Small in size but big on sur­prises

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - MOTORING - 1,248cc Kappa MPI CVVT 86hp at 6,000rpm 120Nm at 4,000rpm 4-speed au­to­matic RM59,888

DE­SPITE be­ing ac­cused of mak­ing slow progress in com­par­i­son to other boom­ing na­tions, Malaysia’s au­to­mo­tive in­dus­try is evolv­ing at a rapid pace and this colos­sal growth can be ex­em­pli­fied, rather iron­i­cally, with the lit­tle Kia Pi­canto.

Fea­ture-laden is the best term to de­scribe this plucky Korean com­pact. With six airbags, trac­tion con­trol, key­less en­try and ig­ni­tion as well as a host of other crea­ture com­forts, the Pi­canto’s list of fea­tures makes the spec sheets of some ex­ec­u­tive sa­loons sold just a year or two ago look in­ad­e­quate.

What we are more in­ter­ested in, how­ever, is the drive. To our de­light, the sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion Pi­canto is equipped with a 1.25L Kappa power plant un­der its diminu­tive hood. Do not let its size fool you. The en­gine, which is shared with the Hyundai i10, is good for 86hp and 120Nm — sub­stan­tial for a car weigh­ing less than a tonne.

In this par­tic­u­lar test car, the en­gine’s out­put is chan­nelled to the front wheels via a con­ven­tional four-speed au­to­matic gear­box. There is a cheaper man­ual op­tion for buy­ers who want to ei­ther go easy on the wal­let or be more hands-on with their gear shifts.

As a city-fo­cused hatch­back, the Pi­canto is near fault­less. Its mod­est pro­por­tions and small turn­ing ra­dius make it easy to ma­noeu­vre while the well- matched drive train makes driv­ing a breeze. More ad­vanced driv­ers may find the gear­box to be a wee bit slow but it does not de­tract from the fact that the Pi­canto is an easy car to drive.

Kia claims that the Pi­canto is ca­pa­ble of 5.3L/100km. In re­al­ity, we found it easy to keep the fig­ure be­low seven un­der nor­mal driv­ing cir­cum­stances. Dur­ing the times we de­cided to give the en­gine a run for its money, the Pi­canto’s fuel read­ings still re­fused to budge be­yond the 8.5L/100km mark.

The Pi­canto is not as big a car as the Myvi, which means that it will not be chal­leng­ing Malaysia’s dar­ling hatch­back where space is con­cerned. How­ever, the cabin is roomy enough for two adults to sit com­fort­ably in the back with a cou­ple of bags stowed in the boot. It is worth not­ing that the Pi­canto’s cabin is slightly roomier than its sis­ter car, the Hyundai i10.

At nearly RM60,000, the Pi­canto may not shout value for money, given that big­ger Pro­ton and Pero­dua cars can be had for much less. How­ever, the Pi­canto’s equip­ment lev­els, re­fine­ment and grown-up ride and han­dling are nearly on par with cars cost­ing twice its price, mak­ing this lit­tle K-Pop com­pact a great bang for buck.

The Pi­canto has a con­tem­po­rary de­sign that cap­tures the at­ten­tion of any age group.

Rear seat fits two adults com­fort­ably.

Rear lights com­ple­ment the front.

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