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Future models - Holden - Barina SRi

Barina’s Sonic boom!

Beep-beep: New Barina five-door is just the beginning of Holden's latest light-car rollout.

Sedan and sporty Barinas loom, but smaller baby Spark still manual-only for now

Holden logo21 Sep 2011

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

HOLDEN is hoping to make the new Barina range a light-car segment sales leader with an expanded model line-up that will include a sedan and 1.4-litre turbo ‘SRi’ style variants over the next 18 months.

But while the pretty three-box four-door, which first aired at the Detroit motor show in January, is due on sale here by about February 2012, the anticipated CDTi turbo-diesel as offered in Europe is not on the horizon for Australia at all for now.

Plus, the long-awaited automatic version of the new Barina's kid sibling – the virtually unrelated MJ Barina Spark – is at least another year away from seeing the light of day despite approaching its first birthday solely with a five-speed manual gearbox.

Furthermore, the new TM-series Barina - which was launched this week with a higher $15,990 starting price - will have a staggered start in Australia after its November 1 national release.

This is due to severe stock constraints from the Barina’s Korean manufacturing plant, as a result of the model’s global rollout and subsequent strong demand from larger light-car markets.

In Europe the Barina is sold as the Chevrolet Aveo while in the United States – where the car is assembled using mostly Korean-sourced parts – it wears the Chevrolet Sonic badge.

However, while it is a sporty version of the latter that lifts the lid on Holden’s intentions for a long-awaited Barina hot-hatch, don’t expect to see it on Australian soil before 2013 at the earliest.

In America, the hotter Sonic is powered by a variation of the 1.4-litre turbo-petrol engine that lurks under the bonnet of Holden's well-received Australian-made JH Cruze.

Outputs are 103kW of power and 200Nm of torque (from 2500rpm to 4900rpm), compared with the new Barina’s 85kW and 155kW respectively, helping the Chevy shoot past 100km/h in 8.2 seconds.

13 center imageRiding on 17-inch rather than the ho-hum 15-inch wheels underneath our Barina, the super Sonic also switches to an electric power steering system from the old hydraulic method.

The small Chevrolet’s vehicle line director and chief engineer, Joaquin Nuño-Whelan, described his car as thus: “The 1.4L turbo saves money at the gas pump and is a ridiculously fun car to drive.” Holden will not publicly confirm that this is the exact drivetrain slated for our sporty Barina SRi, but sources within the company hint strongly at just that.

The last truly sporty Barina sold in Australia was the SRi version of the German Opel-sourced XC series, available from 2001 until that series’ demise in late 2005.

It was powered by a 92kW/165Nm version of GM’s long-lived 1.8-litre Ecotec four-cylinder petrol engine, driving the front wheels via a five-speed manual gearbox.

Meanwhile, there is also a small chance that the 1.4-litre turbo engine might make it underneath the snub bonnet of a more luxury-orientated Barina CDX, to take on the Volkswagen Polo 77TSI Comfortline – although it may also end up just with the regular atmo 1.6.

Either way, a higher-spec Barina is on the cards when supplies free up.

All will help Holden’s quest in eventually regaining a 10 per cent plus share of the growing light-car segment in Australia – which roughly equates to about 14,000 units in today’s market.

To the end of August this year, the outgoing TK Barina has suffered due to its age, overall senility and savage rivals, halving the 10.3 per cent share it achieved over the same period in 2010.

But since Holden ditched the Opel-built XC Barina for the Daewoo Kalos-based TK in late 2005, it has never much strayed from a top four spot, in a class of 30-plus participants, jostling with the Suzuki Swift and – more recently – the Mazda2.

But none have approached the popularity of the top-selling Toyota Yaris and Hyundai Getz over the last five years. Together both have accounted for an average 37 per cent market share, with the Yaris reaching 24.8 per cent in its first full year on sale in Australia (2006).

While the new TM series’ $15,990 pricing is a far cry from the $12,990 that its predecessor launched with, the big value and packaging strides that the latest Barina has made over the old car, combined with the inclusion of the $12,490-$14,490 Spark in the sales tally, should give Holden a formidable presence in the baby car segment.

However, the new Barina will face some stiff competition in the hotly-contested light-car class, which so far this year has been joined by the new Kia Rio hatch (with a sedan and three-door to come in January), new Hyundai Accent sedan/hatch and, next month, Toyota's new Yaris hatch.

Meanwhile, Holden has rejected the 56kW/190Nm 1.3-litre CDTi turbo-diesel unit (or any coming diesel) fitted to the European Aveo “for the time being”, citing the locally made Cruze sedan and new hatch models with the 2.0-litre CDTi engine as sufficient for serving the Australian market.

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