Fit of pique

Kia Pi­canto GT Line £12,450

Top Gear (UK) - - DRIVES - DAVE HUMPHREYS

WE SAY: SO JUST HOW SPORTY IS THE SPICED-UP PI­CANTO GT LINE?

When you’re on hol­i­day abroad and you see a word like “Pi­canto” on a menu, you might won­der if you’re man enough. No­body, any­where, has ever had the same feel­ing about Kia’s pint-sized city car. The Korean com­pany wants to change all that with the brand new MkIII model by launch­ing it with a sporty­look­ing GT Line ver­sion from the out­set.

It gets a more stylish bodykit that in­cludes larger front in­takes, thicker sills and a rear “di­fuser” with twin ex­haust pipes. Plus the oblig­a­tory fashes of red de­tail­ing. A longer wheel­base and fancy LED in­di­ca­tors also make the new en­trant con­sid­er­ably more in­ter­est­ing-look­ing than the old Pi­canto. It’s not all about the looks, ei­ther, as the GT Line cars get stifer springs and unique 15in al­loy wheels.

On the in­side, Kia has made big strides in im­prov­ing the Pi­canto. A new dash­board lay­out, com­plete with 7in free­stand­ing in­fo­tain­ment touch­screen, makes the Pi­canto look and feel like a more grownup car (and less like some­thing you’d rent cheap for the afore­men­tioned hol­i­day). Buy­ers can add fashes of colour to the doors and air vents with per­son­al­i­sa­tion packs and the seats are com­fort­able and sup­port­ive.

You’ll have to wait un­til later in the year for a promis­ing 1.0-litre turbo en­gine with 98bhp. Un­til then there’s a 66bhp 1.0-litre three-cylin­der or a larger 1.2-litre four-cylin­der (driven here). The lat­ter makes 83bhp at 6,000rpm and de­vel­ops a use­ful 90lb ft of torque. A fve-speed man­ual gear­box comes as stan­dard, though you can have an au­to­matic with the 1.2.

Power de­liv­ery from the 1.2 is smooth and lin­ear; how­ever, with a 12.0secs 0–62mph time, the GT Line isn’t go­ing to set any speed records in this guise. It can, how­ever, main­tain its hard-won pace with ease. Even the stan­dard car han­dles well, while the GT Line gives you more conf­dence to carry speed through the cor­ners with well-con­tained body roll. Even on less-than-per­fect tar­mac, the Kia feels re­as­sur­ingly sure­footed. There’s more to like: the Pi­canto’s steer­ing is more di­rect that many of its ri­vals’ and the man­ual ’box has a pos­i­tive feel to each shift, mak­ing the ex­pe­ri­ence more plea­sur­able than it strictly needs to be in a car of this size.

Among the tasty dishes on the city car menu, it’s a good efort. And you don’t have to spec this paint ei­ther.

I like my cars like I like my pizza – small and spicy

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