1994 Holden Barina SB GSi 1.6 16v from Australia and New Zealand


A worthy consideration when looking at the hot hatch market


My air-conditioning compressor seal started leaking at 165,000km. Rather extensive repair required as part of the sub frame of the car needs to be dropped in order to get to the compressor.

Condenser needed replacing due to small leak at approximately 150,000km.

Due to the fact the vehicle is fitted with factory Recaro bucket seats, the lower side bolsters are inclined to wear over time due to passengers pivoting on the seat as they enter and exit.

Vehicle had a factory recall to fix a structural fault with the seat rails.

Dash light bulbs have blown on occasion. Apparently a common problem.

Rear wheel bearings have needed replacing twice.

Generally a reliable car. No major repair issues.

General Comments:

Generally a very good small hot hatch. Rather underrated in my opinion.

Handles well (but not as well as some cars in this class). Has similar driving characteristics to a large car on open motorways. Tends to under-steer when pushed hard into corners although it remains predictable. Also prone to lift off over-steer. Steering can be a little vague.

Fantastic fuel economy. Out of a 45 litre tank I average around 600km city driving.

Vehicle parts seem to be very expensive (which I put down to the fact the vehicle is an import model in Australia).

Air conditioning system is not one of the best around, but it does the job.

16 valve motor is lovely, with fantastic top end performance. Loves to rev hard and engines are known to be highly tunable. I believe Cos worth and Lotus had some design input into the early motors fitted to this car. However, these engines are known to snap cambelts if not maintained properly.

Nicely designed interior although some people would feel the seat cloth is a little dated. Clear, ergonomic dashboard layout.

Try to find one of the earlier GSi's fitted with the factory body kit. Later models had the bodykit deleted and lack the sporty look.

A good little hot hatch that performs extremely well and deserves a little more credit than it is generally given.

My vehicle was factory fitted with air-conditioning, power steering, Anti-lock braking system, power steering, electric/heated mirrors and a 60-40 split fold rear seat. Some GSi's came with electric windows, electronically adjustable headlight levels and a sunroof, but these were mostly sold on the European market.

Things to watch out for when buying are rust around the tailgate spoiler, cracks in the vehicle B-pillars and any strange noises coming from the engine. These cars need to be well maintained so look for a full service history.

Generally dissapointed with service from Holden dealerships. Then again, I think most people are generally unhappy with after sales service from any dealership.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 4th April, 2003

14th Oct 2005, 01:59

Hi there.

I am wanting to replace the water pump for my 1994 Holden Barina... any guidance on how hard a job it is to complete?

Email me on nicholasandnicole@hotmail.com.

13th Feb 2006, 04:43

This is a very poor make and model of car, sold cheap with parts sales to cover costs.

18th Feb 2015, 08:11

I own a Holden SB Barina 1994 GSI. So I can tell you how hard that job is.

I had a little problem with the bearings and rings in the motor. So I took it to a mechanic, and after he's gone through and replaced all that needed, the water pump crumbled in his hands, so he needed to replace that... After I paid, the mechanic wanted nothing to do with this type of car again...

Yes it's a very difficult job getting the motor out, as it's not very roomy in the engine bay. Not like all the other cars out there.

1994 Holden Barina SB 1.4 petrol from Australia and New Zealand


Solid, resonably reliable performer


The gearbox emitted a low whine when idling - repaired under warranty. The aftermarket airconditioning system never worked particularly well and needed some attention under warranty. Several other minor problems, leaks and build quality issues arose. The front sway bar bushes were always noisy and required several visits to the dealer for lubrication and replacement. This is also a recurrent problem on later models.

General Comments:

The car is great for around the city and performs reasonably well on the open road. It is light on fuel on the open road, but a bit thirsty in traffic (for a small engined car). Running costs for this car are low provided one is able to rectify build quality issues and recurrent problems during the warranty period.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 7th June, 2002

13th Feb 2006, 04:51

I have never read about a car needing repairs under warranty more in my life.