When any team is missing a specialist player a ringer quickly needs to be found from any location. In 1985 when Holden wanted an entry into the subcompact market it had to look toward the greater General Motors stable for an eligible transfer. For the first two generations of Barina Suzuki provided the donor vehicle with its Cultus. Generation three and four were rebadged Opel Corsas. The Spanish built cars were quality but weren’t profitable for Holden, and worked only to maintain a presence in the entry level new car market. Since 2005 the generation five Barina has been sourced from Korean budget-brand Daewoo ready to wear Holden’s Lion crest. For 2009 the 5th gen Barina has been refreshed with cosmetic enhancements and safety upgrades to take its position as Holden’s specialist hatchback.
A low price point has always been a strength for the Barina, and with the current model being Korean—made, savings are passed on to the budget conscious. At $18,490 for the base model, the Barina is competitively priced and comes with the peace-of-mind of a three-year warranty. With the exception of the Suzuki Swift the Barina is cheaper than its other direct rivals; approximately $1500 cheaper than the Toyota Yaris, $3,000 cheaper than the Mazda 2 and a hefty $6000 less than the new Ford Fiesta. But what exactly do you get for your money?
The Barina boasts a competitive equipment list featuring the usual tricks like air con, power steering and electric windows and some more special moves like an MP3-compatible CD stereo with auxiliary port, height adjustable driver’s seat and handy steering wheel-mounted audio controls.
Safety credentials were an area of criticism for the Barina on its release in 2005, after only achieving 2 out of 5 stars in ANCAP safety testing. The 2009 facelift has rectified this and now the Barina scores a very respectable 4 stars. Four airbags are now standard with the addition of side-impact airbags and higher density steel now reinforces the B-pillar structure. So the 2009 Barina is stronger and has a few new tricks in the repertoire, but how does it look in the Holden strip?
Upgraded front and rear styling is highlighted by large curved and jewelled headlights and new clear rounded tail lamps. Prominent character lines flow from the bonnet into the A-pillar, side air vents feature on the front guards and a roof-spoiler sits out back. Finished off with 15-inch alloys the Barina has a clean, likeable Euro-aesthetic. That said, the overall exterior look is quite generic and understandably reflects little of the Holden design language seen on its larger vehicles.
Step inside and the Barina offers very good interior space for it’s diminutive size, legroom in the back seats is ample and there is minimal capacity for knocking your head even for tall occupants. The feeling of spaciousness is enhanced in no small way by generous use of glass giving the cabin an airy feel and making for excellent visibility out the front and sides. The chrome-detailed instruments are easy to read and dark dash plastics are broken up with silver touches. Fit and finish is varied with some materials feeling quality to the touch, but many of the moving knobs and buttons appear light and flimsy. There are touches of character in the high-mounted clock and round air-vents that work to maintain a general circular theme. The seating fabric feels durable and the front seats are soft and comfortable but could benefit from more bolstering for lateral support.
Under the Barina bonnet sits an inline 1.6l 4-cylinder motor with 16 valves. This unit puts out 76kW of power and 145Nm of torque. It’s a peppy powerplant that offers more torque than its competitors and when mated to the 5-speed manual transmission it advances well and offers usable power for city driving. At motorway speeds the motor feels comfortable, but like most smaller engines requires decent space for overtaking manoeuvres. It returns a 7l/100km fuel economy which is frugal but still thirstier than the Toyota Yaris and Suzuki Swift which can both achieve 6.7l/100km.
Shift the Barina on to twisty roads and it’s a capable machine offering a reasonable degree of grip when turning in and exiting corners. However, at only 1.68m wide it’s quite a narrow car, which is handy in constricted city streets, but does result in body roll when changing direction at speed.
Ride quality is generally sound with an acceptable level of road bumps and dips being transferred through to the cabin. Road and wheel noise can be heard in the cabin but remains generally unobtrusive, engine noise is prevalent under acceleration but is relegated to a low hum while cruising.
On city duty Holden’s import hatch does the business, its no frills, no nonsense approach will suit entry-level buyers. The Barina is easy to drive and has an engine capable of keeping up with general traffic. Fit and finish are ok but can’t compete with others in the segment and although the driving dynamics are good they can’t match the Mazda2 or Toyota Yaris. Overall, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with the Barina and it generally functions well, but it’s still sitting inside the boundaries some of its direct competitors are beginning to push outward.
Click through to the next page for a full list of specifications.
Price: from $18,490 as tested $20,490
What we like:
- Spacious interior
- Peppy motor
- Good equipment list
What we don’t like:
- Overall quality
- Body roll
- Generic styling
Words and Photos: Adam Mamo
Holden Barina (2009) – Specifications
1.6 litre engine. Four cylinders. Double overhead camshafts operate four valves per cylinder. Aluminium head. Multipoint fuel injection. Variable intake manifold. Adaptive knock control system
Bore x stroke (mm) 79 x 81.5
Capacity (cc) 1598
Compression ratio (:1) 9.5
Power (ECE, kW)# 76kW @ 5800rpm
Torque (ECE, Nm)# 145Nm @ 3600rpm
Recommended petrol ULP Alternative PULP for slightly higher performance
Fuel economy* (L/100km) 3 dr and 5 dr hatch 7.0 7.6
Petrol tank capacity (L) 45
Front ventilated disc brakes. Rear drum
Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) 4-channel, 4-sensor
Front: MacPherson strut with offset coil springs, gas pressure dampers and stabiliser bar
Rear: Torsion beam with trailing arms, coil springs and gas pressure dampers
Power assisted rack and pinion
Track (mm) Front Rear
3 dr and 5 dr hatch 1450 1410
Turn circle (m) 10.06
Wheelbase (mm) 2480
Exterior dimensions (mm) Length Width (inc. mirrors) Height 3 dr and 5 dr hatch 3920 1680 1505
Interior dimensions (mm) Leg Shoulder Head 3 dr and 5 dr hatch front 1048 1362 998 3 dr and 5 dr hatch rear 898 1340 955
Cargo volume (L) Rear seat up Rear seat folded 3 dr and 5 dr hatch 220 980
Kerb weight (est. kg) Includes A/C and all fluids Manual Auto 3 dr hatch 1135 1140 5 dr hatch 1145 1150
Service The complimentary inspection is due at 3,000km or 3 months (whichever occurs first). The first service is due at 15,000km or 12 months (whichever occurs first) and then every 15,000km or 12 months (whichever occurs first) since the last service. Additional services may be required under certain driving conditions