Holden Barina 2009 Review

April 21st, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

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

Is the Australian car manufacturing industry doomed?

April 15th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Holden Commodore SS Sportwagon rq

Is the Australian car manufacturing industry going to the dingoes? An industry analyst has predicted Holden will be the first to go, and that no amount of Australian government intervention will reverse the steep decline in new car sales coupled with the fact that Australian manufacturers lose money on every car they produce.

Holden has recently halved production at its South Australian plant from 600 to around 310. If Holden goes, so could Ford (another big victim of the credit crunch), and ultimately Toyota. But is it a correct assumption?

It certainly isn’t anything new – Car and SUV reported months ago that the bailouts from the US government would force Ford and GM to look at consolidating operations. But, Holden has a weapon: the Commodore. It is very successful in the Middle East, and America has adopted it in the form of the Pontiac G8. Ford America has not adopted the Falcon (which, arguably, is a slightly better car).

While we think that Holden and Ford (and perhaps Toyota) will be around for quite some time in Australia, here are some of the influencing factors so you can decide for yourself:

GM is too broke to develop a new rear-wheel-drive platform, so the Zeta platform that underpins the Camaro and Commodore could see active service for 10 years.

The global exposure to V8 Supercars will surely keep at least FPV and HSV in business, even if they become niche manufacturers.

Australians thrive on the competition between Ford and Holden. GM may retrench, but it would still need to badge its cars Holden to have credibility, or it will lose sales to other manufacturers

And therefore, branding: Ford has the advantage as there’s no difference in name between Ford overseas and Ford in Australia; Holden has a lot of brand equity in Oz – is would be expensive (and potentially damaging to its value) to just ditch Holden. And who would want to buy it?

Exchange rates will make European cars relatively more expensive than domestically produced cars

Car sales have hit an 8-year low and there’s a glut of new cars and near-new cars on the market at knock-down prices.

Australian car manufacturers are losing money on cars they produce

China could pose a threat in terms of manufacturing capability – it pays its workers pitifully

US government bailouts may come with conditions to remove unprofitable centres – this might be especially true of GM which is teetering on declaring bankruptcy so it can restructure

Holden Commodore to save General Motors?

April 3rd, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Holden Commodore

General Motors is too broke to develop any new rear-drive platforms, but recent reports from our mates in Australia suggest that the existing Zeta platform that underpins such models as the Holden Commodore and now the new Chevrolet Camaro could carry on for at least another decade.

Holden only finished development of the current Zeta platform a couple of years back, and is still admiring its handiwork. However, the next generation Commodore, currently sold in the North American market as the Pontiac G8, is looking likely to downsize when it’s expected to debut in 2013 and carry on through to 2020. This is a common strategy among most car-makers presently to increase economy and reduce emissions. Along with the reduced size and weight, GM could for the domestic American market use more efficient, though still powerful engines, employing direct injection and/or turbocharging like the Cadillac and Saab variants of the V6 already used by Holden.

General Motors will continue to look closely at Holden’s progress in the Australian market as a testing ground for what may save it in North America, so fans of rear-drive American muscle still have some hope to hold on to.

Holden NZ launches Active Fuel Management technology for all V8s

March 26th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Holden NZ

Holden New Zealand announced yesterday the official launch of its fuel saving Active Fuel Management (AFM) technology on all of its V8 automatic models.

AFM is now standard on all automatic V8 models in the Commodore, Ute, Sportwagon and Caprice ranges at no additional cost. AFM, or cylinder deactivation, enables an eight cylinder vehicle to automatically operate on four cylinders in certain driving conditions, before restoring full power when engine demands increase. The vehicles include an AFM visual display which indicates when AFM is active. In a combination of town and highway driving, the technology can deliver fuel savings of up to one litre per 100 kilometres, with potential for even better results at constant cruising speeds.

Holden New Zealand Managing Director, Simon Carr says AFM provides drivers with cost savings without sacrificing performance. “AFM is a great example of the improvements that Holden is delivering to improve fuel efficiency for those who require the power and performance of a V8 engine.” The AFM V8s are the first vehicles in New Zealand to come under Holden’s new EcoLine badge which highlights vehicles that use alternative fuel or fuel saving technologies. The Holden EcoLine range offers consumers affordable solutions to tackle rising fuel costs.

AFM Technology Holden’s AFM system is designed to improve fuel efficiency when high output is not required. In certain conditions such as highway driving, AFM automatically closes the intake and exhaust valves in four of the engine’s eight cylinders while ensuring the engine maintains vehicle speed, effectively operating as a four cylinder. The engine’s electronic throttle control is used to increase cylinder pressure in V4 mode so that the engine can preserve the torque which drivers expect from a V8 powertrain. The fuel supply to the deactivated cylinders will resume seamlessly providing all-cylinder operation when the driver needs it for quick acceleration, or for hauling heavy loads.

Holden Sportwagon makes Aussie car-safety history

March 12th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Holden Sportwagon

Holden’s VE Sportwagon has become the first Australian made wagon to receive a maximum five star safety rating from the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP).

The result reflects the long list of safety features found standard across the VE Sportwagon range including six airbags, rear park assist and Electronic Stability Control (ESC) which incorporates Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD), Electronic Brake Assist (EBA) and Traction Control System (TCS).

The Sportwagon range also has a steering column shroud energy absorber that helps to reduce driver knee injuries.  The Omega model features a passenger seat belt reminder.

Holden New Zealand Managing Director Simon Carr said Holden had always been very confident in this vehicle’s real world safety capabilities.

“As a family car there should be no compromise in safety and the ANCAP endorsement is a very clear indication that with Sportwagon there is no such thing.”

GM Holden is committed to making the passenger seat belt reminder feature standard across the VE range from mid 2009 production.

Click here to read a road test of the Holden Calais Sportwagon

Click here to read a road test of the HSV R8 Tourer

Mazda takes third in NZ new vehicle sales

March 10th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Mazda3 MPS fq

Mazda New Zealand has moved above Holden to capture third place in the new vehicle sales market for the first time with its best ever February on record and a market share of 9.2% and 464 units sold. While the industry overall was down 38.5% compared to February 2008, Mazda’s market share for the month was up 1.5% on February 2008. Year to date market share stands at 8.4%.

Andrew Clearwater, managing director Mazda New Zealand, said to gain third spot was fantastic. “Considering the current economic climate and the overall downturn in the new car market we are delighted with the result and it clearly highlights the benefits of having a strong model lineup which is bringing strong favour with Kiwi buyers.”

“We are looking forward to launch of the all-new Mazda3 in May which will give sales a further boost. We’ve had some brilliant feedback from the New Zealand press who have seen the car and we expect it to be even more popular than its predecessor which has consistently been a top seller in its segment since it launched in 2003,” said Clearwater.

Toyota continues to lead the market in both passenger car and commercials with a combined market share of 16.5% (832) registrations for the month of February, Ford came in second place with 12.2% (620) registrations and Mazda got into third place with its 464 registrations just squeezing out Holden with 463. The Toyota Corolla remains as the top selling car followed by the Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon.

Holden Cruze unveiled in Melbourne

March 3rd, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Holden Cruze fq

Late last year Holden announced it would be getting a new small sedan based on the global platform underpinning the Chevrolet Cruze. At the time, it was assumed that the Holden would feature revised sheetmetal and possibly a new name, but now that the wraps are off, it’s clear that the only things changed from the American model are the badges, grille and location of the steering wheel. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as the new Cruze is a good looker and a popular vehicle over in the states. Only time will tell how it’s accepted in Commodore-crazy downunder.

The Cruze has a place among no fewer than 25 vehicles on the Holden stand at the Melbourne Motor Show taking place this week.

Cadillac no longer coming to NZ

January 23rd, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Cadillac CTS fq

If you thought the global economic slowdown currently affecting the automotive couldn’t reach us down here in NZ, you thought wrong. Luxury American brand Cadillac is no longer coming to New Zealand and Australia as previously planned (click here for news item). GM Holden chairman Mark Reuss made the announcement Thursday, Reuss said it was a “very painful decision” for him to make but he believed it was the right one given the current economic climate.

While not dismissing the proposal completely of the GM Premium Brand coming to NZ and Australia he said it would be indefinitely delayed. Given the current market conditions, he felt the timing was wrong to introduce Caddy, which would be a niche brand here, into our tough market. He said that he had spoken to the three New Zealand dealers who had taken up the Cadillac brand and all had agreed with his decision. That comes as no big surprise, since it’s likely none of them had great interest in seeing shiny, expensive Cadillacs collecting dust on their lots.

General Motors will now turn its attention to strengthening the Holden brand in NZ while it waits and hopes for the market to rebound. As for Cadillac, the door’s been opened now, but clearly only when economic conditions are right.