The small hatch segment of the market is up there with SUVs in terms of competition, and the Barina continues to hold its own, thanks to good looks and zippy performance.

The mid-spec CDX is targeted at young buyers able to fork out around $20,000 for a first car and who want a few extras.

A basic seven-inch touch screen at the centre of the dash features Holden’s MyLink entertainment system, with built-in apps such as Pandora and TuneIn to let you stream music, and BringGo for access 3D maps. This is a common feature in Holdens.

The radio has decent sound quality, and you can easily play your own music via Bluetooth or a USB. The music even keeps playing when you turn off the ignition, until you open the door – this is unlike a lot of new cars, particularly those with keyless start.

Inside

The interior is very modular, starting with the gauges and warning lights, which are all in a little plastic container that is plonked on the dashboard in front of the steering wheel. It has a big, round analog rev counter, with the rest of the info, including speed, fuel contents, odometer and selected gear, in a neat blue LDC display.

The whole unit looks a bit odd at first, but I couldn’t help admire its simplicity.

The plastic continues throughout the cabin, particularly down the centre of the dashboard and central console, much of it in a faux-metal finish, including the air vents. The seats are reasonably comfortable, with plenty of legroom in the front, and you’ll easily fit two adult passengers in the back. The mid-spec CDX has heated front seats.

The boot is average for a hatch, but it will easily fit a trolley full of shopping or a couple of medium-sized suitcases. Needless to say, the back seats go down for extra cargo space.

Good looks

The Barina’s styling has universal appeal. The front has nice angular lines leading to double headlights, and the grille looks like its bigger Holden stablemates.

The CDX’s look is bolstered by fog lamps and attractive 17-inch alloy wheels. The only drawback in styling is a low front bumper, which tends to scrape speed humps or bollards.

The rear looks pretty good, but the sleek-looking back window limits vision, and while the rearview camera compensates for this when parking, this isn’t available in the base model CD.

Performance

The Barina travels well even with the automatic transmission. The 1.6 litre engine gives more than enough power to get up hills or pass trucks. You’ll get about 700kms on a full tank.

The Barina sits in the middle of the small car range, both in terms of price and quality. The base model CD comes for about $15,000, with an extra $7000 for the CDX features.

Something in between with just a few options, including the reverse camera, would be a winner.