Despite its spicy sounding name, the Kia Picanto started life in 2004 as a fairly bland looking albeit cheaply priced and decently equipped city car. The second version in 2011 took full advantage of the Korean brand s design awakening, famed German scribbler Peter Schreyer (he designed the original Audi TT, among other things) lending the company s output some much-needed Euro flair and credibility. Schreyer s signature move was the introduction of the firm s tiger nose grille, which has become familiar over time but was a bold look when it was first unveiled.
If the second-generation car was on the way up, the third version of the tiny runabout is meeting itself on the way back down changes between iterations were limited to freshening up detail tweaks, a mark that there are barely any profits to be had in the city car segment. Especially from cars powered by ghastly petrol engines. Kia s only real answer as rivals go electric has been to introduce stop/start tech to the range, so there s not much under the bonnet worth boasting about.
It s a bit of a shame that more people haven t switched on to the Picanto, though it shows up to the small car party with pep and fizz that few of its rivals can muster. It s a hoot to drive around town and plenty practical enough for day-to-day urban life. Take it further afield on longer journeys and you ll bump into some of the car s shortcomings, but it s never been billed as a long-distance cruiser. Although it perhaps falls short in terms of outright quality and dynamics, the car has a lot in its favour, especially when it comes to taking the chore out of everyday city driving.
The Picanto range has impressive breadth 1, 2 and 3-spec cars begin the selection, the former kicking off proceedings at 10,995 and advertising its electric front windows, USB port and Bluetooth with pride. As with most cars, the entry models grab the headlines with their low, low prices, but the sweet spot is higher up the spec list as more of the good stuff becomes available.
The pricier X-Line and X-Line S options sit 15mm higher and come with a few extra bits of cladding stuck on the outside for that faux-SUV look (and a slightly higher hip point for the bingo crowd) Kia will have you believe a tube of glue and some grey plastic will turn a supermini like the Picanto into a crossover, but let s not get carried away with ourselves.
At the top of the price sheet you ve got the GT-Line and GT-Line S cars, which bring the toys and personalisation options that the kids love so much. In fact the top spec cars offer features that you re surprised to see at this end of the market options include automatic aircon, cruise control, wireless phone charger, heated seats and wheel, keyless go and a reversing camera. Like with the X-Line cars, we re supposed to believe that a reprofiled bumper and a few red accents will make a car sporty. Actually the engine makes the biggest difference here, more on which next.
The equipment levels might be baffling, but the engine selection really isn t there s only the single 1.0-litre 3cyl engine available for the Picanto, with five-speed manual or five-speed automatic option. In all but GT-Line guise the motor produces an adequate 66bhp, while the top trim gives you the option of turbocharging the petrol unit for a spicier 99bhp. It s still not quick, that engine drags the Picanto s 0 60mph effort below 10 seconds by the skin of its teeth.
The Picanto s single engine option might seem a bit meagre on paper, but in practice it s a great little engine that suits the Picanto s peppy character. Of course, if you re in anything approaching a rush, the only option is to go for the higher powered turbo version of the engine in the GT-Line and GT-Line S specs. The 66bhp motor only manages 0 60mph in 14.1secs in manual guise and the automatic does it in a glacial 16.6secs. Unleash the 99bhp monster and you ll get there in 9.9secs. Phew.
It doesn t feel quite so slow in real terms it s not like we re all drag racing out there and the Picanto does its city car job well, with plenty of verve for dashing about town, the 3cyl motor happy to rev as long as you re happy to indulge the noise. Kia has balanced the engine well, and there s minimal evidence of the sort of vibration that early downsized three-pots suffered from. Warm up your gear changing arm and keep your right foot pinned, that seems to do the trick.
It s easy to get comfortable behind the wheel and the driving controls are all sensibly laid out the Picanto is perfect as a first car for those building up their hours on the road or for someone who just wants to jump in and go. The Picanto nails its brief, but where similar cars occasionally go beyond that the Volkswagen Up and Hyundai i10 are surprisingly good companions on longer journeys the Kia s talents essentially stop there. Over city speeds the weedier 66bhp Picanto runs out of puff and starts to fall back. Motorway and A-road driving is about conserving momentum, and at any rate the somewhat elevated cabin noise does encourage you to maintain a more sedate pace. Noise dampening is the preserve of fancier rivals.
The more powerful T-GDi can only be found in the GT-Line and GT-Line S cars and comes with the same set of five-speed transmissions, but that 9.9secs 0 60mph time is in a different league, and the car benefits from the extra power. You might even consider the odd overtake on a particularly long stretch of motorway. This version of the car is the only one to sneak over the tonne mark at 1,030kg the others all tip the scales around the 980kg mark.
So many cars have got bloated and overweight these days whichever version you re in, a lot of the Picanto s driving enjoyment comes from its low weight. Steering is sharp and the car has a great chuckable feel to it that makes city driving a blast.
On The Inside
The first thing to check on the Picanto is how many seats you re expecting only the X-Line models come with five seats, the others are all four-seaters. Worth knowing if you re expecting to give four friends a lift anywhere, although as with any city car, the three in the back might not remain on speaking terms if you keep them there for too long.
The Picanto is good value, but that doesn t mean that the interior feels cheap. Yes, there are durable plastics inside, but you never feel that Kia s skimped on the cabin. The higher up the spec sheet you go you ll get interior colour accents, fancy fabrics and the like. From 3-spec upwards the Picanto comes with an 8.0-inch floating central touchscreen that brings a bit of excitement to the dashboard.
In fact, the 1 and 2-grade models are probably best reserved for dedicated penny pinchers those cars get two and four speakers respectively to go with the audio system (other models get six speakers) and have to make do with a miserly 3.8-inch monochrome display, which does at least have DAB radio installed. You ll also miss out on a centre console with armrest and the 1-grade car misses out on air conditioning.
Not all of the touchscreen-equipped cars come with satnav, but they do all get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which is an added convenience.
Also useful are the plenty little places for storage around the cabin, which makes it a more practical day-to-day proposition. The door bins will take bottles, there s space under the central armrest and a couple of shelves built into the centre stack of the dashboard.
The button-to-dash ratio has been kept under control in fact most of them seem to have wandered over to the multifunction steering wheel, which is familiar from other Kias and actually quite useful, ensuring that you don t have to take your hands off the wheel too often.
Kia claims a class best boot size for the Picanto its 255 litres is certainly very impressive for a city car. It ll certainly swallow a weekly supermarket shop, but you won t be volunteering to drive to the airport too often. That boot extends to 1,010 litres with the seats down.
The Picanto range looks fairly baffling when you see it all on paper, but it breaks down into bitesize chunks depending on what you re after.
Do you just need a propelled chair or three with rain protection and low running costs? The entry-level 1-spec car starts the range at 11,000, opt for a lease deal and you can barely get in any new car for less than the base Kia s 152 per month. The most expensive of this trio is the 3 with automatic transmission at 14,670.
The chunkier X-Line models (X-Line and X-Line S, both with either manual or auto boxes) range from 13,650 to 15,720, and cost 10 20 more per month to lease. Of course, all of these models come with Kia s impressive seven-year/100,000-mile warranty that can be transferred between owners for as long as it s still valid.
The sportier looking GT-Line Picantos and the only models to offer the fruitier turbocharged 99bhp T-GDi engine run parallel to the X-Line cars, ranging from 13,650 to 15,800, and will cost from around 170 a month on lease.
Running costs will be nice and low for the Picanto obviously fuel consumption depends on the model and wheel combo you go for, but official figures across the range are impressive. They re around 58mpg for the 1, 2, 3 models, 52mpg for the X-Line and 53mpg for the GT-Line with the more powerful 99bhp version of the 1-litre engine.
VED is much simpler the 1 and 2 cars with manual transmission squeak into the 160 first-year bracket thanks to their 110g/km CO2 emissions, while the rest of the range sits in the 111-130g/km band that costs 180 in the first year. After that, all cars pay 155 for VED (unless they cost over 40,000, but frankly that s all quite dull).
When it comes to insurance groupings, all the Picantos sit within groups 1 to 5, apart from the top-spec GT-Line and GT-Line S Picantos with the 99bhp engine that fall into group 11. Phew.
The Picanto has learned from the likes of the Fiat Panda that drivers will forgive a lot inside a car as long as it s presented in a fun way and is cheap to run. For a first car or something that s just needed as a runabout, you couldn t go at all wrong with the Picanto. It s fun, frugal and feels like great value for money.
Perhaps we re just getting old, but with the GT-Line models aimed so overtly at younger drivers, we d probably plump for the X-Line crossover , which loses none of the urban driving entertainment or decent level of equipment, but does offer a slightly more supple ride thanks to its lofty 15mm height boost.
The Kia Picanto is an impressive all-rounder, and recent tweaks have only served to make it a more enticing prospect.
Source : https://topgear.com/car-reviews/kia/picanto