A PINT-SIZED STAR

Kia’s city run­about wins on price and war­ranty, writes RICHARD BERRY

Geelong Advertiser - Motoring - - CARSGUIDE -

KIA’S new­est ar­rival isn’t that new.

Al­though the baby Pi­canto is mak­ing its de­but on our shores, the city run­about has been around over­seas for 12 years.

This par­tic­u­lar model launched in 2011 and next gen­er­a­tion due year, so why doesn’t Kia Aus­tralia just wait kick off with the new year?

Lo­cal ex­ec­u­tives say they need to prove to head of­fice that can sell cur­rent Pi­canto be­fore be­ing guar­an­teed sup­ply of the new car. The tar­get is 300 sales a year and that’s a brave call given city run­abouts are down by al­most third this year.

But Kia’s brav­ery bonus for buy­ers. Pi­canto starts at tempt­ing $14,990 and the pres­sure from head of­fice means buy­ers are in a strong bargaining po­si­tion.

You could also wait new Pi­canto to come out — it will have more in-car tech a dif­fer­ent look but you can bet on cost­ing if ar­rives at all.

The comes in one spec­i­fi­ca­tion the Si and is pow­ered by a 1.25-litre four­cylin­der petrol en­gine with speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion. It un­der­cuts $15,990 Holden Spark and $15,290 Nis­san Mi­cra, but can’t beat Mit­subishi’s $14,250 Mi­rage or Suzuki’s $13,990 Cele­rio on price.

As with most mi­cro­cars, the Pi­canto’s stan­dard fea­tures con­tains just the very ba­sics. There’s a CD player and ra­dio, Blue­tooth, USB port, air-con­di­tion­ing power win­dows in front back.

There’s a five-star ANCAP crash test rat­ing, rear park­ing sen­sors, a space-saver spare, disc brakes front and back, three top tether an­chor points and two ISOFIX mounts for child seats. The glar­ing omis­sion is a re­vers­ing cam­era.

ON THE ROAD The Pi­canto has carved out a healthy niche in Europe, where it is per­fectly suited to nar­row vil­lage laneways and coun­try roads.

But Aus­tralia presents dif­fer­ent chal­lenges.

The lo­cal launch took us through some ur­ban ru­ral ar­eas and then a large stretch of free­way.

four-speed auto is fine around town, but on a flat part the Hume at 110km/h the Pi­canto revving 3500rpm plead­ing for a fifth gear.

Com­bine this with no cruise con­trol and it is not ide­ally suited long-dis­tance driv­ing. There are com­plaints about how felt on the road though — yes there tyre roar coarse chip, but

car is easy to drive, seats are com­fort­able and sup­port­ive and the steer­ing great. The car felt planted even at high speeds with cross winds, where some city run­abouts can seem a lit­tle spooky.

en­gine feels un­der­pow­ered times, es­pe­cially when over­tak­ing higher speeds, but against its di­rect ri­vals it has more than ad­e­quate grunt.

The Pi­canto is hap­pi­est in ur­ban en­vi­ron­ments, where will spend nearly all of time.

lack a re­vers­ing cam­era is partly com­pen­sated for by great vis­i­bil­ity out the big rear win­dow. The turn­ing cir­cle 9.8m also su­per tight, which is handy city ma­noeu­vres, while brakes are above av­er­age, with discs all around com­pared drums for some ri­vals.

The Pi­canto is made in Korea, but the sus­pen­sion the Aus­tralian model has been set up for Europe’s roads. We didn’t no­tice any is­sues — it is no limo, ride smooth and cor­ner­ing abil­ity sur­pris­ingly good.

The in­te­rior is be­gin­ning to show its age there dis­play screen,

Ap­ple Carplay and An­droid Auto — but aside from the out­dated look, the cabin feels airy roomy up front. The back seats are tighter, but at 191cm I can sit be­hind my driv­ing po­si­tion with legs snug against

seat back. Head­room is ex­cel­lent.

Stor­age is good through­out, with two bot­tle hold­ers and two cuphold­ers up front. The boot has a ca­pac­ity of 292 litres — about the stan­dard for cars in this seg­ment.

Af­ter about 300km of high­way and ur­ban driv­ing I was av­er­ag­ing 5.7 litres/100km fuel use — not bad con­sid­er­ing Kia claims 5.6 litres.

VER­DICT The Pi­canto has ar­rived into Aus­tralia’s mi­cro­car seg­ment a bet­ter prod­uct than most oth­ers. It is not quite up to the level of the Holden Spark’s ride and han­dling or in-car tech, but sharp price Kia’s ex­cep­tional war­ranty make it com­pet­i­tive pack­age.

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