SINCE muscling up, Holden has broadened the appeal of its Barina.
The cutesy "beep beep" persona has waned with more chiselled attributes.
In sedan guise it's likely to appeal to males seeking a metro machine.
Holden recently added a range-topping CDX to the line-up, but we sampled the base model which retails for just under $16,500.
Using the motorcycle as inspiration, the interior designers developed a unique driver set-up that has been implemented across the Barina range. A large digital speedo takes pride of place, and is complemented by a tachometer down the left-hand side.
The modern look takes a little time for the driver to gain their bearings with the remainder of the operations simplistic and well labelled.
Cloth seats are supportive in the right spots and there are some excellent storage options up front. There are two cup holders in the front console, and one for use in the back, while the front doors can also handle a water bottle.
You get a dual glove box and some handy nooks for things like wallets/purses, phones, chargers and various trinkets.
There is a hefty amount of hard plastics used throughout the dash and doors but that is essentially par for the course in this genre and price bracket.
Head, leg and knee room is reasonable given the Barina's dimensions. As usual the amount of space for those in the back depends greatly on the size of the passengers up front, while rear headroom can be tight.
On the road
Designed as a city dweller, the little Barina is also adept on the open road. The little 1.6-litre hums along on the highway at just above 3000rpm and does so economically.
While it's no sports car the sedan is a tidy performer. Cornering is good, but push hard and the predictable understeer surfaces.
There are also long throws between gears with the manual, and it would be best to sample the automatic option to see which one suits your driving style.
The manual is particularly good in hilly terrain when you have to work the little four-potter hard to maintain momentum.
What do you get?
Given a large proportion of buyers will be Gen X or Y, they'll appreciate the standard features of Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, USB input with iPod connectivity, cruise control and steering wheel audio controls.
For those who travel long distances a full size spare is optional.
It also has a five-star ANCAP safety rating with six airbags, electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes, brake assist and traction control.
While the hatch market has a swag of contenders, the sedan market is reasonably narrow. Others worth taking a look at are the Hyundai Accent ($16,990), Honda City ($18,490), Nissan Almera ($16,990) and the Kia Rio Si ($21,690).
Holden has an excellent dealer network, so servicing should be easy and at the lower end of the costs scale. Insurance should also be affordable.
Fuel consumption is reasonable, but not class-leading, hovering just under seven litres for every 100km.
Open the boot and it's surprisingly large. It can cope with the weekly family shopping trip with ease.
The back seats also have a 60-40 fold but they don't drop into the floor, sitting about 15cm higher than the boot floor when collapsed.
There are also three child seat anchorage points which are easy to access on the parcel shelf.
Changes to the Barina's external lines last year provided a much more masculine appeal. The aggressive headlights, large rear tail lights and cool creases on the bonnet make for an attractive little package.
What matters most
The good stuff: Muscular exterior lines, storage options and excellent boot space.
What we'd like to see: Less interior hard plastics, slightly more performance punch.
Warranty and servicing: Three years/100,000km and one year of roadside assist. The complimentary inspection is due at 3000km or three months (whichever occurs first). The first service is due at 15,000km or 12 months (whichever occurs first) and then every 15,000km or 12 months.
Model: Holden Barina CD.
Details: Four-door compact front-wheel drive sedan.
Engine: 1.6-litre DOHC 16 valve four-cylinder petrol generating maximum power of 76kW @ 5800rpm and peak torque of 145Nm @ 3600rpm.
Transmission: Five-speed manual.
Consumption: 6.8 litres/100km (combined average).
Bottom line: $16,490 (plus on-roads).
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