New Pi­canto not just a stu­dent’s car

The Star Early Edition - - MOTORING -

From Page 1

Pi­canto 1.2 Smart, with fivespeed man­ual ‘box and 15-inch al­loy wheels, so I can’t speak for the au­dio in­ter­face with 9.6cm liq­uid-crys­tal dis­play on the rest of the range, but the 18cm colour touch­screen in the Smart we drove is straight­for­ward in use (even for grown-ups), with large, in­tu­itively recog­nis­able icons, un­der­stand­able menus and built-in com­pat­i­bil­ity with An­droid Auto, Ap­ple CarPlay, and Blue­tooth, and with both USB and aux­il­iary ports.

And then a nee­dle-sharp rear im­age with dy­namic steer­ing guide­lines pops up as soon as the ‘box is put into re­verse - an im­pres­sive fea­ture in a car cost­ing less than R200 000.

The first 40km of the launch drive was done in the out­go­ing model, an ar­guably some­what risky ploy on the part of Kia, aimed at high­light­ing the all-new ver­sion’s col­umn-mounted elec­tric power steer­ing, but it paid off.

The orig­i­nal Pi­canto took a bit of flak for vague steer­ing, and the sec­ond gen­er­a­tion wasn’t re­ally all that much bet­ter, but this one has a new rack and a much quicker steer­ing ra­tio. The dif­fer­ence was im­me­di­ately ap­par­ent, pulling away from the ve­hi­cle change; the new Pi­canto steers more quickly, more ac­cu­rately and has no­tice­ably more feel around the cen­tre point than did its pre­de­ces­sor.

Kia has also re­tuned the sus­pen­sion to suit the new model’s re­vised foot­print, with stiffer anti-roll bars, mounted a lit­tle lower in front and a lit­tle higher at the rear to re­duce pitch­ing and nose­dive un­der brak­ing. The re­sult is a no­tice­ably firmer ride (al­though part of that may have been due to the lower-pro­file tyres on the 15-inch rims) but, rather than be­ing less com­fort­able, it com­bined with the sharper steer­ing to lend a pleas­ing sense of con­fi­dence in the new Pi­canto’s road-hold­ing abil­ity.

We can’t say much about the slightly de­tuned en­gine; it takes a very ed­u­cated pants’ seat to tell the dif­fer­ence be­tween 65kW and 61kW, and 122Nm and 120Nm, from the driver’s seat. Nev­er­the­less, the 1.2-litre petrol four-cylin­der revs will­ingly, mak­ing over­tak­ing, even at na­tional-road speeds, merely a mat­ter of wait­ing for a suit­able gap and snick­ing down a gear. Kia also of­fers a 1-litre, three-cylin­der en­gine op­tion, rated at 49kW and 95Nm.

Kia has made much of its ef­forts to re­duce wind and me­chan­i­cal noise in­trud­ing on the com­fort of the oc­cu­pants - and it works. On smooth tar the new Pi­canto is im­pres­sively quiet and non-vi­bra­tious for an en­try-level hatch. But, on the coarse, abra­sive sur­face of the Cape’s newer roads, it served only to high­light the ex­ces­sive tyre roar gen­er­ated by the launch car’s 185/55 R15 Kumho ra­di­als. Un­less you are the type of driver that enjoys get­ting the most out of even a bud­get­mo­bile, the 14-inch tyres of the next model down may prove to be a bet­ter com­pro­mise. PRICES: 49kW/95Nm 1.0-litre 1.0 Start man­ual R134 995 1.0 Street man­ual R149 995 1.0 Style man­ual R159 995 1.0 Style auto R172 995 1.0 Smart man­ual R179 995 61kW/120Nm 1.2-litre 1.2 Start man­ual R150 995 1.2 Start auto R163 995 1.2 Street man­ual R165 995 1.2 Style man­ual R175 995 1.2 Style auto R188 995 1.2 Smart man­ual R195 995 In­cluded is a five-year/ un­lim­ited-dis­tance war­ranty; while a ser­vice plan is an ex­tra-cost op­tion.

Top of the range Pi­canto 1.2 Smart gets leather seat bol­sters and a touch­screen in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem.

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