Holden: Barina RS 2014 review

Holden: Barina RS 2014 review



You could be forgiven for thinking that the new Barina RS is a track searing hot hatchback thanks to the current television ad that sees Greg Murphy revving the engine and screeching the tyres around the Highlands circuit in Cromwell.

Alas, do not be fooled by the power of the telly ad because the latest addition to the Barina hatch range is only a mild butter chicken rather than a scorching Vindaloo, its a warm hatch rather than a hot one, but nevertheless its still a very good steer that will curry favour with many.

image103272_bBy adding the 1.4-litre turbocharged engine from the Holden Cruze as well as tweaking the suspension package, upgrading the brake package to discs all-round and lowering the ride height, the Holden engineers, in conjunction with their US and Korean colleagues have created a sporty and responsive hatchback that is fun to drive in the city and beyond.

Priced from $26,490, the Barina RS comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission or an optional six-speed automatic transmission. Holden quotes engine output of 103kW and 200Nm and fuel economy of 6.5L/100km.

In the light car segment 103kW/200Nm is not to be sneezed at, there are some cars in the larger small call segment, that would be happy to have such power and torque figures, but the Barina RS is bested by the three-door Ford Fiesta ST hatch with 134kW/240Nm and the five-door VW Polo GTI with 132kW/250Nm but both of these vehicles are considerably more expensive at $34,990 and $38,750 respectively.

The closest and most direct competitor to the Barina RS we think, is more likely to be the 100kW/160Nm Suzuki Swift Sport at $27,500 for the five-door manual version.

6dee54be5618da94_logging_trucks_pictures_84We had the manual version of the Barina RS on test and only managed average fuel economy of around 8L/100km but we were having a lot of fun with the car and probably driving it too enthusiastically rather than economically.

The reason for this is that Barina RS was developed by Holden engineers as part of a global programme in conjunction with their colleagues in the US and Korea, resulting in a electric power steering calibration tailored specifically for New Zealand and Australian driving tastes.

The system was was developed at Holden’s proving ground in Lang Lang, Victoria. It has a quicker ratio, which gives the driver a more response steering response with a greater feel for the road underneath.

Additionally the dynamics of the Barina RS were further sorted by Holden engineers with a reduced ride height of 10mm and additional body bracing which delivers a stiffer body structure.

image103271_bThe stiffer body structure and height reduction help the performance-tuned dampers with increased spring rates, and stiffer shock absorbers to deliver a better all round handling car without loosing ride comfort.

We took the Barina RS on a road trip from Auckland to Te Aroha, a mixture of smooth motorway running, with some wonderfully winding back country roads, and we were impressed by the cars ability to soak up the worst of the lumps and bumps thrown at it, without upsetting the passengers inside or the driver’s intended line.

I certainly wasn’t screeching the tyres in the same fashion as one Mr Murphy but the Barina RS felt quite fleet of foot, and well planted to the tarmac, without rattling ones fillings as so many hot hatches can do.

Tyre roar is relatively muted considering the large low profile 17 inch tyres fitted to the new alloy wheels and the RS is distinguished from the other Barina hatch models by unique styling touches including fog lamps, as well as sports front and rear fascias.

This differentiation also extends to the cabin with heated leather and suede appointed front seats with RS branding, leather gear shifter, sports pedals and RS branded floor mats.

A glossy piano black finish throughout the dashboard adds another difference and theres a seven-inch colour touchscreen to house Holden’s MyLink infotainment system.

The Barina RS is one of the few in the light car segment to offer a seven-inch colour touchscreen that allows the driver to connect a compatible smartphone or device to access embedded apps including Pandora, Stitcher, TuneIn Radio and the low cost navigation app, BringGo.

While I might be a member of the connected generation that Holden is marketing the MyLink system to, apart from syncing the iPhone to the system, which is extremely easy, I don’t as yet have any of the apps downloaded on my device, so cannot give a qualified opinion as yet on how effective the system is.

Holden has delivered a very pleasant day to day companion in the Barina RS, its a mild rather than a wild sporty hatch, practical yet comfortable, and definitely well appointed (I love heated seats on a cold morning) and with the option of a manual or automatic transmission, it should do well in the sales charts.

Price $26,490


Fit and finish is good

Good boot space

Engine is strong and willing


Economy could be better

Some plastics look cheap

Boot mat is a bit thin


Five star ANCAP safety rating
Six airbags (dual front, front side and side curtain)
Electronic Stability Control (ESC)
Traction Control System (TCS)
Anti-lock Braking System (ABS)
Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD)
Brake Assist System (BAS)
Pedal release system
Seatbelt pretensioners (driver and front passenger)
Rear seat child restraint anchor points (3)
17 inch alloy wheels (4)
Front fog lamps
Reverse park sensors
Leather steering wheel & leather wrap gear shifter (manual only)
Heated front seats
Trip computer
Storage tray under front passenger seat
Sunglass holder

Words and photos: Robert Barry

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