Bright Spark city slicker

NT News - Motoring - - CARS GUIDE - By KARLA PIN­COTT

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

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