De­spite the facelift, there’s no hid­ing the wrin­kles

Wheels (Australia) - - Contents - NATHAN PONCHARDAR­D

Anti-wrin­kle treat­ment

FOR A brand with a long his­tory of short-lived name­plates, Holden has re­mained stead­fastly at­tached to Barina. And in the case of the cur­rent TM se­ries, faith­fully re­liant on a de­sign that has barely changed since its de­but in 2011.

Along the way, we’ve seen a huge-booted sedan (now dis­con­tin­ued), a tur­bocharged RS (also de­ceased), an up-spec CDX (now badged LT) and the odd spe­cial edi­tion. But un­til last De­cem­ber, the en­try-level Barina CD (now badged LS) looked and drove ex­actly as it did nearly six years ear­lier.

In an era of rapid change, that’s an unusu­ally long time be­tween makeovers, though this MY17 ver­sion scores a hand­some Ca­maro-es­que vis­age and sexy new al­loys (16s on LS, 17s on LT), cour­tesy of GM’S Australian de­sign team (and adopted by global Chevro­let ver­sions). Front LED run­ning lights and stan­dard front fogs work like a fresh sleeve tat on the still-fit Barina’s chis­elled body, though new three-deck tail-lights lack the flair of those they re­place.

In-cabin updates are less dra­matic, cen­tred around con­ser­va­tive new in­stru­ments ( shared with Spark and Trax) and an im­pres­sive 7.0-inch multimedia touch­screen with Ap­ple Carplay/ An­droid Auto, six ro­bust speak­ers, and vastly su­pe­rior au­dio and Blue­tooth phone qual­ity, as well as a stan­dard rear-view camera and rear park­ing sen­sors.

But be­sides the odd ad­di­tional tweak here and there, it’s sit­u­a­tion nor­mal for Barina. That means rather un­com­fort­able front seats lack­ing in lum­bar sup­port, sticky ‘leatherett­e’ trim for the up-spec LT, and an av­er­age-sized back seat. The fact that Holden’s smaller Spark is bet­ter-pack­aged, of­fers more com­fort­able seat­ing and scores GM’S tac­tile lat­est-is­sue steer­ing wheel doesn’t re­flect well on Barina’s big­ger-is-bet­ter sta­tus.

GM’S an­cient ‘Gen­er­a­tion 3’ 1.6-litre four-pot con­tin­ues. Tied to the LS’S pos­i­tive-shift­ing fivespeed man­ual gear­box, it’s an ef­fort­lessly torquey unit, if not an eco­nom­i­cal one. Keep the tacho be­low 4000rpm and it’s re­spectably re­fined, too, though the low-geared auto ex­poses the donk’s last-cen­tury vin­tage via whirring in­duc­tion noise and high-rev res­o­nance. The auto can also be a ditherer just when you re­quire all its smarts, and the two-pedal-only LT’S funky 17-inch al­loys are a step too far for Barina’s ur­ban ride qual­ity.

Priced at $14,990, the LS man­ual nual is an hon­est jig­ger with de­cent drive­abil­ity, sound coun­try-road d dy­nam­ics and enough in­ter­est to make it de­cent value. But Barina a is a car best served cheap. Mov­ing ing be­yond $17K equals di­min­ish­ing ng re­turns from a lim­ited range that’s hat’s ripe for re­tire­ment.

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