Kia’s new hope

This small city car could sell for a lit­tle over $13,000, writes Paul Gover

Herald Sun - Motoring - - News -

The funky style with a chis­elled nose is be­com­ing typ­i­cal of the brand

ANEW Kia price fighter could open the bat­ting for the Korean brand be­fore the end of 2011. The baby Pi­canto is be­ing as­sessed for a start­ing spot in Aus­tralia as the next Rio, now priced from $ 14,990, is moved a lit­tle higher in the line-up.

The Pi­canto would likely have a $13,000-ish bot­tom line with the larger Rio mov­ing be­yond $15,000 with more safety and lux­ury equip­ment as stan­dard.

‘‘We’re look­ing at it. It’s not off the ta­ble,’’ says Kia Aus­tralian spokesman Kevin Hepworth.

The five-door Pi­canto hatch is called a city car by Kia and is re­vealed this week from Seoul ahead of its full-scale un­veil­ing at the Geneva Mo­tor Show in March.

Pic­tures from Kia show a car with the funky style that is be­com­ing typ­i­cal of the brand, with a chis­elled nose and a com­pact body.

‘‘ The new Pi­canto fea­tures sig­nif­i­cant sculpt­ing and a very prom­i­nent ris­ing char­ac­ter line,’’ says Kia’s charis­matic chief de­signer, Peter Schreyer.

‘‘The re­sult is a lay­er­ing of light and shadow and this breaks up the height, giv­ing the car a more sure-footed stance,’’

Me­chan­i­cally, the car is based on the Hyundai i20 that is al­ready on sale in Aus­tralia.

The i20 is priced from $15,490 with a 1.4-litre en­gine.

Kia says the Pi­canto is sub­stan­tially dif­fer­ent to the i20, and a sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ment over the pre­vi­ous-gen­er­a­tion Pi­canto that was passed up for Aus­tralian sales. It is larger than the ear­lier Pi­canto and is likely to come only as a five­door hatch, al­though there are plans for a three-door sporty model in Europe.

If the Pi­canto comes to Aus­tralia it will be built in Korea, but there is no hint yet on the me­chan­i­cal pack­age.

The car is be­ing built with both 1.0 and 1.2-litre en­gines, with LPG bio-flex and flex-fuel sys­tems fit­ted for some coun­tries.

Hepworth says Kia will make an early de­ci­sion on any Pi­canto plan.

‘‘If a de­ci­sion is made to go for­ward with the ve­hi­cle, we would take it at the first op­por­tu­nity — pos­si­bly by the end of this year,’’ he says.

Bot­tom of the heap: Kia is keen to bring the Pi­canto to Aus­tralia as a bar­gain-base­ment starter car.

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