Holden Barina SRi XC

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Keywords: holden, 2002 holden barina sri
Description: NRMA's Car Review of the 2002 Holden Barina SRi reveals an attractive package with superior performance, handling and more equipment than standard models.

Following on from the introduction of the new-look XC series 1.4 litre Barina in February 2001, Holden has rejoined the 'hot' hatch market with the release of the 1.8 litre three-door SRi version.

Between 1994 and 1998, the 1.6 litre GSi Barina offered a sportier alternative to standard model Barinas, but with a pricing premium of around $10,000, the GSi was never a big seller.

By comparison, the SRi version comes to market at $21,190 which is $6,500 more than the base three-door manual Barina. Back in 1995, the GSi Barina had a new price of $24,760, so the new model is definitely a more attractive buy.

Not only is the new SRi a better priced buy compared to the old GSi model, it is also more powerful, more refined and better equipped.

The SRi has a 1.8 litre DOHC 16 valve engine that produces 90 kW of power (or 92 kW if you choose to use premium unleaded petrol) and that's up 39 per cent on the standard 1.4 litre Barina powerplant.

Complementing its higher performance capabilities, the SRi is equipped with anti-lock brakes, traction control, sports suspension, 15-inch alloy wheels with low profile tyres, and a revised close ratio five-speed manual gearbox.

Exterior touches include a body kit with deep front spoiler (that's easy to scrape on spoon drains and the like!), side body skirts, a rear roof spoiler, and front and rear foglamps.

The SRi's interior gets sports front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and silver metallic detailing. Cruise control is standard, as are driver and front passenger airbags, speed-sensitive electric power assisted steering, a Blaupunkt sound system with CD player and steering wheel controls, remote central locking with two-stage unlocking, and an engine immobiliser. All seating positions are equipped with a head restraint and a lap/sash seat belt.

Though that's a good list of standard equipment, power adjustable exterior mirrors aren't included, nor are power windows. Barina prices do not include airconditioning ($1,870) or metallic paint finish ($235).

The XC model Barina's smooth lines and good looks are enhanced in the SRi version with its bigger wheels, wider track, lower stance and body kit all signalling its sporty intent.

Inside the SRi, the sports front seats are well bolstered to provide effective support during cornering, however from a personal viewpoint I didn't find them to be comfortable, nor was the driving position ideal. Front space is adequate, both in terms of leg room and head room.

The rear seat is best suited to children, with limited leg room, head room and cushion width. Rear seat comfort is also fairly basic. As is common in many three-door hatches, the rear side windows don't open.

Luggage space is adequate for a vehicle of this size and the rear seat backrest can be folded in a 60/40 split when longer items need to be carried.

Aside from the brake and clutch pedals being positioned rather close together, and the turn signal lever being on the left side of the column, the Barina SRi's control layout is generally well positioned and straightforward to use. The instrument panel features black markings on a white background and the dials are both easy on the eye and clear to monitor.

The larger capacity, more powerful engine in the SRi Barina makes a world of difference in terms of performance compared to the standard 1.4 litre models.

The SRi test car sliced seconds off all acceleration times posted by an XC three-door manual Barina tested in March last year.

But even more pleasing is the way the increased engine torque and the close ratio gearbox combine to provide much stronger mid-range response than in the standard Barinas. This means you don't have to be changing gears constantly if you don't feel so inclined.

Perhaps because of its ability to hold the higher gears longer, the 1.8 litre SRi used only fractionally more fuel overall than the previously tested 1.4 litre XC Barina.

One aspect of the Barina SRi's performance that wasn't quite so pleasing was the amount of engine noise under medium to full acceleration. It gets a bit tiring after a while.

The Barina has always been a good handling car and the changes to the SRi's suspension set-up have enhanced these qualities. The SRi has a distinctively sporty feel and is both safe and fun.

The downside to the SRi's good handling is its ride. Firm is fine (and expected in a sports hatch) but the SRi's ride is harsh at times and may not please some owners.

The Holden Barina SRi is an attractive little package that compared to standard model Barinas, offers stronger performance, superior handling, more equipment and a sportier look.

On size and price, the Barina SRi's main competitor is the Toyota Echo Sportivo, however the SRi clearly outperforms the Sportivo. Hot hatches such as the Peugeot GTi and Renault Clio Sports offer higher performance but they cost considerably more than the Barina SRi.



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