Holden Barina

Despite the facelift, there’s no hiding the wrinkles

NATHAN PONCHARD

Model Engine Max power Max torque Transmission Weight 0-100km/h Economy Price On sale Holden Barina LT 1598cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v 85kW @ 6000rpm 155Nm @ 4000rpm 6-speed automatic 1256kg 12.4sec (tested) 7.2L/100km $20,390 Now

FIRST AUSSIE DRIVE

FOR A brand with a long history of short-lived nameplates, Holden has remained steadfastly attached to Barina. And in the case of the current TM series, faithfully reliant on a design that has barely changed since its debut in 2011.

Along the way, we’ve seen a huge-booted sedan (now discontinued), a turbocharged RS (also deceased), an up-spec CDX (now badged LT) and the odd special edition. But until last December, the entry-level Barina CD (now badged LS) looked and drove exactly as it did nearly six years earlier.

In an era of rapid change, that’s an unusually long time between makeovers, though this MY17 version scores a handsome Camaro-esque visage and sexy new alloys (16s on LS, 17s on LT), courtesy of GM’s Australian design team (and adopted by global Chevrolet versions). Front LED running lights and standard front fogs work like a fresh sleeve tat on the still-fit Barina’s chiselled body, though new three-deck tail-lights lack the flair of those they replace.

In-cabin updates are less dramatic, centred around conservative new instruments (shared with Spark and Trax) and an impressive 7.0-inch multimedia touchscreen with Apple CarPlay/ Android Auto, six robust speakers, and vastly superior audio and Bluetooth phone quality, as well as a standard rear-view camera and rear parking sensors.

But besides the odd additional tweak here and there, it’s situation normal for Barina. That means rather uncomfortable front seats lacking in lumbar support, sticky ‘leatherette’ trim for the up-spec LT, and an average-sized back seat.

The fact that Holden’s smaller Spark is better-packaged, offers more comfortable seating and scores GM’s tactile latest-issue steering wheel doesn’t reflect well on Barina’s bigger-is-better status.

GM’s ancient ‘Generation 3’ 1.6-litre four-pot continues. Tied to the LS’s positive-shifting fivespeed manual gearbox, it’s an effortlessly torquey unit, if not an economical one. Keep the tacho below 4000rpm and it’s respectably refined, too, though the low-geared auto exposes the donk’s last-century vintage via whirring induction noise and high-rev resonance. The auto can also be a ditherer just when you require all its smarts, and the two-pedal-only LT’s funky 17-inch alloys are a step too far for Barina’s urban ride quality.

Priced at $14,990, the LS manual is an honest jigger with decent driveability, sound country-road dynamics and enough interest to make it decent value. But Barina is a car best served cheap. Moving beyond $17K equals diminishing returns from a limited range that’s ripe for retirement. nual d a ing ng hat’s

PLUS & MINUS

Wheezy performance with auto ’box; front seats; lumpen ride on LT’s 17s Impressive multimedia; torquey, easy-to-drive and decent-value LS manual

Corsa ambition

GM’s rumoured intention to merge the next-gen Opel Corsa (due 2018) and Chevrolet Sonic/Holden Barina into a single design appears to be one step closer to reality with the emergence of spy images of both Corsa hatch and sedan models in Europe. Riding on a fresh platform carrying GM’s newgen engine line-up, expect the new Corsa to shed plenty of flab compared to the current car, improving its agility and fuel efficiency.