I reviewed the CDX Barina last year and while I did like the car I came away feeling a little underwhelmed and pleaded Holden to bring out a Barina with some muscle, well it looks like my prayers were answered in the form of the Barina RS not only does it possess a more sportier suspension tune it’s also packing the 1.4L turbo 4cyl from it’s Cruze stable mate under the bonnet meaning its the most powerful Barina in the range.
Now I do like the outside look of the Barina the front end has and agressive look that describe as an Angry Ant look in my previous Barina review, the RS features chrome surrounds around thew grille and foglights, black mesh on the grille, side skirts, a rear spoiler and attractive 17inch alloys wrapped in grippy 205/50 r17 Continental tyres.
On the inside the RS features RS embroided front seats with red stitching that are comfortable although I would have like a touch more support in them, the motorcycle inspired instruments which has a large rev tacho on the left and a blue LCD screen on the right featuring a digital speedo and trip computer which shows info such as fuel economy.
The leather bound steering is thick and comfortable to hold and has buttons for the cruise control, audio/voice recognition and and RS badge at the bottom.
The dash is made up of hard plastic which some people made not be impressed by, the centre stack contains the Holden Mylink system which features 7in colour touch screen, AM/FM radio, Audio and phone streaming via Bluetooth, View images, movies while vehicle is parked, Phone integration, Phone book support, Pandora, TuneIn, BringGo navigation and Stitcher apps (compatible with iOS and Android devices, data streams via the phone’s 3G connection), USB and auxiliary input and voice control via Siri eyes free integration.
Now if you’ve read any of my Holden reviews over the last 12 months you will know how much I really like system and its one of the best systems on the market as far ease of use and features specaily the in built apps.
There is a small storage spot on each side at the top of the centre stack with brushed aluminium trim, the lower centre stack is piano black finish which suits the car perfectly.
The rear seat offers a decent amount of room specially for a car of this size certainly enough for 2 people it might get a bit squishy for 3, being hatch the boot space is not too bad at 290L but it does increase to a decent 653L with the back seats folded if you need to fit something bigger in.
Under the bonnet the RS as I said ealier has the same 1.4L ITI Turbo 4 cyl you get in the Cruze putting out 103kW and 200nM while that doesn’t make it a hot hatch it certainly is a warm one. the Torque is developed low in the rev range which makes acceleration more rapid then what you would think and certainly did embarrass a few people in other cars during the week. The RS has revised gear and final drive ratios which helps as well.
I really do like this little engine its very tractable there’s not much lag down low and it really does like to rev, economy wise I was expecting a lot worse then I actually got during the week. When I had the CDX Barina last year I couldn’t get the economy below 10L/100km specially around my area but the RS went down to low 9’s and only crept above the 10 mark when I had been stuck in peak hour traffic going no where and my ave speed had dropped to around 15km/h.
Now while I didn’t get to give it a proper freeway run the brief trip I did do saw the economy drop in the 5’s and 6’s as I say with all my certainly somebody could get much better economy then I can as I don’t drive the cars I review for economy I drive them like I would if I owned the car.
The 6 speed manual is great the shift is smooth and the clutch has decent take up and just enough weigh to it the RS does feature a hill hold function which makes take offs even on the steepest hills a breeze the only thing I didn’t like was I thought the ratio between 2nd and 3rd was a touch too big but that seems to be the trend these days and a lot of other makes are doing the same thing.
Suspension wise the RS rides 10mm lower and has extra body bracing making the body stiffer, the performance tuned dampers and stiffer shocks give the Barina a slightly form ride but it also does means mean the Barina goes around corners rather well. The addition of the 17 in 205/50R17 Contisport tyres help in that regard as well. The Australian engineers had a part in the global development of the RS and have come up with an Australian specific tune for the electric power steering and have done a decent job, The steering is light and offers a decent amount of sharpness and feel but no where the levels it’s stable mate and big brother the SRi Cruze has.
Which why I don’t understand GM decision to close down Holden’s engineering department and Lang Lang proving ground when factory closes in my opinion the engineers at Holden are some of the best in the business and by getting rid of them means getting rid of things that to me where what set Holden’s apart from the others. Sorry for the rant but I see the engineers did with the Cruze and what they have with the RS Barina and it kinda makes me sad.
Back to Barina RS Safety wise it’s full of safety features and has as you would expect has received a 5 star ANCAP safety rating thanks to the 6 airbags (dual front, front side and side curtain), electronic stability control, traction control, ABS, electronic brakeforce distribution, brake assist, pedal release system, seatbelt pre-tensioners (driver and front passenger), 3 rear seat child restraint anchor points and rear parking sensors but it does loose points for not having a rear view camera.
After a week in the Barina RS I was really impressed specially with the improvement it has in driveability compared the CDX I reviewed last year, the 1.4L turbo engine is a god send compared the rather boring 1.6L 4 cyl the other Barinas have. The lowered suspension has given the RS an aggressive stance and improved the handling.
The RS doesn’t have the power to play with the hot hatches on the market (mind you they cost several thousand dollars more then the RS) never the less the RS is quite a capable little car and is an extremely enjoying to drive specially when you throw some corners at it.
If your after a little car that’s extremely fun to drive has a great amount of safety and technology all while returning very good economy then I suggest you might want to put the Barina RS on your list.
For more info on the Barina RS check out Holden’s website http://www.holden.com.au then head down to your local Holden dealer and take one for a test drive.