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Holden Barina RS


David Linklater reviews the new Holden Barina RS – a small car that’s likely to put a big smile on your face.

Base price: $27,990.

Powertrain and performance: 1.4-litre turbo-petrol four, 103kW/200Nm, 6-speed automatic, front-drive, Combined economy 6.5 litres per 100km.

Vital statistics: 4039mm long, 1517mm high, luggage capacity 290-653 litres, fuel tank 46 litres, 17-inch alloy wheels.

We like: Value for money, looks the part, smooth turbo engine.

We don’t like: Not as quick as you’d think, no gearshift paddles, no reversing camera.

How it rates: 8/10

WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW? Being a global concern means Holden’s – or rather General Motors’ – Korean-built Barina small car can afford to venture out into a few niches.

The Barina RS (it’s also known as the Chevrolet Sonic in the United States) is perhaps not a model that Holden could have justified developing on its own, but having access to it certainly puts a little spice into the range.

It’s fair to call the RS a warm-hatch: it makes just 103kW/200Nm from its turbo engine and rides on a mildly made-over chassis.

It’s not designed to tear the tarmac off the road, but rather to put a bit more of a smile on your face than a standard Barina. Which, admittedly, is not difficult.

WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE? It’s fun, even in automatic-transmission specification as tested here. While you still might struggle to see off a family sedan at the traffic lights, the RS has some significant differences to the rest of the Barina range that make it feel a bit special.

The RS has quicker steering than your garden-variety Barina, with 2.3 turns lock-to-lock. The steering is one area where Holden did have some input for the Australasian market, with a unique calibration of electric assistance for our version.

The suspension is 15 percent stiffer and 10mm lower than standard, while extra strengthening has been added into the body to improve handling.

Will it rock your world? No, it will not. But as a Barina with a bit more performance and the chassis to handle it, the little Holden still makes a strong case for itself.

Holden does offer a six-speed manual gearbox and that certainly adds an extra level of involvement to the car. But the automatic is the preferred choice for most buyers and it’s almost as quick as the three-pedal version, with slick shifts and good throttle response.

What the RS desperately needs is some paddle shifters. There are times that you want to take full advantage of that extra performance brio and a quick click of a paddle to change down a gear would be perfect.

IS IT EASY TO LIVE WITH? The Barina dates back to a time when General Motors’ Korean division had a fascination with motorcycle-inspired interior styling, so it features a dashboard designed around pod-like shapes and deliberately fussy detailing – such as mixture of analogue and digital readouts.

Hey, at least it’s different. And perhaps a bit more convincing in the RS version, which is further enhanced with a flat-bottom steering wheel, leather/suede sports seats, unique instrument graphics and alloy pedals.

Like the Barina CDX, the RS also runs Holden’s excellent MyLink touch-screen system, with a good-looking seven-inch colour display and a variety of applications that run through your own mobile phone, including Pandora Internet radio and BringGo satellite navigation.

Seems silly to have such a high-quality screen and no reversing camera, though. Especially on a car that’s bound to spend much of its time in urban driving.

SHOULD I BUY ONE? It’s a neat little machine for well under $30k: brisk but still quite refined and practical. It doesn’t have anywhere near the sporting focus of its closest rival, the Suzuki Swift Sport, but if you’re set on automatic driving the Barina’s conventional gearbox is a little more engaging than the Swift’s continuously variable transmission (CVT).

Warm hatches are becoming quite the thing. Honda has also just joined the club with the Jazz Mugen, which sits in the same size and price bracket. The Barina has a bit less flair than either its Suzuki or Honda rivals, but it’s arguably a better all-rounder and everyday car than either. It should certainly be on your warm-hatch shopping list.


  • Air conditioning: Manual
  • Audio: CD, iPod compatible, MyLink connectivity
  • Automatic lights/wipers: Yes/yes
  • Blind spot warning: No
  • Bluetooth: Yes
  • Cruise control: Yes
  • Driver footrest: Yes
  • Head-up display: No
  • Heated/ventilated seats: Yes/No
  • Keyless entry/start: No
  • Lane guidance: No
  • Leather upholstery: Part-leather
  • Parking radar: Yes
  • Power boot or tailgate: No
  • Power seat adjustment/memory: No
  • Rear ventilation outlets: No
  • Remote audio controls: Yes
  • Satellite navigation: BringGo application via MyLink
  • Seat height adjustment: Yes
  • Self-parking technology: No
  • Split/folding rear seats: 60/40
  • Steering reach adjustment: Yes
  • Stop-start: No
  • Trip computer: Yes

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