24 February 2013
Meeting the new CDX Barina is about like seeing a familiar face at the bus station for the first time in a while. A high school kid, nice but a bit shy and sometimes scruffy in uniform with tumbledown socks and scuffed shoes, shirt hanging out.
The next time, there's a surly sneer, face piercings - and is that a tatt peering out from under a sleeve? Given the insolent stare from under a lock of hair where there was once shyly-avoided eye contact, you uneasily decide to rethink your public transport choice and drive your car instead..... What's Korean for sanpaku?
The CD Barina is a nice, inoffensive car that's a great value proposition designed for young (mostly) women. Lots of cool things for the plugged generation - MP3, Bluetooth, Lotsa safety kit, six-speed auto available, nothing too revolutionary but a wellmade, uniquely-good-looking with the funky dash and solid piece of kit - with sharp pricing, and good basic driving characteristics. For it's size it's spacious. It scores big points for low cost-to-own, and last year was the cheapest car in it's class to repair in minor fender bender tests conducted by the major motoring organisations; whereas some of it's more-fancied competitors came close to economic write-offs from 20km/h bumps.
The CDX takes those basic virtues, and via a jab in the arm pumps EPO into it's mild manners. It's not so calm, and a bit evil at times; doesn't exactly become the Incredible Hulk, but it definitely gets a green glint in it's eyes and arcs up when prodded with stick.
For the visuals, there's new body garnish with some subtle chrome splashes: with Globe-style, star mags and 17 x 205 x 50 Continental InTraction performance rubber that seems pretty sticky, along with a slightly lower ride height. In addition, the new electric steering is a bit more direct, with what feels like a slightly quicker ratio. The springs and shocks are firmer, and the rollbars I think are stiffer.
The seating surfaces are now a perforated leatherette with heating for the front, more-bolstered seats which are darn good, comfortable and hold you in place - I'd never use it myself but if your cheeks are frosty, it definitely works. There's a leather-wrap sporty steering wheel.
Interior is not a bad place to be, at all. A few more natty touches, like some alloy pedals maybe?
Capping off the interior touches, is GM's new MyLink system. My now gone-to-heaven Xperia was discovered very quickly and worked flawlessly. It also discovered my phonebook, unusually-so for this quirky phone. Having seen it pair almost instantly with an iPad, it seems to work very successfully.
MyLink is limited at present because some of the apps appear not to work in Australia for the moment. But Stitcher worked a treat.
As long as I had my phone enabled for Bluetooth, I could start Stitcher on MyLink by tapping the Apps screen and thereafter the menus drove it. In the three or so days I had it I listened to American webcast radio shows, and the overall data usage seemed to be only a few tens of kilobytes over several hours of usage - didn't even nudge my usage meter on the phone up. Obviously the streaming uses some form of compression.
MyLink seems to work near-instantly and seamlessly without lag or glitch. I look forward to the nav and other functions. No doubt with a potential large group of Chevrolet owners who are i- or Smart- phone users, apps will drop like hailstones from a cold front.
While I wouldn't suggest driving using apps, using the smartphone-style home, menu, back keys and then the touchscreen, it was quick and easy to select phone and radio, or apps. With familiarity, faster than conventional knobs.
Look forward to driving the other versions and seeing it spread the Holden lineup. It will mean more value from your Smartphone, and every time you upgrade, your functionality should improve.
Plus GM only has to supply a good sound system attached to the interface, and if like me you like to save whole soundfiles rather than crap MP3s, you'll get good sound. The sound system in the CDX is actually more than decent.
Seating room is good in front, tight in rear as you might expect. Unusually for a small car, width is generous - not for five, but four can be acquantainces rather than friends.
Of course, the interior upgrades are cool, but they're only part of the CDX story. The underpinnings are upgraded, what about the go department? Mr Holden has been playing, methinks.
Although the ratios and final drive are the same as previous, there is a notable change in driveline behaviour. The Barina CD is a typical modern car, that strives for economy by banging up through the slushbox and locking the converter as quickly as possible. The CDX keeps the changes snappy at a slightly greater interval, but the converter seems to be mapped a lot looser but, oddly, that makes the whole car more responsive. Holden engineers worked with their Korean counterparts to develop this tuning.
Not only does it hold lower gears longer unless you are dawdling, it seems to hold out lock for a longer period. So you get the effect of a high-stall converter, where the engine will quickly spin to a couple of grand with a 'loose' converter instead of trying to rev off near-idle with the converter locked. The same thing happens on the upshift to second. It revs a little harder with some slip before you feel lock.
It's also like slipping a manual clutch a little for a performance start, to get some revs and drive on board when hooking up. It will also operate manually much faster - flicking the shifter rocker activates up/downchanges almost instantly, as long as you aren't shifting into first at 100km/h. It also won't select higher than third at standstill, or let you pull engine revs below idle at slow speed by say, selecting fourth at walking pace. You can now have some fun with it, and be confident it will select a gear somewhere around where you want it to, and when it is useful.
Ideal for a quick morning blat down to the urban transport depot.....
If it weren't for the sticky tyres, it feels like it would chirp the treads on upshifts. I feel the throttle mapping has been altered, as the engine feels more eager to rev than I remember; even though it has the same power and torque ratings as previously.
These are pretty healthy for a naturally-aspirated motor, so performance is somewhat transformed. It has a throaty, growly tone, when getting kinda squirelly I thought was guite pleasing.
The little 1.6 feels quite willing to spin over 6,000rpm. At 60km/h (35mph) it's pulling about 1600rpm in fifth and doesn't need to downshift to take reasonable hills. Top gear at the legal limit is 2200rpm and it will sit in sixth with converter locked up a big hill.
How transformed? Quick enough if you get the holeshot at the lights, you can hold off a bigger four-cylinder car - like the Audi 2.0 CVT A3 who got a nasty shock from the little blue Barina; when he thought he'd blitz it from the lane that died. Of course, it's still a sub-smallcar, so it doesn't have lots of torque for hills, but you can keep it on the boil in two ways: one is, judicious squeezes of the throttle will cause downchanges in a very responsive manner.
This will slot the trans into the right gear for good drive. It already drops gears coming up to corners on the picks, providing notable engine braking; and holds gears when you're on-off the loud pedal in the twisties. It's not perfect, but it is a very sporty setup. If you see-saw the throttle to the floor and back up clumsily , it will drop mutliple gears and it's possible to get it into a muddle. But finesse it slightly, and it produces nice crisp changes for a sporty drive.
Phone function excellent - as good as Holden iQ system.
The good news is, this sporty engine and trans is well-matched by the better seat bolsters, and nicely-balanced handling which is Euro firm. On little sharp edges you can get a bang courtesy of the low-profile tyres and shorter, firmer travel. That is par for the course for this sort of setup.
If you are ham-fisted it won't bite, but will certainly not be at it's best. Some preplanning and smooth but positive input, and it is a little on-rails rocket - it corners flatly, with manners out of proportion to it's humble specification. I would love to punt it at a tight track, like a go-kart circuit. Around town it means a flick takes you past Nuffies double-parking and half-blocking your lane. It's flickability apparently feels alarming from the passenger seat but completely confidence-inspiring from the driver's pew.
Flat floor, good space for it's size with seats up or down.
Secondly, you can use the manumatic function for greater control. I think I'd prefer a tiptronic-style setup, but it does work and your hand falls on the shifter naturally with your thumb on the rocker.
Sedan not my favourite, but better with CDX touches.
I was already inclined to like the Barina, but this new version is about 75% of the way to being a genuine hot hatch. In my opinion, there are only a couple things it needs to be the bona-fide real deal and very possibly a cult car.
If it had the Cruze's rear discs, this would mean less likihood of brake fade from the standard drums, even though they don't do much in themselves to stop the car, they would let the pedal go soft - hasten to add, I didn't experience fade at all. That I think is due to a change to pad compound - the pedal is nice and firm with strong performance, suggesting sportier pads. The wider treads get this braking power down. Stability on the brakes is very good, too. No skatiness. Just for good measure, maybe throw on the larger discs from the diesel Cruze - poor man's Brembos!
Secondly, it just needs the improved 1.8 coming shortly and/or we need an SRi with the 1.4. Previously, the 1.4 turbo wasn't coming out of Bupyeong, but it is now, in the Trax, Mokka and Encore. Now that the Cruze SRi is moving up, there's room for this.
With this little torque monster (and we know that combo is supported in the US-market LTZ Sonics with the electric steering and ESC/TC code) this thing would be a real rocket-powered rollerskate, and a genuine Polo GTI-worrier. Chuck in the sixspeed manual, this would be no mild beep-beep Barina - it would turn into a real chickenhawk! The chassis is now locked-down, the brakes are a bolt-on, the parts are on the shelf. Oh, and a nice stainless polished exhaust tip, or better yet, a bluey/honey titanium unit.
C'mon, Holden - you know you want to! I offer to do the development driving........
- Better, sportier seats. Pleather actually cool and comfortable.
- Now a scalpel in the twisties and tight corners. Good steering feel, balance.
- Marginally improved in economy, but way more fun to punt quickly.
- MyLink on limited exposure works well - easy and intuitive. Great screen, graphics
- Looks the part with 17s and lower ride height.
- Not really expensive considering content.
- Not all may like firmer suspension which can bang on sharp bumps.
- Chassis needs more power to shine - need an SRi, Mr Holden.
- Trans can feel like the Energiser Bunny if driver is clumsy.
- Really love a manual version.
- Should have discs in back.
Claimed Economy - 6.4 L/100km
Price: $20,990 + ORC.