As a city car, the Ba­rina is safe but not al­ways re­li­able HOLDEN BA­RINA 2012-16

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Front Page - IAIN CURRY

The Ba­rina will be dropped soon from the Holden line-up. Few will mourn the pass­ing of the city car with a che­quered rep­u­ta­tion. Built by GM Ko­rea but no longer a re­badged Dae­woo, as with the pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion, the cur­rent Ba­rina was in­tro­duced in 2011 — when Aussies still bought city cars in de­cent num­bers.

At launch it was quite com­pelling with mas­cu­line vis­age, ex­posed head­lights and prom­i­nent wheel arches. With high equip­ment lev­els for the class at the time, it was some­thing of a sales suc­cess early on.

On the flip­side, it was never a joy to drive, espe­cially out of the city. Ride was crashy, han­dling dodgy and the auto trans­mis­sion could be jerky and laboured.

The en­gine made a nasty racket when you floored the ac­cel­er­a­tor, with no mean­ing­ful progress in re­turn.

Among used ex­am­ples, there are re­li­a­bil­ity prob­lems to con­sider. As it was built to a bud­get, the hard cabin plas­tics and seat ma­te­ri­als in the main haven’t aged well.

Pricier prob­lems have plagued own­ers. En­gine mount fail­ure has been com­mon, coolant tank and hose fail­ure has led to in­stances of over­heat­ing and some­times en­gine fail­ure. Gear­box, coil packs and ther­mo­stat fail­ure crop up reg­u­larly.

Throw in com­plaints about the en­gine be­ing gut­less, thirsty and prone to oil leaks, sun vi­sors break­ing off, ter­ri­ble Blue­tooth con­nec­tiv­ity and you may ask why you’d bother.

Some Ba­rina own­ers are happy to share pos­i­tive own­er­ship sto­ries. Praise is there for the styling, its roomi­ness for a small car, safety rat­ing, equip­ment lev­els and the turbo RS model hav­ing de­cent poke.

In four-door sedan guise or more pop­u­lar five-door hatch, the TM se­ries Ba­rina ar­rived as a sin­gle grade with six airbags, 15-inch al­loys, air­con, cruise con­trol, dig­i­tal speedo, USB in­put, iPod con­nec­tiv­ity, Blue­tooth, steer­ing wheel con­trols and trac­tion and sta­bil­ity con­trol.

There was an ac­cept­able 290L boot for the hatch, or an im­pres­sive 502L in the sedan, which ar­rived in Feb­ru­ary 2012.

The en­gine was city car rel­e­vant, a lazy 1.6-litre four-cylin­der with 85kW.A five-speed man­ual gear­box was stan­dard but most buy­ers op­tioned the six-speed auto for an ex­tra $2000.

Fuel con­sump­tion looks heavy by modern small car stan­dards: 6.8L/00km (man­ual) or 7.3L (auto), and own­ers re­port even thirstier re­turns.

For the 2013 model year, the grades were CD and CDX, the lat­ter with Holden’s MyLink in­fo­tain­ment with seven-inch screen, 17-inch al­loys, re­v­erse park sen­sors, heated seats and, later in 2013, Siri Eyes Free. A new six-speed auto im­proved fuel econ­omy by 10 per cent.

By year’s end the sporty-ish Ba­rina RS ar­rived with 103kW 1.4-litre turbo and sixspeed man­ual, lower sus­pen­sion, quick ra­tio steer­ing, body kit, new 17-inch al­loys, leather sport seats and flat-bot­tom steer­ing wheel.

Look out for Ba­rina X mod­els from April 2015, which were CD hatches with MyLink in­fo­tain­ment, elec­tric sun­roof and 16-inch grey al­loys.

In Novem­ber 2016 the facelifted Ba­rina ar­rived, a car just about cling­ing to life in Holden show­rooms to­day.


Will a used Ba­rina be your first car? To avoid ru­in­ing the ex­pe­ri­ence, pri­ori­tise cars with good ser­vice his­to­ries. This is cer­tainly a model to have a pro­fes­sional me­chanic look over for you: cheap ones are cheap for a rea­son.

There have been nu­mer­ous re­calls. View prod­uct­ to check what should have been done on any you’re con­sid­er­ing. The lat­est re­call was June to re­place the Takata airbag.

Lis­ten for noises from the en­gine bay and check any vi­bra­tions — tell-tale signs that the trou­ble­some en­gine mounts need re­plac­ing.

Check un­der the bon­net for cracks or leak­ing from the coolant reser­voir and hoses. Any salty look­ing or green residue is a bad sign.

Also check for oil in the coolant tank, or any may­on­naise-type gunk un­der the oil cap. En­gine head gas­kets have been known to fail and these are red flags.

The RS’s turbo had grem­lins too, so if it strug­gles to start, runs rough, is slug­gish to get away or makes any ugly noises, just say no.

The auto gear­box isn’t a great thing but if it stalls, flares, is re­ally hes­i­tant, makes nasty noises or bangs into gear changes, walk away; many own­ers have needed gear­box re­place­ments.

Check all the lights go out on the dash­board af­ter start up — Code 89 show­ing is a com­mon grum­ble and means ther­mo­stat re­place­ment.

Ba­rina tyres wear out quite quickly so pri­ori­tise cars with new rub­ber. Ig­ni­tion coil packs com­monly ex­pire, so ask if this has hap­pened re­cently.

En­sure the cabin hasn’t weath­ered too badly and dou­ble-check all electrics, the air­con­di­tion­ing and Blue­tooth con­nec­tiv­ity.

Also check you can tol­er­ate the Ba­rina’s high road noise at speed, and the shrill na­ture of the en­gine when pushed.


These Bari­nas are too trou­ble­some to rec­om­mend with much faith but tempt­ingly low prices and at­trac­tive styling may sway you. Man­ual gear­box ex­am­ples help avoid auto woes. Tar­get CDX grade to score de­cent cabin equip­ment. To avoid the real lemons, have an ex­pert look over a po­ten­tial pur­chase.


PATRICK WOODS: My work car was a 2012 Ba­rina with auto gear­box, used daily in town to get be­tween jobs. It looked good, was easy to drive and the dig­i­tal speedo was very use­ful. It al­ways lacked power, how­ever, and the en­gine would scream when putting your foot down, plus the gear­box got more and more jerky over time be­fore need­ing to be re­placed. Fuel use was OK but it needed re­place­ment rub­ber far too reg­u­larly. Ours had a hard life but even so it felt very tired and weath­ered af­ter only three years. It was easy to park and ma­noeu­vre, and would prob­a­bly make a good cheap first car.


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