The Holden Barina is not exactly a superstar of the supermini world in New Zealand. In terms of sales it's fifth in segment: by no means unloved but certainly not a shining light for the small-car cause.
The Korean-built Barina is good-looking, inexpensive, large by class standards and very well equipped.
If I had to hazard a guess why it isn't a top seller, I'd say that supermini buyers are a surprisingly sophisticated bunch.
The Barina does well on the basics but it's still the product of a cheap-and-cheerful ethos. Its most successful rivals have less cheesy styling and more dynamic flair: Suzuki Swift and Ford Fiesta, for example.
Where the Barina has potential is the business/fleet market, especially among those wanting to downsize - because it's the right price yet still above average on cabin space and equipment.
That's where the Barina sedan might well push things along. Japanese and Korean carmakers are legendary for taking handsome hatchbacks and turning them into hideous sedans.
The booted Barina is actually not bad because it's a comprehensive makeover, with completely new sheet metal from the B-pillar back (including the rear doors). It's not as quirky as the five-door and deliberately so: note the switch from the fussy taillights of the hatchback to a more traditional lamp design.
Glamorous it's not, but the Barina sedan will make a lot of sense to business buyers. Lots of companies like the dignity of a proper boot and the Barina's is extremely big: at 502 litres, it carries more cargo than a Commodore sedan. Still clearly built down to a budget price, though: note the suitcase-crushing internal hinges.
If such things matter to you, the Barina buyer, the sedan is better to drive than the hatchback: more rigid thanks to the three-box body shape, better-riding and quieter.
At $24,990, the Barina sedan is the same price as the equivalent hatchback and has the same powertrain and level of standard equipment. The 1.6-litre engine is unremarkable (and ancient), although its 85kW output beats just about everything in the class except the Fiesta. What does add some appeal to the Barina is the six-speed automatic gearbox, which is smooth and lively enough to inject a little sparkle into the driving experience. It's a big plus for the little Holden when the top-selling Suzuki Swift still struggles along with a four-speeder.
The Barina's slightly weird interior architecture doesn't suit the more traditional sedan as well as the hatchback, but it's pretty well stocked all the same: front, side and curtain airbags, cruise control, Bluetooth cellphone connectivity and excellent iPod integration.
Booted superminis are a rare thing in New Zealand and there's probably a reason for that. But while we still love our light cars with five doors, there's some good sense in a sedan version of a value-driven small car such as the Barina.By David Linklater Email David