A PINT-SIZED STAR
Kia’s city runabout wins on price and warranty, writes RICHARD BERRY
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.