AN AU­TO­MATIC CHOICE

Its handy trans­mis­sion and sweet sus­pen­sion make the Pi­canto a no-frills, no-fuss run­about

Geelong Advertiser - Motoring - - ROAD TEST - PAUL GOVER CHIEF RE­PORTER paul.gover@carsguide.com.au

GREAT value, safe, eco­nom­i­cal and loaded with stan­dard equip­ment, Kia’s Pi­canto is also proof that a tid­dler can do the job when you’re look­ing for a car does its trans­port tasks with­out any ex­ces­sive frills.

The Pi­canto made very pos­i­tive im­pres­sion I drove it dur­ing the Aus­tralian press pre­view, par­tic­u­larly as my fo­cus was on $13,990 drive-away price for ba­sic five-speed man­ual.

I’ve had four-speed auto at home, to test drive and it’s even more ap­peal­ing, though the price blows out $15,690 on road. Let’s set one thing straight from out­set — the auto is

better choice in Pi­canto. It keeps en­gine work­ing

for more of time and allows car to flow eas­ily with the traf­fic or hold 110km/h on

high­way with­out me hav­ing to row fran­ti­cally through the man­ual gear­box. The new Pi­canto is ac­tu­ally old Pi­canto, but with a vis­ual up­date and fo­cus.

2017 ver­sion gets gear to suit first-car buy­ers as well as re­tire­ment-age driv­ers who want no-fuss run­about for a cou­ple of peo­ple who are past their outback tour­ing days.

As with al­most ev­ery­thing sold in Aus­tralia to­day, air­con and power steer­ing stan­dard.

The Pi­canto adds a rear-view cam­era — which Mazda leaves out of its base mod­els plus cruise con­trol seven-inch in­fo­tain­ment screen with Ap­ple CarPlay and An­droid Auto con­nec­tiv­ity.

Kia calls it the third­gen­er­a­tion Pi­canto and touts a new body that, though it looks much like old one, frees up more space com­fort in front seats.

One of the best things is sus­pen­sion that’s tuned for Aus­tralia, just like ev­ery Kia model, and allows car to ride smoothly with pleas­ingly low lev­els of noise harsh­ness.

In the tid­dler class, of­fi­cially called “light cars”, sales are drop­ping dra­mat­i­cally. Against the trend, the Pi­canto is a win­ner. It doesn’t have much op­po­si­tion but 200-300 peo­ple a month are happy to take one home.

Me­chan­i­cally, the Pi­canto is noth­ing special with a 1.25-litre four-cylin­der en­gine (62kW/ 122Nm) car­ried over from pre­vi­ous model driv­ing front wheels.

It misses out on the three­cylin­der turbo that’s a medium- term goal for Kia management in Aus­tralia.

For now, there is no auto safety brak­ing in the car though it car­ries seven-year war­ranty, which still leads all brands Aus­tralia.

ON THE ROAD

Af­ter only 45 min­utes on the free­way, I re­alise I am re­ally lik­ing the Pi­canto.

ex­pect a boom­ing baby box but car is quiet and com­fort­able. Ac­tu­ally, it’s very

feels at least two classes big­ger.

For the size and price, the au­dio is fine my phone is work­ing through CarPlay con­nec­tion

The maker has done a top job on re­fin­ing the Pi­canto and Kia sus­pen­sion guru Graeme Gam­bold worked more magic un­der body.

will never make an im­pact a race­track but ride is sur­pris­ingly com­pli­ant, the grip good and it’s well bal­anced in all kinds of cor­ner­ing.

Per­for­mance is solid with­out do­ing any­thing special, although I get very close to the claimed fuel econ­omy of 5.8L/100km in auto (the man­ual claims 5.0L).

Kia doesn’t give a 0-100km/h sprint time for the car but it’s fine tak­ing off from lights and it can be pushed past trucks

car­a­vans on coun­try roads with­out any heart-stop­ping mo­ments.

I’ve been a mas­sive critic of Nexen tyres from China in the past but the ex­am­ples Pi­canto are sur­pris­ingly good and help make car great drive. They qui­eter and grip­pier than Kuhmo tyres that an al­ter­na­tive fit­ment.

The seats com­fort­able in the front I have no trou­ble with head or legroom. The Pi­canto will take only two adults in back.

boot, though larger than the pre­vi­ous model, is still mar­ginal for any­thing more than a shop­ping run. As I get fa­mil­iar with Pi­canto, en­joy the auto head­lights, sat­nav that’s a sur­pris­ing in­clu­sion at this price, rear park­ing radar and the re­vers­ing cam­era with pre­dic­tive lines to point the way car is go­ing. I think steel wheels on test look cheap Kia can’t seriously claim that

has a flat cargo floor — it’s any­thing but with the rear seat folded for max­i­mum boot space.

Some peo­ple will also ques­tion safety of car. I would not like to take a hit from a Toy­ota LandCruiser, but ANCAP lists the Pi­canto at five stars with six airbags.

VER­DICT

My sis­ter Jane has been run­ning a Toy­ota Yaris for far too long as city run­about in Syd­ney.

She’s ask­ing me ages about the right re­place­ment.

Now I know Pi­canto is right for her.

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