Who’s a bright Spark?

Fans of this baby Holden face man­ual labour, writes Paul Pot­tinger

Herald Sun - Motoring - - First Drive -

FOR a start, this is not the new Ba­rina as such. That comes late next year to com­pete against the Mazda2, Ford Fi­esta, Hyundai i20 and at some point a sub-Polo-sized Volk­swa­gen.

This, on the other hand, is a newer no­tion for Holden, an even smaller ( though hand­ily roomy) car to which the fa­mil­iar Ba­rina name has been ap­pended as a bla­tant lo­calised mar­ket­ing ploy. The rest of the Gen­eral Mo­tors world calls it the Spark.

The lat­est South Korean (and soon to be South African) made ‘‘Ba­rina’’ is meant to com­pete against the drive­away and even­tu­ally chuck­away likes of Suzukis Alto and Nis­san’s Mi­cra.

Mar­keted solely and more than some­what pa­tro­n­is­ingly to what can only be in­cor­rectly, but ac­cu­rately, de­scribed as chicks, the whole ven­ture hinges on one seem­ingly in­sur­mount­able ob­sta­cle: Are women pre­pared to for­sake an au­to­matic trans­mis­sion for the safety, sharp shape and eco-friend­li­ness that the Spark brings to the ta­ble?

Value

THE man­ual-only gam­bit keeps the start­ing price of the en­try CD vari­ant down to $12,490, for which it gets fruit in­clud­ing 14-inch al­loys, body kit, front fog lamps, rear spoiler, power ad­justable ex­te­rior mir­rors and van­ity mir­rors.

It also has a CD player, iPod/iPhone AUX in­put and a USB in­put for MP3 play­ers, steer­ing wheel-mounted au­dio con­trols and re­mote key­less en­try that op­er­ates the doors and rear tail­gate.

Yep, the econo-car mo­tif has moved on a bit since the orig­i­nal Hyundai.

The CDX adds 15-inch wheels, more pro­nounced ex­te­rior bling and nicer paint op­tions, in­clud­ing de­cals.

Technology

YOU’RE not bur­dened with tech at this end of the mar­ket, save for the stan­dard au­dio and safety fix­tures.

The steer­ing is hy­draulic, MacPher­son struts up front, tor­sion beam at the back and, re­ally, you can’t com­plain.

The diminu­tive 1.2-litre four-cylin­der en­gine puts out a seem­ingly fee­ble 59kW/107Nm, but also only 128g of C0 per km while us­ing a claimed 5.6L of un­leaded per 100km.

De­sign

2 THIS is where Holden hopes, rather than reck­ons, ob­jec­tions to hav­ing to move the left foot and hand to change gear will be over­come.

The Alfa Romeo-like hid­den rear door han­dles sug­gest a coupe’s lines. There are so many sharp an­gles you want to be­ware of cut­ting your­self. With 3.5m in length to work with, de­sign cues have been fairly crammed in and the ex­te­rior ei­ther works for you or it doesn’t. Less equiv­o­cal is the in­te­rior, and the most im­pres­sive as­pect of it is the space. In the un­likely event two men ever oc­cupy this car at the same time, a tall burly one can sit be­hind an­other with room to move.

More funky — and don’t Holden abuse that word — is the mo­tor­cy­cle-like in­stru­ment clus­ter mounted on the steer­ing col­umn, which in­cludes a green il­lu­mi­nated ana­log

If two men ever oc­cupy this car, a tall burly one can sit be­hind an­other with room to move.

speedome­ter with dig­i­tal tachome­ter (so you green­line rather than red­line) and trip com­puter.

Safety

THE Spark won only four stars in Euro­pean crash safety test­ing due to the sta­bil­ity con­trol be­ing op­tional in that mar­ket.

Here ESC goes with anti-lock brakes and six airbags as stan­dard, which should aid its quest to win five stars from the com­ing round of ANCAP tests.

Driv­ing

WELL, you have to change gear your­self, babe. A lot if you want to main­tain progress, though not quite so much as you might have

Bar­gain base­ment: the Ba­rina Spark is ideal for trips to the dis­count malls. It even has a funky mo­tor­cy­cle-style in­stru­ment panel (inset).

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