Neat, sweet, petite
Kia’s latest light car is freshly styled, well-equipped — and priced to be popular
THIS car is a mighty mouse. In a class where some rivals can feel like a Coke can rolling on a skateboard, the Kia Picanto stands out as quiet, comfortable and well-equipped.
The previous model was already the best car in the class and Kia has doubled-down with a more grown-up Picanto that is likely to remain popular, especially when it eventually limbos to a $13,990 drive-away price at some stage.
Kia first came to the light-car contest last year with a Picanto that quickly took class leadership, despite its age and the category’s rapidly falling sales. Now comes the thirdgeneration Picanto — we missed the first — with a new body, lots more equipment, a stronger focus on front-seat comfort, reasonable performance and great economy.
The 62kW four-cylinder is nothing special. Work is under way to bring a more modern three-cylinder turbo here.
Kia is pushing hard to get automatic emergency braking into the Picanto. It could come — perhaps even with the new engine — by the end of the year.
Equipment includes a reversing camera, cruise control and a seven-inch screen that supports both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The styling is also revised, there is a bigger boot, more head and legroom in the front and locally tweaked suspension.
Kia is evasive on the price. The official bottom line is $14,190 for the five-speed manual before on-roads but the four-speed auto is $15,690 drive-away. It refuses to advertise any price in the $13,000 range but Kia Motors Australia chief executive officer Damien Meredith hints at a $13,990 drive-away deal. “Will it happen on the showroom floor? More than likely,” he says.
ON THE ROAD
I am not anticipating too much from the Picanto, even with its local suspension work, yet it drives surprisingly well, is quiet inside and well-furnished.
I expect a rear-view camera but it also gets guidelines for parking, all windows are powered and there are auto headlights.
It’s a lot of gear for a little car at a bargain price. Then there’s Kia’s seven-year warranty with roadside assist. Kia says it is aiming for opposite ends of the customer range with the Picanto, so it has the technology for youngsters and the comfort for oldies.
That’s true with front seats that have good headroom and great legroom and good allround vision.
The Picanto has a new mechanical platform but the engine and transmission is unchanged. Performance is reasonable — on the preview drive we bettered 5.0L/100km.
I prefer the auto, even though it’s an outdated fourspeed, because it keeps the engine more frequently in the sweet spot between 3500rpm-4500rpm. It also helps acceleration away from lights.
The suspension is a revelation for the class, absorbing nasty bumps and lumps and — this is a huge shock after previous disasters — the Chinese tyres from Nexen are quieter than the Kumhos from Korea.
But the so-called flat floor in the back has a giant step that limits loads and the steel wheels look cheap. The three-cylinder engine will be better if and when it comes.
The Picanto is a sweet little car that’s better than I expect. So, once again, Kia has overdelivered and its tiddler is a car that’s not just good for the class but good in general.