Holden Barina is a small car that has been around in Australia in one form or another
since 1985. Interestingly its name is a local Aussie one, being aboriginal for Summit.
A virtually all-new Barina was introduced in October 2011. We are covering it in this
week’s Used Car Checkout because it’s much more sophisticated than the previous
It has electronically stability program, as well as infotainment technology that included
GM’s MyLink system.
A mild update in November 2016 saw changes to the exterior and interior. Interestingly,
the exterior changes were carried penned in Holden’s design centre in Melbourne.
Barinas tend to be used only for suburban and city running in Australia, but in the
European manner they perform well in country running. You’re probably best not to buy
one if you’re doing any dirt road driving.
Most are used by single or couples, but we have seen some working well as small
family cars. Space in the front seats is fine for a car of its size, but rear seat legroom is
restricted unless those in the front seats give up some of their space. The best system
is for the smallest person in the rear to sit behind the driver with the front passenger
and a taller person in the left side of the car.
Boot space isn’t particular good, after all this is a relatively small car. The rear-seat
backrests can be folded down to increase cargo room. Sedans have a much larger
boot than the hatchbacks because they are quite a bit longer.
Holden Barinas being reviewed here are five-door hatches and four-door sedans.
All are powered by a 1.6-litre naturally-aspirated four-cylinder engine driving the front
Though the engine is relatively small, performance isn’t too bad because of the
relatively light weight of the Barina. Try for yourself if you are likely to be carrying
largish loads or driving in hilly conditions.
If you enjoy driving you will like the later model Barinas because there’s quite a bit
Aussie engineering in the way the car’s suspension is tuned. Fit a good set of tyres and
you will find yourself in a low-cost machine that’s enjoyable to drive.
Five-speed manual gearboxes are probably the best bet as they have less power loss
through the transmission. But you are going to be doing a lot of heavy-duty commuting
you may prefer an automatic. The six-speed auto is not too bad for its type.
Spare parts prices are generally favourable and there are Holden dealers in virtually all
areas of Australia. Those in remote country areas are unlikely to stock every Barina
part, so you may have to wait for parts to be shipped from a major city.
Barinas are reasonably easy for amateur mechanics to service and repair, though the
underbonnet area is on the crowded side and work can be frustrating at times. Buying a
workshop manual makes a lot of sense.
Leave anything related to safety to the professionals, though.
The Holden Barina was discontinued in 2018. History tells us this was part of Holden’s
plan to eventually pull out of Australia.
Holdens may not be sold new here anymore, which is very sad but one-time dealers
continue to provide spare parts and servicing for existing cars. We suggest you contact
your local dealer and speak to the service manager for information.
Insurance charges are usually in the lower end of the scale and there doesn’t seem to
be a major difference in prices from company to company. Shop around, but be sure to
make accurate comparisons.
We always suggest that having a long record with one insurer may stand you in good
stead if there’s some sort of a marginal claim.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
With the engine complete cold remove the radiator cap and check there no oily look in
Check the engine dipstick for oil level. If it’s too low it could be a lack of overall
maintenance on the car, or that the engine is burning oil. The latter could mean an
overhaul is due.
Dark colour on the dipstick could mean the oil hasn’t been changed for a long time.
The engine should start reasonably quickly and immediately idle smoothly.
After it has been idling for a minute or so, flatten the accelerator pedal and look for a
puff of smoke from the exhaust. This could indicate serious engine wear.
Make very fast gearchanges on a manual gearbox. If it baulks or crunches, particularly
on third-to-second downchanges it may be on the way out.
Automatics that are rough in their changes or which change too frequently, may be due
for an overhaul.
Look for and feel for front tyres that are worn unevenly. This could be caused by
something as simple as poor wheel alignment, but it could also mean the body has
been twisted in a crash.
Budget on paying from $2000 to $5000 for a 2011 Holden Barina Classic; $4000 to
$7000 for a 2013 CDX or a 2015 X; $6000 to $10,000 for a 2015 CD or a 2016 RS;
$8000 to $13,000 for a 2017 CDX; $9000 to $14,000 for a 2016 LT; and $10,000 to
$15,000 for a 2018 LT.
CAR BUYING TIP
Have a friend go with you to the used car dealer, they can listen to the spiel of the sales
person while you look around the cars without being hassled.
RECALLS: To browse recalls on all vehicles go to the ACCC at: