Spark sticks to manual
Holden is taking a risk with the Barina, writes Paul Pottinger
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.