Holden: 2014 Barina RS review

Holden: 2014 Barina RS review

RS is a hallowed badge that has traditionally meant Rallye Sport, Rally Sport or Rennsport (German for racing sport). Who can deny that cars such as the Ford RS Cosworth, the Renault Megane RS265, the Porsche GT3 RS and the Audi RS4 are amazing cars in their own right? I even owned a Subaru Legacy RS-RA back in the day which was mostly excellent (when the ECU wasn’t playing up). It has been (and should only be) reserved for cars that have some sporting credentials.

Holden Barina RS 2014 front interiorBut that isn’t the case because RS has been used on cars that definitely don’t deserve it in order to add some sporting aura. Usually these cars are versions of a fairly pedestrian car that have bigger wheels and a pumped up bodykit. I’m thinking of the Toyota Vitz RS, the Nissan Terrano RS-R, the Honda Stream RS-Z and the Mazda Familia RS (with its dramatically underpowered 1500cc engine). Almost all manufacturers can shoulder some of the blame for sullying the RS name. So where does that leave this Holden Barina RS? Does it deserve the RS badge or is it a pretender?

Handling is what separates the real sports cars from the wannabes. The RS has performance-tuned dampers. The spring rates have been increased and the shocks are stiffer, and this makes a lot of difference when you want to change direction. It’s not a Lotus, but it’s not bad Holden Barina RS 2014 rear quartereither.

You do want a bit of power when you have a sporty version. The RS brings 103kW and 200Nm of torque with its 1.4-litre turbo as opposed to 85kW in the CD and CDX versions (read review here). It’s available in both 6-speed automatic and 6-speed manual. We tried the automatic which has got Holden’s weird sequential shift on the side of the gearstick. The gears are quick enough to change up and down – no complaints here.

An RS should also look sporty. On the inside there are heated leather sports seats (with RS embossed in them) and a leather-covered steering wheel with a flat bottom, all with red piping. If you go for the Holden Barina RS 2014 gearstickmanual you get a leather gearstick boot, too. There are a couple of RS badges and some sports-style pedals to cap it off. The seats are quite supportive and comfortable.

On the outside there are revised fog lights up the front and a chrome exhaust tip at the back. 17-inch wheels fill out the arches nicely – the same size as the CDX, but a different design. The remainder of the body kit is the same – a Euro-inspired design with tidy execution of a rear hatch spoiler and some strong lines down the flank.

The rest of the car follows roughly the same specifications as the CDX. It scores a 5 out of 5 in the ANCAP crash test with its 6 airbags, electronic stability control, traction control, brake assist, electronic brakeforce distribution and anti-lock brakes. There’s a rear parking sensor, but no display on the 7-inch screen.

It comes with Holden’s excellent MyLink package. While it’s a little slow to connect via Bluetooth, if you plug your iPhone directly into the car you’ll have control over your Pandora, TuneIn and Stitcher internet radio apps, BringGo navigation and Siri Eyes Free. The speakers are a little thin which is to be expected in a car that’s less than $28,000.

Which brings us to the important question: does the Barina RS deserve its moniker? I can happily say that I won’t be losing sleep and fretting over it. When you take a look at it compared to the standard Barina offerings it ticks the ‘RS requirements’ boxes (well, the ones in my imaginary checklist). There’s a turbo engine vs naturally aspirated, the exterior is pumped up in a tasteful way, the interior is similarly treated without being overdone, and the handling has been quite considerably improved. What more do you want from an RS version?

Price: $26,490 (manual), $27,990 (automatic)


  • Cheap for what you get – looks the part and has spritely performance
  • Clever storage options in the boot and under the front passenger seat


  • It’s easy to catch the front lip on some speed bumps and driveway exits
  • Takes 95 octane fuel

Words and photos:


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