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Car reviews - Holden - Barina - City 3-dr hatch

Our Opinion

We like
Design, dashboard, modern-feeling interior
Room for improvement
Lack of meaningful perforance, no power steering, quality gremlins

9 May 2003

IN its search for a suitable vehicle as an entry level candidate in the market, General Motors in Australia has had a number of associations with other manufacturers.

Nissans, Toyotas and Suzukis have all been re-badged to become Holdens over the years but finally in 1994 the General looked to its own corporation to provide a suitable car.

It was the Opel Corsa, renamed the Barina in Australia. Built in Spain, the Barina City is a three-door hatch with a 1.2-litre engine, five-speed manual gearbox and seating for four adults.

It is aimed at young buyers purchasing their first new car, or as a second car for small families.

Although light on extras, it is a soundly engineered car which has proven very successful in its native Germany and throughout Europe.

The Barina model range is rounded out by the more expensive three-door Joy with 1.4-litre engine, a sporty three-door GSi and the five-door Swing.

The City's power unit is a 1.2-litre, single overhead cam, single point fuel-injected version of GM's Family I corporate engine. The engine is mounted transversely in the body and drives the front wheels through a five-speed gearbox.

Suspension is by MacPherson struts and coil springs at the front, and coil springs and transverse torsional axle beam at the rear.

Brakes are discs at the front and drums at the rear. Power steering and automatic transmission are not available but the City does have a great six-speaker radio/cassette system.

The body is attractively styled, curvy and with a sloping rear hatch, unlike its four-door brother the Swing which has a squared-off roof line for increased rear headroom.

Maximum interior room has been achieved with the shortest possible overall vehicle length and with the rear seat back folded flat there is ample luggage space.

The interior is well finished with two-spoke steering wheel, the speedo, fuel and temperature gauges grouped in front of the driver and ventilation controls and radio in a central console.

The trim is bright and a rear wiper, rear fog lamps and the good sound system make it an attractive package.

Performance from the 1.2-litre engine, which is coupled to a high final drive ratio for better fuel economy, is okay on the flat but sluggish up hills.

Good low-speed torque makes the City easy to drive around town with minimal gear changing. Handling and braking are very safe with understeer the predominant characteristic.

The non-power-assisted steering is light enough but rather low geared. Ride is comfortable and the City is quiet at legal highway cruising.

The Barina City is an excellent entry level vehicle. It has a heritage of German engineering and is safe, well finished and economical to operate.

Fuel consumption during normal city/suburban driving should be about 7.0L/100km.

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