It’s a very stylish shop­ping trol­ley that’ll zip around OK — with­out a big load

Herald Sun - Motoring - - On The Web - CRAIG DUFF craig.duff@cars­

Holden’s Barina Spark is a stylish, zippy hatch well suited to city driv­ing and now there’s an auto ver­sion

SOME bright spark for­got to in­clude an auto in Holden’s light hatch when it was launched in 2010.

The Spark (Holden calls it a Barina Spark but it is no re­la­tion to the light car) now be­lat­edly has one as it chases the es­ti­mated 70 per cent of light-car buy­ers who opt for a self-shift­ing trans­mis­sion.

The adage that you get what you pay for has never been truer and the $12,490 price re­flects its cheap in­te­rior and av­er­age han­dling.


The Spark comes only in one spec and the four-speed auto adds $2000. Equip­ment runs from al­loy wheels to Blue­tooth con­nec­tiv­ity, aux­il­iary and USB in­puts for the four-speaker stereo and steer­ing wheel­mounted con­trols for the phone and au­dio. That com­pares well with its com­pe­ti­tion but rear pas­sen­gers will have to work out how to use a man­ual win­dow win­der.


The 1.2-litre four-cylin­der en­gine has an­other 43cc of ca­pac­ity to give a bit more grunt than the one used in the man­ual Spark. With 63kW/ 113Nm, it leads the sub-$15,000 pack for on-pa­per per­for­mance. The auto ver­sion also has elec­tric power steer­ing, tuned lo­cally to im­prove re­sponse.


There’s noth­ing wrong with the out­side of the Spark. It rides on 14-inch al­loy wheels and has a trendy look to it. The same ap­plies in­side, where the mo­tor­bike-in­spired in­stru­ment dis­play should ap­peal to stu­dents look­ing for cheap trans­port or to first-time car buy­ers. But the plas­tics look and smell a gen­er­a­tion old, show­ing its Dae­woo ori­gins.


The Spark trails only theVW Up for safety but is still only a four-star car as judged by AN­CAP. The body is solid but in crash tests some of the im­pact was trans­ferred into the cabin, a po­ten­tial in­jury risk to front oc­cu­pants’ chest and up­per thigh ar­eas. It earned 31.02/37 over­all to be just be­hind the Nis­san Mi­cra but light years above the Suzuki Alto. Six airbags and ABS with sta­bil­ity and trac­tion con­trol are stan­dard.


The Spark re­sponds rel­a­tively quickly and will be a good thing around town or on the high­way. Put some weight on board and point it at a de­cent hill and the trans­mis­sion’s age dulls the ex­pe­ri­ence.

Re­act­ing too quickly to any change in ac­cel­er­a­tor pedal pres­sure, the auto hunts for a higher gear be­fore slur­ring back to a lower cog when it can’t hold revs. Noth­ing dra­matic but a lot of own­ers will bury the right foot and blow the claimed fuel con­sump­tion.

The tor­sion-beam rear end and lim­ited sus­pen­sion travel also mean the Spark bangs through sub­stan­tial bumps rather than rolling over them. The steer­ing is di­rect and only needs a light touch to change di­rec­tion but the lack of feed­back means there’s a dis­con­nect with ex­actly where

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