Spark sticks to man­ual

Holden is tak­ing a risk with the Ba­rina, writes Paul Pot­tinger

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Onroad -

LACK of an au­to­matic trans­mis­sion could un­der­mine Holden’s bid to com­pete with the Nis­san Mi­cra and Suzuki Alto end of the new­car mar­ket.

The so-called Ba­rina Spark starts at $12,490 for the CD and $13,990 for the CDX. The base model goes in un­der the forth­com­ing $12,990 Mi­cra and packs more stan­dard kit than the In­dian-made Alto.

But the new­est South Kore­an­built Holden comes only with a fivespeed man­ual to drive it’s mea­gre if game 59kW/ 107Nm 1.2-litre 4-cylin­der en­gine.

Though its mar­ke­teers are adamant that the take-up of man­u­als re­mains strong at the mi­cro-bud­get end of the light-car seg­ment, Holden is also en­tirely aim­ing at women buy­ers who tra­di­tion­ally favour au­to­mat­ics.

Suzuki spokesman An­drew El­lis says that in 12 months on the mar­ket, half the Alto’s buy­ers wanted the four-speed auto ver­sion.

Nis­san has not both­ered with a man­ual Mi­cra.

At least the man­ual helps the Spark achieve com­pet­i­tive fuel econ­omy of 5.6 litres for 100km, with CO emis­sions of 128g a kilo­me­tre, earn­ing it the Fed­eral Govern­ment’s top green star rat­ing.

But the Ba­rina Spark is not, strictly speak­ing, ‘‘the’’ new Ba­rina. Known else­where in the Gen­eral Mo­tors world sim­ply as the Spark, Holden hap­pily ad­mits tack­ing on a Ba­rina badge to cap­i­talise on its strong lo­cal recog­ni­tion. The re­place­ment for the cur­rent Ba­rina — a car Holden chair­man and man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Mike Dev­ereux tels cars­Guide will be ‘‘big­ger, sportier and aimed more at men’’ — ar­rives next year. Un­til then the age­ing cur­rent model re­mains on sale next to the Spark.

‘‘This could be al­most made for the daugh­ters of the those who are buy­ing the VE Se­ries II Com­modore,’’ Dev­ereux says of the Spark, which is part of new model of­fen­sive that sees 10 new mod­els in the next 20 months.

Built for now in South Korea — pro­duc­tion will switch to South Africa — the Spark is strong in safety fix­tures but yet to se­cure a five-star crash-safety rat­ing. The lack of stan­dard sta­bil­ity con­trol in Europe sees it carry four sparklers.

Here, ESC is stan­dard on both vari­ants, along with ABS and six airbags, which will help its ANCAP cause.

The CD has 14-inch al­loys and front fog lamps. The CDX’s wheels grow by an inch and it has power win­dows for all four-door picks. De­sign quirks in­clude hid­den rear-door han­dles and a mo­tor cy­cle-like in­stru­ment clus­ter.

Join­ing the Ba­rina Spark in the light-car seg­ment late next year will be its ‘‘true’’ Ba­rina sib­ling, based on the global Aveo small car.

In the next seg­ment up, the global Cruze will be built here from early next year, the sedan joined by the Holden-de­signed Cruze hatch­back late in the year.

First drive, Page 14.

Ba­rina badge: both mod­els of the Spark come with ESC and there is an em­pha­sis on safety fea­tures.

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