Two trends continue in the light car sector, engine
downsizing and turbocharging. Can a 1.0-liter three-cylinder turbo Fiesta foot
it with Polo TSI and Barina RS?
Soon enough every car will feature forced induction; most
cars will be turbocharged. We’re close to the tipping point already. Ford and
VW are heading down a totally turbo path. Even atmo stalwarts like Mazda are
admitting to playing with hair dryers. When turbos are attached to miniature
engines to provide a mix of both measured economy and performance, the results
can be impressive. For evidence, look no further than Polo gaining our Car of
the Year in 2010, and Ford’s 999cc triple EcoBoost mill gaining International
Engine of the Year for two years running.
New face of Fiesta
features Aston-esque grille shape
Now the multi-award-winning miniature EcoBoost engine is
available here for the first time, hooked up initially to a six-speed
twin-clutch (or manual) transmission powering face-lifted Fiesta. A few months
earlier, Holden launched its most focused Barina ever, wearing an RS badge, and
powered by a 1.4-litre turbocharged four channeled through a six-speed auto (or
manual) gearbox. No matter which gearbox you choose, both variants cost less
than the Fiesta. And while the Polo is now a slightly different beast from the
one we awarded Car of the Year in 2010, with a bit less puff, it is also priced
more pleasingly below $30,000. We thought it appropriate to bring these boosted
babies together for a full-force face-off.
Try as we might to secure three price and spec competitive
vehicles, the stars didn’t quite align. The Polo would have been better in
$29,990 Highline status, but we were presented with the $34k R-Line variant
instead. It’s the same in essence as the HL version, but gets cosmetic
enhancements, consisting of larger 17-inch alloys and lower profile rubber, a
sports body kit and Alcantara-trimmed seats, adding $3390 to the bottom line.
We’ll try to overlook these add ons for the purpose of this comparison. The RS
Barina in these photos is the manual, whereas the auto which we tested
previously would have matched the other two on the transmission front, and
would have been closer in price too ($27,990 vs. $26,490), and so we have
included the auto’s performance data in this test to try and even things up.
Otherwise, we have a reasonably close comparison, the Fiesta Sport auto
fiscally in the middle of this trio costing $28,840.
Looking like Golf
jnr, Polo in R-Line guise seems quite grown up
Each has a few special features. Barina is the only one to
get non-cloth sports seats, though the leather is faux. The Holden alone also
scores seat heaters, a definite plus for winter. There are also sports pedals
and suspension, and some extra chrome and piano black finishings inside. The
exterior, especially in the hero hot Orange Rock colour, looks a bit spesh,
with 17-inch alloys, a honeycomb grille and RS badging. This is the only
offering with a four-way adjustable steering column, and it also gets a
dedicated iPod glovebox with holder and USB/minijack inputs. Its MyLink system
offers music and entertainment apps too, along with BringGo nav, providing
you’re packing a smart phone. The auto version features a lever-mounted
rocker-switch manual shift system, as does the Ford.
Barina RS the most
muscular looking of the trio
Polo counters with a seven-speed auto (twin-clutch, like the
Ford’s), and a pair of underseat oddments drawers. This and the Barina have a
touch-screen for the audio. All three have manual air con and cruise control. A
tick for trip computers too, but the Ford’s is accessed through the wheel rim
by a thin wand you push repeatedly to scroll through the menu. It seems cheap.
While we’re on that, only the Ford gets drum rear brakes; so much for the Sport
title. All three have five-star crash ratings.