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

Overview

Holden logo9 May 2003

HOLDEN'S popular Barina baby car lost some of its "beep beep" in its transition from the Japanese MH model to the German (via Spain) SB in 1994, particularly in base model City guise. A skyrocketing Japanese currency forced Holden to ditch its Suzuki source for Opel. But despite the SB City's obvious appeal, which included superb styling, excellent interior design and presentation and a wide model range, it ultimately proved less utterly dependable, economical, energetic and fun to drive. There were numerous electrical and air-conditioning related problems, while quality control didn't match up to the Suzuki-built cars. And the five-speed manual-only City 1.2 suffered from a puny 33kW engine that betrayed the SB's ancient (1983) origins underneath. Actually the wooden-feeling steering and general dynamic malaise did too. Airbags were fitted as standard from late 1995. The City gained the barely better 44kW 1.4 engine from the more salubrious Joy and Swing models from early '96, but only as an option. August 1997's extensively reengineered version couldn't come a moment too soon. Even that, though, paled compared to the 1996 Toyota Starlet and Mitsubishi Mirage models, let alone the 1999 Toyota Echo. The Barina never gained its bounce back until the virtually all-new XC model arrived in early 2001. As one Holden engineer privately admitted to GoAuto soon after the XC's release, the SB was referred to as Holden's "... son of a... Barina".
Model release date: 1 April 1994 to 1 July 1997

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