Holden Barina Hatch CDX 1.6 2012 Review

Holden Barina Hatch CDX 1.6 2012 Review

It doesn’t seem that long ago since we sampled the Barina (in CD trim), but it was a whole year. I remember thinking that Holden had dramatically improved the looks over the previous model, and my opinion is still the same. The Barina is a well-crafted supermini with some interesting detailing and a strong forward stance.

In terms of looks, it’s pretty much the same. Imagine yourself an hour older and that’s how much the Barina has changed on the outside. On the inside, it’s a different story, and it’s mostly down to the inclusion of Holden’s MyLink media system.

Showing just how far vehicle manufacturers want to

integrate mobile devices with their vehicles, the Barina has one of the best music control interfaces available, at least for iPhone (I don’t have an Android phone to try it with).

As well as plugging the phone directly into the Barina, it will accommodate Bluetooth streaming so you can listen to internet radio or simply stream your music or podcast collection.

Very cleverly, MyLink is about to support some apps directly in the system, such as Tune In Radio (which I use all the time to stream internet radio), BringGo navigation and Pandora Internet Radio.

The interface allows for easy selection of artist, album or song using scroll bars and buttons, and you can quickly scroll through a song using the scroll graphic on the seven-inch touch screen display. You can also use the buttons on the steering wheel to control volume and track selection. Other buttons on the steering wheel are for the cruise control.

The icing on the cake would have been if I could have duplicated my iPhone 5 screen onto the Barina’s screen to make using Google Maps easier, but I’d imagine the technological hurdles for that are more significant given the Retina display. Plus, the Barina is designed to support apps in the future, so perhaps my wish is redundant. MyLink does show a full phone number pad which you can dial on, and will display your phone address book (tested with iPhone 5). You can even watch movies on the MyLink screen by pluging in a USB stick.

There is a double glove box, the top one of which contains the plug for your audio device and a useful shelf to store it. Or, if you want to have the device available to you, there’s a notch in the lid that allows the cable to exit.

Like the Ford Fiesta Zetec we tested immediately prior, the Barina’s 1.6-litre engine didn’t feel like a 1.6 and more like a 1.4. There is always going to be a trade-off with the newer petrol engines trying to match the fuel economy of the diesels without compromising performance, but diesel is always going to win. The loser for the petrol engine, in this case, is torque, and because of this the Barina manages to keep a respectable fuel economy figure of 6.4l/100km from its 85kW, 155Nm engine.

I took the Barina on a camping holiday to Opoutere and this meant an early morning blast across the Coromandel ranges in light traffic in the wet, and the return journey avoiding the main roads in the dry. This showed one of the Barina’s unusual traits. It doesn’t feel like it will handle being chucked around, but you can. There’s a point at which you think the front end is going to scrub wide in a nasty understeer mess while the back fidgets around like there’s not enough air in the tyres. However, the Barina had more grip than I had courage as I avoided the holiday-maker queues back into Auckland by ducking through the Hunuas.

With no traffic to follow it was the perfect place to test the Barina which really is only left wanting a little more power and torque, as mentioned previously. Under hard acceleration there’s a slight fluttering of the engine and it seems to delay changing up fractionally too long, like it’s hitting a kind of soft rev limiter. This is only apparent when the pedal is buried in the carpet for overtaking.

The driving position is good, the seats are not too hard, the ride is a good balance between soft and firm and the motorbike-inspired instrumentation is clear and easy to read. There are plenty of little cubby holes in addition to the dual glovebox – one either side of the stereo, one in front of the gear stick and some large cavities in the doors which will fit larger water bottles.

Given that I was going camping I did have a reasonable amount of stuff which the Barina managed to swallow with aplomb.Splitfolding rear seats make the load space more practical.

Pricing is red hot in the mid-$20k range. There are some particularly strong contenders like the Hyundai i20, Suzuki Swift Sport and Ford Fiesta Zetec for the Barina to battle. The range starts at $22,990 for the CD and is $26,990 for this CDX which gets alloy wheels, heated seats, rear parking sensors and front fog lamps.

In my review of the Barina CD (you can read it here) I only complained about the brake and accelerator pedal feel. This was not evident in my test car. Now, my only concern is one that 99.9% of Barina owners will never care about: how it feels when going for a serious strop through the more twisty roads of New Zealand. My overall opinion is that Holden has made a good incremental improvement to a car that was already very good.

Price: range starts at $22,990, price as tested $26,990


  • Excellent media interface, particularly for iPod/iPhone integration
  • Looks great
  • Drives well
  • Nippy in the city (although, needs a little more power on the open road)


  • It has more grip than it feels like it has

Words and photos: Darren Cottingham

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