More room but sporty Kia Picanto needs more vroom!
The all-new Kia Picanto is roomier, bolder and even more appealing but a new turbo engine will really deliver on the promise of sportier new models, says motoring editor Andy Russell.
With motorists down-sizing to smaller cars, their importance to any manufacturer gets bigger.
City cars are brands’ smallest, but no longer bargain-basement, models. Modern motorists want small-car running costs but don’t want to sacrifice creature comforts of larger models. It’s a message Kia has taken on board with the third-generation Picanto.
Looks and image
This Picanto may look similar at first glance but it’s actually all new.
It’s no longer or wider but the front and back wheels are further apart for more cabin space, a short front overhang gives it a squatter, sportier stance and a longer rear overhang boosts boot space.
Bolder styling, an interior improved in both look and quality and sportier-styled new GT-Line and GT-Line S models also make this Picanto feel more grown up.
Under the bonnet
The revised 66hp, 1.0-litre, three-cylinder and 83bhp 1.25-litre, four-cylinder petrol engines at launch will be joined by a 99bhp 1.0-litre turbo by the end of the year.
The 83bhp doesn’t feel much perkier than the smaller unit but doesn’t need to be worked so hard – just as well as it doesn’t rev freely. It cruises at 70mph but, with no sixth gear and the engine spinning at just over 3,000rpm, the constant buzz is wearing.
It’s frugal at around 50mpg, just as well with a small 35-litre tank, and the introduction of the 100PS 1.0-litre turbo petrol engine on sportier GT Line models will be the icing on the cake.
How it drives
As small city cars go, the Picanto does a fine job of soaking up bumps and lumps – good news with the drain covers, roadwork scars and speed bumps of urban driving.
You won’t feel short-changed on a twisty rural routes either. Close to the road, with the wheels pushed out to the corners, it feels stable and well planted through corners which keeps body roll in check. It makes up for its lack of pace by not having to shed speed through the corners but road noise is noticeable.
Space and comfort
The Picanto is bigger inside and, while not as roomy in the back as some rivals, it’s easy to forget this is still a city car. It’s ideal for children in the back and can carry four average-sized adults, provided those up front give up some of their legroom, but you wouldn’t want to be a third passenger squeezed on the rear bench.
The boot grows from 200 to a class-best 255 litres which makes it far more practical. GT-Line S gets a removable dual-height boot floor ideal to create a flush load platform with the 60/40 rear seat backs folded flat.
At the wheel
There are a lot of hard plastics, but the fit and finish are good, big, clear dials and sensible, straightforward switches and controls and the black and red faux leather seats look smart but can get warm on hot days.
Higher-spec models get a seven-inch ‘floating’ touchscreen high up on the centre fascia for navigation, infotainment and connectivity.
What lets it down is the driving position with a steering wheel that adjusts only for height and, even on range-topping GT-Line S, you can’t raise or lower the driver’s seat.
Avoid ‘1’ trim when ‘2’ adds air-conditioning, electric back windows and mirrors, Bluetooth with music streaming and alloy wheels.
Trim ‘3’ gets bigger 15in alloys, autonomous emergency braking, front foglights, electric folding mirrors, climate control, cruise control, DAB radio, rear parking camera and sensors and that touchscreen with sat-nav.
GT-Line highlights include 16in alloys, sports bumpers and side sills, dual exhaust, rear privacy glass, red and black faux leather seats and LED daytime running lights while GT-Line S gains the touchscreen.
The Picanto is a popular city car, rightfully so, but the roomier new model makes it more practical, while sportier models boost its dynamic appeal – that turbo engine will be the icing on the cake.
TECH AND SPEC
Price: Kia Picanto GT-Line S 1.25 £13,950 (range from £9,450)
Engine: 1,248cc, 83bhp, four-cylinder petrol
Performance: 0-60mph 11.6 seconds; top speed 107mph
MPG: Urban 47.9; extra urban 74.3; combined 61.4
CO2 emissions: 106g/km
Benefit-in-kind tax rate: 20%
Insurance group: 10 (out of 50)
Warranty: Three years or 60,000 miles
Will it fit in the garage? L 3,595mm; W (excluding door mirrors) 1,595mm; H 1,485mm