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