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Holden looks to boost Spark

Power up: The 2013 Chevrolet Spark provides clues to the facelifted Holden Barina Spark that is likely to feature more power and a much-needed auto transmission.

More power on the cards for 2013 Holden Spark, along with auto option

2 Jul 2012

HOLDEN’S slow-selling Barina Spark city car is likely to get a bigger, more powerful engine along with a sorely needed automatic transmission option when it comes in for a refresh later this year, probably at the Australian International Motor Show in Sydney in October.

The hint that more performance might be on offer for the Korean-built Spark comes from the United States where Chevrolet has promised that its version of the five-door hatchback will pack “extra power under the hood with modifications to the engine displacement” when it is finally launched in North America later this year.

The current Spark is sold in Australia and 99 other countries with an asthmatic 1.2-litre four-cylinder engine with just 59kW at 6400rpm and 107Nm at 4800rpm.

Compounding the performance issue is that the engine has been available only with a five-speed manual transmission since being launched locally in 2010.

The lack of an automatic alternative has severely hamstrung sales of the car in a market dominated by auto buyers.

Holden has sold just 742 Barina Sparks in Australia this year, way behind direct light car competitors such as the Nissan Micra (3604 units) and Suzuki Alto (1619). In the five months to the end of May, Spark sales are down 63 per cent, while sales of the one-size bigger Barina are up 113 per cent.

13 center imageFrom top: Chevrolet Spark Holden Barina Spark.

With an automatic transmission coming on stream for Spark, Chevrolet is set to finally launch GM’s smallest model.

The Chevrolet press release does not say how much the Spark’s engine capacity will be increased, and nor does it reveal its power or torque outputs.

However, the changes are likely to also apply to other western markets such as Australia, where Holden has confirmed a Spark upgrade will be announced later this year.

Not so certain for Australia will be the Chevrolet Spark’s refreshed fascia, with Holden likely to stick with its unique design.

Apart from a bigger engine, the North American Spark will also get 15-inch alloy wheels as standard, as well as Hill Start Assist for easy starts on slopes.

The target market – young first-car buyers – will be recognised with a bunch of electronic goodies, including a seven-inch touch-screen with the Chevrolet MyLink infotainment system.

Apart from sat-nav, MyLink also makes it possible to connect a smart phone or other USB device to play movies, display pictures and download contacts for hands-free calling.

Chevrolet makes a big fuss about the impending inclusion of Panic Brake Assist, but this feature is already included in the Holden Barina Spark where it is called Brake Assist.

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