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Future models - Holden - Barina Spark

Barina to Spark Sydney show

Green machine: The Barina Spark will become Holden's most economical vehicle, sipping petrol at a rate of 5.6L/100km.

Holden’s long-awaited sub-B baby leads its 2010 AIMS assault

8 Oct 2010

THE baby Holden whose career will be closely scrutinised by Ford, Hyundai, Kia, Volkswagen, Toyota and others is now a reality.

The MJ Barina Spark – the smallest car to wear the Lion logo – will star on Holden’s Australian International Motor Show stand in Sydney late next week.

To slot beneath the continuing TK Barina, pricing for the modish five-door hatchback will be revealed on press day (October 15). But expect the base CD model to kick off from around $12,000, as Holden takes on the increasingly popular Suzuki Alto.

Like the latter, which is built in India by Suzuki partner Maruti, the Spark’s keen pricing is due partly to a low-cost manufacturing source: GM DAT of South Korea.

13 center imageFrom top: Holden Barina Spark instrument panel, 2007 Chevrolet Beat concept, Holden sales, marketing and aftersales executive director John Elsworth.

Nevertheless, little is left to be desired in terms of equipment levels, with even the base CD model boasting electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes, six airbags, air-conditioning, remote central locking, alloy wheels, fog lights, a body kit and a rear spoiler. The up-spec CDX is expected to add niceties such as improved media connectivity.

Originally unveiled at the 2009 Geneva motor show and based on the new GM Gamma II transverse engine/front-drive architecture that will eventually spawn the next-generation Opel Corsa platform, the M300/MJ Spark is a direct replacement for the Daewoo Matiz, which was sold in Australia from 1999 to 2004.

Under the stubby snout is a 1.2-litre twin-cam four-cylinder petrol engine – as opposed to the Alto’s 1.0-litre three-cylinder unit – mated solely to a five-speed manual gearbox (for now). As North America is believed to be an eventual destination for this car, an automatic gearbox is thought to be in the pipeline.

Presumably until the Volt bolts breaks through Australia’s borders, the Spark will be the company’s most economical vehicle, returning 5.6 litres per 100km according to the ADR81/02 combined cycle (Alto: 4.8L/100km).

Holden is saving the Spark’s power and torque figures for Sydney, but in Germany the Chevrolet version with a similar Euro 5-emissions-meeting 1206cc engine delivers 60kW of power at 6400rpm and 111Nm of torque at 4800rpm (Alto 1.0L: 50kW/90Nm). Unsurprisingly, rapid acceleration isn’t its forte – the 0-100km/h dash takes 12.1 seconds.

Don’t fret though. Holden seems to have spared us the 50kW/93Nm 1.0L version offered elsewhere that needs 15.5 seconds to hit the same speed.

First mooted at the 2007 New York International Auto Show as a trio of General Motors baby concept cars, it came into being after a US-wide internet poll saw the Chevy Beat – as the Spark concept was known at the time – score nearly 50 per cent of the vote against the other two (Trax and Groove).

With its loud colours, contemporary exterior design and funky cabin presentation, Holden’s sales, marketing and aftersales executive director John Elsworth expects the Spark to boost the brand’s standing among younger buyers.

“This is a very style-conscious market and with Barina Spark we have a really fresh and energetic design that breaks the “cute car” mould,” he said.

“It’s fun, fuel efficient and offers class- leading safety features and value for money in the best Holden tradition.”

So why are so many competitive marques so keen to see how the Spark sells? GoAuto hears that the future of a cornucopia of similarly sized sub-B superminis earmarked for Australia – including the Hyundai i10 and Volkswagen Up! – depend on how the public reacts to the dinkiest Holden.

Will the Spark live up to its name? Watch out for our first drive report on October 20 to find out.

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