Who’s a bright Spark?
Fans of this baby Holden face manual labour, writes Paul Pottinger
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).