Holden Barina 2012 Review

Holden Barina 2012 Review

The Barina just got meaner. All poetic attempts aside, the new face of Holden’s Barina leads its sportier pretences, and it works. In our review of the previous Barina Spark we noted ‘brave and modern exterior design.’ Reading between the lines, this means that the design could have left some of you a tad cold, and to be honest, it did have a mish-mash of lines.

The meaner Barina, though, has no such trouble. The design is much more purposeful and coherent. From the new exposed angular headlights and creased flanks to the wheel arches that accentuate the tasteful alloys, the Barina has an attitude that moves it away from the feminine and into neutral territory. Yes, you can still drive this if you are female of any age, but it’s masculine enough, too.

The external design features rear door handles situated just behind the rear window. All doors open freely and getting in and out of the Barina is easy.

The interior is a bit on the grey side, but does feature some silver metallic-style plastic trim around the air conditioning and on the gear knob, and a lighter grey pattern on the seats. A splash of colour would really make some difference in here, and it’s only provided by the blue backlit displays.

Controls are easily accessible while driving. There are buttons for cruise control, stereo and for the integrated Bluetooth phone system on the steering wheel. The steering wheel itself is sufficiently chunky and slightly sporty. There are two circular vents and two rectangular vents for the air conditioning – perhaps a bit odd to mix the two design styles.

The Barina has a 4-speaker audio system which is compatible with external MP3 players via an auxiliary input or an iPod compatible USB input. There’s a single-CD in-dash player, Bluetooth audio streaming capability and you can even plug in a flash drive. The audio system can also be connected to your phone. You can answer and end calls hands-free.

The instrument cluster is inspired by motorbikes. The backlit LED is ice-blue with a large, easy-to-read digital odometer. This same theme is carried over onto the stereo screen. These are clear during night driving and daytime driving.

Storage is good for a small car. A double glovebox with bi-level shelving contains inputs for your auxiliary music devices so you can keep them out of sight. There’s a useful receptacle to the right of the upper glovebox, too.

The boot is deep, which is very practical in a smaller car. This may make it more difficult for you to get things out of it if you have problems bending over, but we prefer to have more space. The Toyota Yaris has a more clever system with an optional raised floor which essentially creates a hidden compartment in the boot. If the Barina had this, too, that would be an excellent addition.

The Barina has been awarded a 5-star ANCAP crash safety rating. It has six airbags (front, side and curtain), sash belts all-round, Electronic Stability Control, anti-lock brakes, brake assist and traction control as standard. ESC allows the car to control individual brakes selectively using the ABS to control understeer or oversteer. Braking was strong, though the pedal itself feels spongy.

On the road the Barina drives well. It doesn’t feel quite as well sorted as a Yaris, seeming a bit less positive, but there’s nothing inherently wrong with it. Reversing is easy – I immediately noticed when we collected the car that it didn’t have reversing sensors (something that I think every car should come with as standard), but it’s actually extremely simple to reverse because it’s small and the rear wheels are virtually on the corners!

The Barina’s engine produces 85kW. The Holden website skites that this is best in class, but it compares the car against lower range models (e.g. Suzuki Swift 1.4 rather than Swift Sport 1.6, which would be a fairer comparison). However, pricewise, the Barina is quite a bit cheaper than the 1.6-litre Suzuki, starting at $22,990 compared to $26,990 for the Swift Sport. The Barina is peppy and we like that. For the price, you do get a lot of car and a lot of performance.

Our overall opinion of the Barina was that it was fun to drive. The handling was predictable with a good turning circle, easy visibility for parking and enough power from its 1.6-litre engine for both city driving and motorway jaunts. We didn’t like the pedal feel of both the brake and accelerator; the brake was a bit spongy and the accelerator had too much dead travel before anything happened. We liked the internal storage options and we especially like the new exterior design treatment.

At this price point the Barina is a winner. It’s going to appeal to young and old, male and female. It’s trendy, but not too much so like a Mini. It’s got power, but not frightening amounts. It’s practical and has plenty of features. So, have you seen a Barina…ok, enough with the rhyming.


  • Nippy little city car
  • Drives well
  • Looks sharp


  • Brake and accelerator pedal feel are not good

Price: from $22,990

Engine and Transmission

The all-new Barina is equipped with a 1.6 litre DOHC 16-valve 4-cylinder petrol engine. The powertrain offers outstanding refinement and power and torque that ensures energetic driving characteristics. Y
5-speed manual transmission Y
6-speed automatic transmission with Active Select Optional

Control and Handling

Electronic Stability Control (ESC) Y
Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) Y
Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD) Y
Traction Control System (TCS) Y
Brake Assist (BA) Y


15″ alloy wheels Y
Full size steel spare wheel Optional
Tyre inflator kit Y


Headlight ‘Follow Me Home’ functionality Y
Exposed halogen headlights Y
Body coloured power side mirrors Y
Body coloured front exterior door handles Y
Hidden rear door handles Y


4-way adjustment of front passenger’s seat Y


Cruise control Y
Bluetooth® connectivity for compatible mobile phones Y
Motorcycle-inspired instrument cluster Y


Multifunction steering wheel mounted controls Y
4-speaker audio system with MP3 Y
MP3 player ‘plug and play’ functionality Y
USB input with iPOD® connectivity Y
Bluetooth® audio streaming Y

Cabin Comfort

Air conditioning Y
Three cupholders – Two in centre console and one in rear centre console Y
Power windows, front & rear Y


Front and side impact airbags for driver and front passenger Y
5-star ANCAP rating Y
 Collapsible pedal release system Y
 Side curtain airbags Y


Engine immobiliser Y
Flip key with additional rigid key Y
Remote keyless entry Y

Storage and cargo

60/40 split rear seat Y
Front oversized door pockets Y
Large sized storage pockets Y
Dual glovebox Y
Front passenger seat back pocket Y
Illuminated 290 litre boot Y

Words and photos: Darren Cottingham

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