Boosted Barina is Holden's latest hero car
It's the first non-Commodore performance car variant to come out of Holden since Suzuki and then Opel stopped furnishing the hardware for the company's Barina products and the Barina RS it's a welcome new-comer, for two simple reasons.
Reason one is the fact that the Barina's chassis has always been capable of taking more power, while the second reason is that drivers of small cars like fun too, and by dipping into GM's world-wide parts bin you can create a warmed-over hatch without putting too much of a premium on the original car's price.
The new Barina RS uses the same 1.4-litre turbocharged engine that already makes the larger Cruze Turbo Equipe go so well and it doesn't take hard maths to calculate that by putting the same unit into a car weighing all of 200kg less, it's going to stir things along a bit. The so-called 1.4l iTi petrol engine produces a handy 103kW at 4900rpm, along with a useful 200Nm of torque at an easy-going 1850rpm, and it's worth noting that whether you pick the six speed manual or automatic, the car still rated at 6.5L/100km for allround economy, with a CO2 emissions score of 149g/km.
The automatic has an Active Select feature via thumb operated controls on the shift lever. The wide overall ratio spread of 6.00:1 allows a "first gear for maximised acceleration as well as a "tall" overdrive top gear for low-rpm and engine noise levels when highway cruising.
To save space compared to "freewheeling" gear change mechanisms, the shifts are accomplished by applying and disengaging clutches simultaneously during each gear change.
For all that, plus some sharp alloy rims, the RS logowork inside and out as well as a whole lot of other appropriate accoutrements, the Barina RS only asks $4000 more than the base Barina 5-door at $26,490 with another $1500 required for the six-speed automatic. It's worth noting that the RS is also only $500 more than the slightly posher version of the ordinary Barina, the CDX.
Among the equipment points are Holden's new app-enabled Holden MyLink infotainment system, which works through a 7 inch full colour touch screen to provide audio and phone streaming, image and video viewing (when parked) phone integration and contacts support. The system uses Pandora, TuneIn, BringGo navigation and Stitcher apps for iOS and Android devices, streaming via a 3G connection). It also has USB and auxiliary input and the Siri voice control set-up, which Holden elecgantly calls: 'eyes free integration.'
On the outeide, the Barina RS features special styling elements including sports front and rear fascias, fog lamps and new 17-inch alloy wheels. A new Hero paint body colour Orange Rock, (see pictures) is offered only for the RS and the sports styling extends to the cabin with heated leather and suede appointed front seats with RS branding, leather gear shifter, sports pedals and RS branded floor mats.
A piano black finish features in the cabin which features the seven-inch colour touchscreen master screen, which was introduced on the Barina CDX.
Holden Barina CDX and RS are the only cars in the light car segment to offer such a colour touchscreen with the standard functions and apps available.
Holden New Zealand managing director, Jeff Murray said that the edgy styling and in-car technology would create a wide appeal for Barina's new RS version.
"This sporty RS version of the very popular Barina will only extend the appeal of the popular small car for buyers looking for that additional driving performance and a great competitive experience," said Mr Murray.
As part of a global development programme, Holden engineers were heavily involved in the development of Barina RS in conjunction with engineering counterparts in the US and Korea. With their experience in refining the Cruze model from its not so effective origins, Holden engineers were able to set-up a unique electric power steering calibration, tailored specifically for New Zealand and Australian driving tastes. This was all done at Holden's proving ground in Lang Lang, Victoria.
It has a quicker ratio, ensuring a more reactive and a more sporting drive.
The dynamic appeal of Barina RS is further enhanced with a reduced ride height of 10mm and additional body bracing which delivers a stiffer body structure.
Performance-tuned dampers with increased spring rates and stiffer shock absorbers make for the most agile and nimble-handling Barina yet.
To reflect the addition of the RS model, Holden has chopped prices by up to $1000 on the remainder of the Model Year 2014 Barina range, effective December 1. Now the Barina hatch and sedan start at $22,490 and $22,990 respectively, with the higher-spec CDX four and five door cars asking $26,990 and $25,990, with those cars also asking $1000 extra for automatic.
The Holden Barina RS also packs reverse park sensors, alloy sports pedals, RS badging inside and out, a trip computer and chrome exterior accents.
As well as the new Orange Rock hero colour, the RS Barina can be had in: Summit White, Satin Steel Grey, Nitrate Silver, Velvet Red, Boracay Blue, Snowflake White Pear and Carbon Flash Black.
Giving the Barina a sports version called the RS makes sense, it's already a fun car. Now all Holden needs to do is tap into the worldwide parts bin once more and do the same job for the Cruze and the recently-arrived Malibu.
With some HSV badgework and a 1.6 or 1.8-turbo version of the Barina RS motor which is used elsewhere around the world, Holden could easily nail a sports version of the Cruze, whose handling has improved no-end since the appearance of the original four years ago.
Then there's the Malibu, a car crying out for more power.
In the US, the car has access to both a 3.6-litre V6 and a turbocharged 2.0-litre four which both out-power its stock 2.5-litre unit.
Then a Malibu Torana SL/R could be created and the Holden line-up would have a hero car for each one of its ranges.