Garry Fabian road tests and reviews the 2014 Holden Barina RS.
The latest model of the Holden Barina RS is the satisfying and fun-loving runabout the affordable city car that it always should have been.
After a 28-year life cycle in Australia, Holden has now added a bit more fun in the form of a new 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine and sportier driving dynamics.
The resulting 103kW and 200Nm power output makes the RS ‘the most powerful Barina ever’, according to Holden. But in reality, its enhanced driving dynamics and subtle power improvements have essentially generated a more rounded run-about rather than an all-out sporty hatch.
There are subtle touches which elevate the latest model in the series. Beefed-up front disc brakes, a single bulbous exhaust tip, racy RS interior and 17-inch alloy wheels are among the list of standard accessories.
A ride height 10mm lower than the regular Barina ensures a more athletic road stance and additional body stiffening; increased spring rates and stiffer shock absorbers have been added for a sportier ride. Rear disc brakes assume the place of the standard Barina’s conventional drum setup.
In addition, Holden engineers have re-calibrated the steering package, reducing the lock to lock ratio to 2.3 turns and ensuring a more communicative response at the hands.
The result is a fairly well balanced package; though to be frank, the RS isn’t in the same league as the similarly-minded rivals.
One redeeming feature of the drive-train is that it will achieve close to its claimed 6.5L/100km consumption figure, though it does require premium unleaded.
Other than a fidgety toggle switch on the gear selector, there is no way of keeping the engine singing higher in the rev spectrum. A pair of steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters and a sports driving mode would definitely make the drive a lot more endearing.
The six-speed auto tends to hunt for gears during enthusiastic driving – feeling more at home during regular duties – while the equivalent six-speed manual offers a smooth shift and reasonable throw.
Where the RS does shine is undoubtedly in its ride and handling. Unlike some of the current hot hatch crop, there are no unwelcome levels of firmness in its ride and it feels much more compliant during daily driving.
The steering is equally pleasing, responding well to changes in direction and feeling silky smooth at the hands.
Inside, the RS receives leather appointed seats, leather wrapped steering wheel with red stitching and sporty RS logos
The general cabin design feels fairly generic and cheap, with flat seats and hard plastics with poor fitment in some areas. There are ample storage and cubby holes for front seat passengers, but barely any options for rear seat occupants.
There are some interesting comfort omissions too, including no vanity mirror lights for the driver or passenger, no driver foot rest, no centre console or arm rest to lean on and only one small interior light positioned near the rear view mirror.
The RS retains a healthy element of practicality, with five doors, ample passenger space in each of its five seats and a 290-litre boot. A full steel spare wheel is available as an option if you’re against the idea of the standard inflation kit.
The RS scores a five-star safety rating with six airbags, electronic stability control, traction control and ABS among its key features.
What the Barina does provide is a fun and affordable entry into the base performance market. It’s more tepid than hot, but still a very respectable offering in the price range.
Engine: 1.4 litre four-cylinder turbo producing 103kW and 200Nm
Transmission: Five-speed manual or six-speed automatic
Safety: Five stars
Origin: South Korea
Price: From $20,990