Holden had a lot of ground to make up when it launched the TM Barina in 2011 — the previous model had been widely panned for its poor quality, reliability and safety.
About the only positive thing you could say about the TK Barina was that it was cheap but thankfully things improved with the TM and it’s a better device than its unloved predecessor.
The new model was available as a four-door sedan and a five-door hatch, there were different levels of standard equipment, starting with the entry-level Barina, followed by the CD, CDX and a sporty RS.
The cabin was one of the roomiest in the class with decent legroom room for front occupants and enough room for those consigned to the rear seat not to feel too uncomfortable.
The boot was on par with other small cars but folding the rear seats doubled the space if needed.
All variants were powered by a 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine, carried over from the previous model, but with additional and much-needed power and torque.
Another critical improvement was the introduction of a six-speed auto in place of the previous model’s four-speed.
The extra ratios made a much better match with the engine, turning the TM into a more agreeable drive.
On the road the Barina was pleasant rather than thrilling, but few people buying a car for point-to-point transport would look for sports car-style handling.
The previous model had copped just a two-star ANCAP rating, putting it on the nose with shoppers, so the news of a five-star rating for the TM was welcome all around.
The top-of-the-class safety tick came courtesy of dual front, side and curtain airbags, pre-tensioners for the front seat belts, anti-lock brakes with emergency assist and electronic distribution, and best of all, electronic stability control. Despite the improvements the horror stories continue to flow from disgruntled owners. It seems a case of love it or loathe it, as some owners say they are more than happy, even delighted with their cars.
The message for anyone shopping for a used Barina is to be very careful and thoroughly check any car you’re considering buying. If you aren’t confident in your own ability to carry out the check, have a mechanic do it for you.
One of the consequences of being bought because it was cheap can be that an owner on a tight budget can be tempted to skimp on servicing.
The recommended service intervals for the TM are 12 months/15,000km and the cam timing belt should be replaced at 10 years/160,000km.
Always check a car’s service record, it’s a good guide to how it has been treated. Skipped services should be a warning that a car has been neglected.
Mechanics report oil leaks as being common and also say that despite its size the Barina can be quite hard on brakes and tyres. Check that all switches and electrics work.
The Barina has been subject to a number of recalls, the latest in January, for an incorrectly sized fuel pump O-ring seal that could result in a fire.
A recall two years ago was for a worn ignition key cylinder that could cause the engine to crank even when the key is in the off position. Another in the same year was to correct a fault whereby the brake lights could come on when the brakes are not applied and switch off the cruise control in the process.
Before buying a Barina check that all the relevant recall rework has been done.
It’s attractive, roomy and nippy. In two years it’s given no trouble at all. Love it.
It’s a gem. Do you own or have you owned a
Share your experience with other Carsguide readers by sending your comments to Graham Smith at [email protected]pond. com or write to Carsguide, PO Box 4245, Sydney, NSW 2010. Surprisingly spacious inside, holds its own on the highway and has been very reliable.
Our 2013 CDX has done 60,000km. It vibrates, is noisy, isn’t nice to drive and the engine has a flat spot the dealer can’t fix.
A lemon. Unsafe, unreliable, rubbish.
It looks good, it’s economical, roomy inside, and has all the features I want. Improved but horror stories from owners suggest buyers should be wary.