Bright Spark city slicker
WHATmakes for a good city car?
If you want something that’s small and nimble enough to nudge right up to your favourite barista’s elbow — and won’t bust your fuel budget idling through the traffic to get there— slip into the Holden Barina Spark.
But if you want to spend the peak hour pretending you’re Michael Schumacher, look elsewhere. The Spark lacks spark. But it’s cheerful, economical transport with enough features to keep you comfortable and amused around town. VALUE
The base model CD at $12,490 is the choice against the Suzuki Alto at the same price. The Spark CD gets all the usual kit, but also has stability control, six airbags, traction control and anti-skid brakes with electronic assistance systems, 14in alloys, sporty body kit accents and, crucial for its target market, iPod/iPhone and USB inputs. Spending $13,990 for the Spark CDX doesn’t get you much more. TECHNOLOGY
When they named it Spark, they weren’t thinking of the engine. The 1.2-litre four-cylinder will give you an anaemic 59kW of power and 107Nm of torque. The low outputs are probably the main reason there’s only a five-speed manual transmission — an automatic would risk making the engine more apathetic. It’s frugal, no doubt, with a claimed fuel consumption of 5.6 litres/100km that won’t break the budget. SAFETY
We shouldn’t quibble about it having a four-star ANCAP crash rating, which is pretty much par for the cheaper end of the light-car class. DRIVING
It’s happy enough on the urban circuit where it can show off its tight turning circle and compact body by slipping into tiny parking spots and skipping through narrow back alleys. And doing it all on a mere whiff of petrol.
In town, also, hills and fully laden trips are bound to be short. The Spark will struggle with both those tasks on any longer-term demand, and the engine’s buzzy fretting as you raise the revs will let you know it’s unhappy.
The vague gearing is frustrating in city traffic, and on the highway it takes planning and a bit of courage to tackle overtaking.
The Holden Barina Spark lacks grunt but is frugal on fuel, and has enough features to please