Hip, hop, hooray

Fuel ef­fi­ciency, flex­i­bil­ity and func­tion are the hall­marks of Holden’s baby

Herald Sun - Motoring - - USED CAR - GRA­HAM SMITH grah.smith@big­pond.com


SOME bright spark at Holden de­cided in 2010 that there was room in the mar­ket for a small city run­about, pared back to the ba­sics with the aim of max­imis­ing fuel econ­omy. They called it the Spark, the Ba­rina Spark to be pre­cise, but we’ll stick with the Spark.

There was a lot to like about the Spark if your driv­ing was limited to the city and you spent much of your valu­able time duck­ing and weav­ing through con­gested streets. First and fore­most it was small, tiny al­most, but its mi­nus­cule ex­ter­nal di­men­sions didn’t mean it was cramped for room in­side.

Thanks mostly to a tall stance and clever use of what in­ter­nal space was avail­able to its de­sign­ers, it was quite roomy.

Ex­ter­nally, its looks were mod­ern and func­tional, its lines sharply de­fined and strik­ing.

In­side, there was a funky in­stru­ment clus­ter mounted on the steer­ing col­umn, while the rear seats could be folded flat to cre­ate a space that could be used for a mul­ti­tude of pur­poses.

Func­tion and flex­i­bil­ity were im­por­tant as­pects of the Spark but it was mostly about fu­el­ef­fi­ciency in a town en­vi­ron­ment, and here its driv­e­line was key.

Un­der the steeply slop­ing bon­net, its 1.2-litre four­cylin­der en­gine sent its mod­est out­puts via a five-speed man­ual gear­box, which pre­sented is­sues for many of those the Spark was aimed at.

Many, if not most, po­ten­tial Spark buy­ers would have been trained and li­censed to op­er­ate cars with au­to­matic trans­mis­sions, so the idea of driv­ing a man­ual with one of those clutch ped­als might have de­terred them from sign­ing up. How­ever, that is­sue was re­solved in 2012 when Holden added the con­ve­nience of a four-speed auto.

Quite spritely, the en­gine still needed to be stirred along. The auto made progress fuss‒free for the man­u­ally chal­lenged but also in­creased the fuel con­sump­tion a smidgen.

In light of the po­ten­tial mar­ket — young ur­ban dwellers — the Spark was ac­cord­ingly equipped with plenty of fea­tures. Among a raft of fea­tures the base model had a CD player, iPod/iPhone and MP3 in­puts, steer­ing wheel­mounted au­dio con­trols and re­mote key­less en­try.


For­get the Spark if you’re look­ing for a fam­ily car — that’s not what it’s about. It’s re­ally aimed at young sin­gles want­ing neat and nifty trans­port that gets them around our crowded streets with lit­tle fuss.

Road safety ex­perts tell us that young driv­ers are most vul­ner­a­ble in the first year of their driv­ing lives, which makes safety an im­por­tant con­sid­er­a­tion for par­ents choos­ing a car for their kids.

ANCAP gave the Spark four out of a pos­si­ble five stars for safety. It’s still a car worth hav­ing on your shop­ping list.

That star rat­ing was based on test­ing in Europe where elec­tronic sta­bil­ity con­trol is op­tional. Here, ESC was stan­dard, an im­por­tant dif­fer­ence that prob­a­bly would have re­sulted in a higher rat­ing had it been crash tested lo­cally.

With a com­pre­hen­sive ar­ray of airbags and ESC, the Spark was ac­tu­ally well equipped with safety gear.

Own­ers re­port that they are par­tic­u­larly happy with the Spark’s fuel econ­omy. They also like the sur­pris­ing amount of cabin space.

It may not be trou­ble free but the Spark equally is not show­ing any is­sues that would cause buy­ers con­cern. There have been no re­calls on this model.


Safe, eco­nom­i­cal and suf­fi­ciently funky to ap­peal to the kids.

Funky: The Ba­rina Spark has ap­peal to young driv­ers with­out a fam­ily to haul

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