The Holden Spark's 1.2 litre engine is an honest worker, although struggles on the big hills.
The Holden Spark's 1.2 litre engine is an honest worker, although struggles on the big hills. Contributed

Spark a fun and flirty compact

APPARENTLY GenY women want, and intend to, have it all. Well, that's what the latest research claims anyway. A great career, a storybook family and personal satisfaction. Balance is the buzzword and the bigger picture is governed by the need to find that equilibrium.

They have tremendous entrepreneurial spirit and think nothing of mowing the lawn or changing a tyre.

They can mix a killer cocktail but more than half of them can't cook a roast, hem their clothes or iron a shirt. And perhaps the statistic that will send shockwaves around the nation... only 4% can bake a lamington.

It is this group of high-achieving non-bakers that Holden had in its sights when it released the Spark – a zippy, sexy mode of transport that can also double as a fashion accessory.


The snazzy seat trim and motorcycle instrumentation may do enough to detract from the close confines. There is certainly room up front but trying to fit three adults in the back, especially with a sloping roofline, is hopeful. But as that was never the intent, the Barina sparkles in other ways. There are storage nooks and crannies aplenty, a bit like that much-loved handbag, and the console is cleverly laid out.

The instrument cluster is attached to the steering column so it adjusts should you raise and lower the sporty three-spoke wheel, which by the way, is nicely weighted with a solid feel.

As you would expect, boot space is limited – a largish overnight bag or three environmental bags of groceries is about the limit. It does grow to 570 litres with the rear seats folded.

On the road

The 1.2-litre four cylinder engine holds its own in the confines of city streets with looming office blocks but struggles for breath up hills with anything over third gear, sometimes second, just wishful thinking.

It's gutsy on the open road provided you don't need any sudden bursts of acceleration. Tyre noise is minimal and it is responsive in the turn.

The Spark does come into its own around town and parking, even in the tightest of spots, is a breeze.

What do you get?

The Spark is pretty competitive with other offerings on the market with remote keyless entry, USB and iPod AUX input, steering mounted audio controls and 15-inch alloys. The standard safety package sets the Spark apart from the rest with six airbags, Electronic Stability Control and anti-lock brakes.

Other contenders

Competition in this segment is of an organic nature with the Suzuki Alto ($11,700), Nissan Micra ($13,990), Hyundai Getz ($14,990), Proton Savvy ($13,990) and Kia Rio ($14,990) all there or thereabouts.

The Spark is extremely practical for the demographic it is hoping to attract. It looks good both inside and out, is easy enough to drive and has a good safety package. Perhaps a negative is that the Spark is available only with a manual gearbox at present and its popularity will depend on how many women don't mind that fact.

Running costs

Apart from the value-for-money driveaway figures, the Spark is also miserly on fuel with the claimed 5.6 litres per 100km right on the mark.

Funky factor

Adventurous styling includes sharp curves, dramatic headlight clusters and integrated rear door handles, which deliver five-door practicality with three-door sportiness. Looks, of course, are subjective but the Spark is a head turner – for all the right reasons.

The low-down

The Spark may not suit everyone's lifestyle but Holden has never intended it to.

When surveyed, Gen Y women were looking for a car that had good interior and exterior design, had all the safety elements, was fun to drive and presented value for money. It is safe to say that Holden has kept true to that wish list.

So, while the Gen Y woman may not know how to bake a lamington, she will look good zipping off to the shops to buy one.

Vital statistics

Model: Holden Barina Spark CDX.

Details: Five-door front-wheel drive small hatch.

Transmission: Four-speed manual.

Engine: 1.2-litre naturally aspirated petrol generating maximum power of 59kW at 6400rpm and peak torque of 107Nm at 4800rpm.

Consumption: 5.6 litres/100km combined average.

Bottom line: $13,990.

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