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AIMS: Holden gives Barina some muscle

No more beep-beep: Holden’s new Barina gets a more aggressive look.

Bigger Barina set to move upmarket as Holden gets set to dump unloved ‘Kalos’

1 Jul 2011

HOLDEN has promised its bigger new Barina will be a world-class act with a more aggressive hot-hatch style and safety when its replaces the “utilitarian” current model that started life as a Daewoo Kalos.

Due in showrooms in October when it goes head to head with Toyota’s new Yaris, Kia’s new Rio and a brace of other new light cars in the hotly contested light-car class, the South Korean-built Barina makes its Australian debut in five-door hatchback guise at the Australian International Motor Show in Melbourne today.

But the father of the new Barina’s spunky shape that will be sold across the world, Holden designer Ondrej Koromhaz, was not there to see his baby arrive home – he was in China where he is preparing to start work on an all-new model for GM.

The well-travelled Mr Koromhaz was on assignment for at GM’s South Korean design centre between 2005 and 2007 when he penned the ‘theme’ for the Barina, which is a GM global car known variously elsewhere as the Chevrolet Aveo and Sonic.

Czech-born Mr Koromhaz, who previously had a hand in the VE Commodore and Torana TT36 show car designs, took inspiration from an interest in motorcycles in his design for the car, which he described as a four-wheel motorbike.

According to his boss, executive director GM international design operations Mike Simcoe, the motorcycle theme comes through in the naked dual round headlights and taillights – free of the plastic lenses of other cars – and the motorbike-like instrument binnacle that sits independently of the dash.

13 center imageLeft: Holden designer Ondrej Koromhaz.

He said the “exposed function” design had links to café racers – the lean and personalised motorcycles with no fairings or frills.

“It is all about the headlamps – they take pride of place,” he said. “It is little bit aggressive or assertive as a face, which puts it in the category of hot hatch.”

Mr Simcoe said the new Barina would ignite passion in buyers, unlike its predecessor.

“We think it is going to take Barina from where it is today, from a somewhat utilitarian car, which is (a) nice way to put it, to being something that is actually desirable,” he said.

“Ultimately design is all about emotion and car purchase is emotion, so we have to drive that, so we think Barina is going to take us there.”

Mr Simcoe said the new Barina had moved up a size, with the Barina Spark moving into the space once occupied by the Barina and the Cruze going higher again.

“So we are seeing a shift in the architectures all the way up, which makes it good value, a good deal in this market particularly,” he said, adding that it also created a roomier cabin in the Barina for “big Australians”.

Holden has revealed the new Barina will continue to be powered by a 1.6-litre engine – thought to be 86kW – unlike the American Chevrolet Sonic versions that come with a choice of 1.8-litre naturally aspirated and 1.4-litre turbocharged engines.

There is no sign of a hotter version, but don’t rule out the eventual arrival of an ‘RS’ version as shown in the original Aveo show car at the 2010 Detroit motor show. That car was powered by the same 103kW/200Nm 1.4-litre turbo that has just been launched in the Australian-made Cruze.

Transmissions will be a five-speed manual or optional six-speed automatic – the latter being the first six-speeder in a Holden small car.

Like the Chevrolet Aveo/Sonic and the current Barina, the new model will be offered in both five-door hatchback and four-door-sedan versions, both imported from GM Korea.

Holden chairman and managing director Mike Devereux said Holden “did not consider for a second” dropping the Barina name in favour of Aveo – used widely in Asia and Europe – or Sonic – the name now used in North America.

“Australians know Barina is a small car and a Holden,” he said.

While pricing and most other details are being withheld until closer to the October launch, Mr Devereux revealed that the Barina would get Bluetooth and iPod connectivity, which he described as essential in the class.

All models will also get six airbags, including full-length curtain airbags, plus cruise control and steering-wheel audio controls.

Holden fans should not expect major differences from the Chevrolet version, with Mr Simcoe saying the Barina/Aveo/Sonic had been designed with Holden input from the outset to ensure that the needs of Holden buyers were designed into the vehicle.

However, some colour and trim details will be exclusive to Holden.

The air and audio controls should look familiar – they are similar to those of the Cruze, as GM unifies the look of its vehicles. Mr Simcoe said a “neat trick” of the Barina’s console knobs was that the chrome rings show blue at night when the headlights are turned on.

In the US, the Sonic is priced towards the high end of the class, meaning the Barina is unlikely to compete with the bottom feeders – that job will be left to the little sister, the Barina Spark.

The Barina is based on GM’s global Gamma II small car platform, and the production car was revealed at the 2010 Paris motor show.

Like the Cruze, Spark, Captiva and upcoming mid-sized Malibu, the new Barina continues the move by GM from a grab-bag of platforms – including poor Daewoo architectures – to global GM platforms.

In the light and small classes, the platforms are being designed for global use by GM’s Opel engineers, with input from the likes of Chevrolet and Holden. But while the Opel/Vauxhall Corsa was designed in Europe, the Chevrolet/Holden Barina/Aveo/Sonic’s ‘home room’ was in South Korea.

The new Barina can’t come soon enough for Holden, which has been struggling along with the unloved previous model.

Mr Devereux said he had been driving one of the few right-hand drive Barinas in the world recently, and it was “a significantly different car” than the previous model.

“This is a globally competitive, absolutely world class car,” he said.

Mr Simcoe assured GoAuto there would be no return to the girlie “beep-beep” Barina days, saying: “Our cars are designed for people, not men or women.”

This year, sales of the Barina are down 55 per cent, although some of its sales have gravitated to the smaller and cheaper Barina Spark.

Between those two models, Holden is holding 8.4 per cent of the light car segment, compared with market leader Hyundai’s 20.4 per cent.

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