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Holden's Triple S Barina; Smart, Small, Slow.

Barina profileMuch like a birthday sneaking up on you, it’s a bit of a shock to realise that the Barina nameplate has been around for nigh on thirty years. Coming from a variety of manufacturers such as Suzuki and Opel, the current model is brought in from Korea. The current model has a two level strategy, the Spark being an “entry level: and the slightly bigger version sedan and hatch, CD and CDX. The main seller is the hatch, with a 1.6 litre petrol engine and six speed automatic transmission with electronic manual shifting, via a toggle button on the gear lever. There is a five speed manual option. I say option as most of these will be sold with the auto. Sadly. More on that later…

The CDX tested comes with Holden’s new MyLink system ( Barina MyLinkallowing you to connect to Apple’s Siri voice assistant, Pandora internet based radio and more. It’s smart and fun and looks good on the seven inch touch screen. The driver’s dash view is of a motorcycle style readout (highlighted in electric blue at night time) whilst the layout is clean and simple to use. The heated leather wrapped front seats are ok in side and back support but would be a little lacking in comfort for a long drive. Bearing in mind it’s a city car long drives are not its forte. Nor is calling it a five seater a wise thing, unless the rear seat is populated by dolls. It’s a small car, just on four metres total length for the hatch (the sedan is slightly longer) whilst interior front shoulder room is 1360mm, giving more weight to a rubbing shoulders argument. Bootspace, unsurprisingly, isn’t huge, with the foldable rear seats up and won’t take a new flatscreen TV above 40 inches in size. On the outside it’s good enough, with a family resemblance to the Captiva by virtue of the quad headlight cluster, leading to a pert backside via some smooth sheetmetal on the four passenger doors.

Barina speedoThe wheelbase is just on two and a half metres whilst the track (distance between wheels left and right) is 1495mm; this, plus the wonderful Continental tyres, sourced from Europe, give the Barina CDX a decent enough handling package and allow the car to run hard into a corner with a surprising level of ride comfort and grip. It’s certainly more capable on the road that the drivers that will buy it. It brakes well, handles well enough and is quiet enough around town……except Barina driverwhen pushed hard…..the engine shows the lack of refinement with a buzzy, raucous cacophony, sounding like it’s giving you plenty of urge when, in fact, a drunken snail would win a drag race.

It’s a 1.6L fuel injected engine, needing 6000 revs to produce peak power and 4000 revs to give you peak torque. Matched with an electronically controlled six speed auto, it’s zero to one hundred in a calendar week. Using the gear lever mounted manual switch doesn’t help either, with a shift from gear to gear measured in tenths of a second, rather than blinks of an eye. In a market crowded with small cars, it’s unforgiveable. And sad, as the chassis provides a decent ride, the new MyLink system is pretty smart and economy is ok for what it is. In the market segment it sits in though, the buyers won’t be fussed by the lack of refinement and added aural assault, being swayed by its looks and chicness.

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