The Holden Barina RS.
The Holden Barina RS. Bandits and Co

Holden Barina RS road test review | petite meets macho

BRINGING Sexy Back is in the spotlight.

Channel Seven's new get-fit reality show is tapping into the fountain of youth psyche, and the same can be said for car makers.

Mercedes-Benz has reinvented itself with a more youthful appeal, and late last year Holden released a buffed version of its little Barina.

The pint-sizer has a beefier engine, improved handling and sportier exterior, with a key role aimed at attracting blokes to this traditionally petite genre.


Athleticism is the name of the game, with the RS moniker sprinkled tastefully throughout the cabin.

The trademark motorcycle-style driver instrument binnacle remains but the added extras ensure it's no stock-standard Barina.

Inside the Holden Barina RS.
Inside the Holden Barina RS. Bandits and Co

es on the centre stack and doors.

Hard plastics are still prevalent, although that's nothing new at this price point and vehicle size.

Like we've seen in the Trax compact SUV, the Barina has a cool, tablet-like colour touch-screen. Quick to pair with your phone, it also offers a low-cost sat nav system and is simple to navigate.

On the road

From the first tug of the steering wheel you can tell the RS is not just a Barina with some flashy garnishing.

Holden engineers played a pivotal role in the car's development, changing the steering calibration to provide a livelier feel.

Sitting 10mm lower, boasting performance-tuned dampers with increased spring rates and stiffer shock absorbers, it certainly makes the compact hatch a more rewarding drive. It's not crashy or harsh, nor does it bound along the highway soaking up undulations for an ultra-smooth ride, rather it's a nice compromise for the handling characteristics.

Available with either a manual or automatic box, the three-pedal option would be the obvious choice for the real driver. We sampled the self-shifter and it proved adept in most cases but fell short of being a true sporting drive.

The four-cylinder turbocharged engine punches out an extra 18kW and 45Nm than the standard Barina donk which provides some handy extra shove. It's not neck-snapping, but certainly encourages more rapid

response out of the bends.

The firmer steering is felt in tight circumstances, and is not as nimble for three-point turns and U-bolts.

What do you get?

The Holden Barina RS pedals.
The Holden Barina RS pedals. Bandits and Co

Safety is five-star, with six airbags, stability and traction control, as well as anti-lock brakes.

Other options

Competitors in the realm include the Suzuki Swift Sport (from $24,990 drive-away), Honda Jazz VTi-L ($22,490), Hyundai Accent SR ($18,990), Skoda Fabia Monte Carlo ($19,590), Ford Fiesta Sport ($20,525) and Kia Rio SLS (from $19,990).

Running costs

Our experience in the RS returned slightly heavier figures than the official average, but at just above seven litres for every 100km it was still reasonably thrifty.

Capped priced servicing is available, and there has been some pretty appealing offers of late which included an extended warranty and free servicing in the package.


It has the looks of a three-door but five-door practicality with handles hidden near the rear pillar.

With a boot nearing 300 litres and a 60:40 split fold rear seat, it's a useful transporter for awkward size gear and can handle a weekly family grocery shop.

Funky factor

It's amazing what a new front and rear aprons, fog lamps and a meaty set of five-spoke 17-inch alloys can do for the Barina.

Exterior treatments give the RS a more masculine feel, along with the lowered suspension for a hunkered stance, and certainly broadens the appeal to blokes concerned that a compact hatch belittles their macho appeal.

There are seven colour choices, all but two cost you an extra $550, but the new 'orange rock' and 'boracay blue' look outstanding in the metal.

What matters most

What we liked: Sporting interior and exterior touches, happy handling medium.

What we'd like to see: Improved exhaust soundtrack to match the looks, less hard internal plastics.

Warranty and servicing: Three-year/100,000km warranty. Capped Price Servicing for the first four standard services, for first three years or 60,000 km (whichever comes first). Service intervals are at nine months or 15,000km at $185 each.


Model: Holden Barina RS.

Details: Five-door front wheel drive "warm" hatch.

Transmission: Six-speed manual or six-speed auto with active select.

Engine: 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol generating maximum power of 103kW @ 4900rpm and peak torque of 200Nm @ 1850rpm.

Consumption: 6.5 litres/100km (combined average).

CO2: 153g/km (m); 154g/km (a).

Bottom line plus on-roads: $21,390 (m), $23,190 (a).

The Holden Barina RS.
The Holden Barina RS. Bandits and Co

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