolstered but the under-thigh support is too soft. For my size and shape (bigger than most), they don’t provide enough support.
The rear however works better, with shaped bolstering for the two outer positions.
Naturally, being a light car, the new Barina’s rear-seat legroom is very limited when the front seats are right back and the centre position is really only roomy enough for short trips.
All-round visibility is fine for all occupants, especially the driver, and with plenty of seat adjustment and steering-wheel height- and reach-adjustment, the perfect driving position is easy to dial up.
Ergonomics are generally good but it’s a bit of a downward reach for the climate controls.
Equipment: The highlight of the RS’s standard inventory is its MyLink infotainment system. This is a very well-equipped car at a sub-$25k price.
It comes with embedded Pandora, TuneIn Radio, Stitcher and BringGo navigation apps that are compatible with iOS and Android devices and data streams via the phone’s 3G connection. There are also USB and AUX inputs.
A seven-inch colour touch-screen is also standard, as is AM/FM radio with RDS display, an MP3-compatible CD player, six speakers, Bluetooth connectivity, cruise control, automatic headlights, leather-appointed seats (heated in the front), a leather-wrapped and multi-function steering wheel with height-and-reach adjustment.
There is also a trip computer, fog lights, air conditioning, rear-parking sensors, 17-inch alloy wheels, alloy sports pedals and power windows and mirrors.
Storage: With the rear seats occupied, there is 290 litres of luggage space. Fold the 64/40 split-fold seat-backs down and this rises to 653 litres.
In the cabin are two cup-holders for the front, but rear-seat passengers have to share just one.
There are also bottle-friendly front-door pockets, two glove boxes, storage cubby holes on either side of the centre stack, another compartment atop the centre stack, a driver’s sunglasses holder, a map pocket behind the front-passenger’s seat and a handy storage tray beneath the front-passenger’s seat.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: As soon as you get behind the wheel of the RS and start driving it like a sporty hatch, you realise how much has been achieved with this car’s chassis, ride, handing and stopping power.
Especially when compared with the standard Barina.
However, while the 1.4 litre engine is willing, and doesn’t mind using all its revs, we’d prefer a more sporty exhaust note.
One real annoyance for this writer (and my size-11 hooves), is the poor design and placement of the brake-pedal lever.
The top of the lever is far too close to the ‘go’ pedal, and I regularly glanced the brake pedal with my throttle foot.
While the six-speed automatic changes sweetly enough, it tends to hunt higher gears a tad early if left to its own devices.
There is manual control, but the manual gear-change buttons on the right-side of the stick shifter are fiddly and anything but driver-friendly.
Refinement: You certainly wouldn’t accuse the RS of being overly refined. Few small hatches are, but you can occasionally have trouble conversing above the wind and road noise.
Suspension: The Barina RS features a specially-tuned MacPherson-strut front arrangement with a torsion-beam rear.
The car is set 10mm lower that its Barina siblings and it comes fitted with stiffer, performance-tuned dampers, increased spring rates and additional body bracing.
There is also has unique-to-Australia electric-power-steering calibration which provides a nice direct feel.
Braking: Unlike the Barina CD and CDX, the RS runs disc brakes all round – ventilated units at the front and solids on the rear.
Being small and light, it pulls up very well.
Safety features: The Barina RS comes standard with dual-front, front-side and side-curtain airbags, electronic stability and traction control, ABS brakes with electronic brake-force distribution, brake-assist, a pedal-release system, driver- and front-passenger seatbelt pretensioners and three rear-seat child-restraint anchor points.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/100,000km warranty with first four scheduled services capped at $185.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY:
Suzuki Swift Sport ($23,990) - A much better interior, and a classier feel all round, this is a pretty good car from Suzuki. But it can’t match the Barina RS’s MyLink infotainment platform and all its app-style technical features. (see Swift reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Holden and its engineers are to be commended for turning this Barina RS into a car that steers, points, handles and stops the way a sporty hatch should.
And, sitting squat on nice fat alloys, it looks funky and sporting.
If only it had an interior that didn’t look so overwhelmingly... well, plastic.
There is certainly nothing wrong with the feature-list though; the infotainment and communication platform in the RS is the best you will find at this price, bar none.
Overall, while we find a few issues with the interior, the RS is a quite rewarding, fun-to-drive hatch.
If you like being ‘connected’, and want a sporty look and feel to your wheels, the RS is worth a close look.
Pricing (excludes on-road costs)
- Barina RS - manual - $20,990
- Barina RS - auto - $23,190