GROWN-UP KIA IS THE PIC OF THE BUNCH
New and improved: the Kia Picanto
HERE’S how we used to understand small car categorisation and the difference between Fiesta-sized superminis and their smaller, cheaper city car counterparts. You paid extra for a supermini because it was slightly bigger, because it was better finished and more stylish and because it had more refined engines that made possible longer journeys.
So where does that kind of thinking leave us with a product like this, the second generation Kia Picanto? It competes with the kinds of models we’d see as city cars, yet like many of them now, it boasts the kind of interior space a supposedly bigger Fiesta or a Corsa had until quite recently. It’s very nicely built and acceptably stylish. And yes, it’s quite at home attempting longer journeys. Here is the city car, all grown-up. Where that leaves today’s supermini sector is something we don’t have to worry about here. Suffice it to say that most of what you’d pay up to £15,000 or more for in that class of car is delivered by this Kia.
One characteristic that Kia is keen for this car to have is a perky feel. It does. Under the bonnet, buyers choose between a 69bhp entry-level 1.0-litre engine or a 1.25-litre 84bhp unit. It’s a petrol-only range of course, as you’d expect from a citycar. The 1.0-litre manages 0-62mph in 13.9s en route to 95mph, while the 1.25-litre variant improves that to 11s and 106mph.
The good news for those looking for a grin behind the wheel is that much of the old Picanto’s suspension architecture has been carried over, albeit evolved subtly.
The front suspension has been tuned for better straight line stability and Kia reckons it has not only improved the ride of the MK2 model with softer springs but made the handling a little keener with a much stiffer rear axle that helps quell understeer.
Design and Build
It’s hard to believe Kia today is the same company that launched the original Picanto. It’s now one of the most progressive car manufacturers in terms of design and much of the credit for this goes to Peter Schreyer, the man who designed the original TT and now works as Chief Design Officer. Under his direction, Kia is turning out some seriously handsome cars and this second generation Picanto is no exception.
Available in both three and five door bodystyles, this little Kia offers a different look for each body shape, the threedoor car featuring a more aggressive frontal treatment.
Both look a little under-wheeled, but that tends to be the nature of city cars in general. Go for the 15-inch alloy wheels and it looks much better balanced.
Metallic finishes lift the feel of the fascia and while some of the plastics are a little hard to the touch, the overall effect is an interior that punches well above its price point.
Market and Model
Prices start at around £8,000, with a £600 premium if you want air conditioning. You’ll need a budget of just under £12,000 if you want the pokier 1.25-litre variant though.
There’s a £200 premium for the fivedoor bodystyle.
Equipment on most models includes electronic and heated folding door mirrors with side repeaters, automatic light control with ‘escort’ and ‘welcome’ modes, steering wheel mounted audio controls and retractable dual cup holders.
Other features available include smart-key entry system with engine start/stop button, AUX-IN, ipod and USB connections for the RDS radio CD player with MP3 compatibility, Bluetooth hands-free with voice recognition and heated front seats.
The days when you counted yourself lucky if you came away with a radio and a set of mats and flaps when purchasing a small Kia now seem a very long way distant.
Cost of Ownership
No car in this class has a sniff of a chance unless it can guarantee tiny day to day running costs and the Picanto certainly answers that particular call. Both engines have been designed to offer maximum efficiency, from their continuously variable valve timing to their low-friction valve springs.
The net result is that the 1.0-litre engine emits just 99g/km of carbon dioxide in standard trim. Kia goes one stage further with its suite of Ecodynamics technologies (automatic stop-start — ISG, advanced alternator control, upgraded starter motor and low-rolling resistance tyres), cutting emissions even further — to between 95 and 102g/km. Combined fuel economy for the 1.0-litre model teamed with the Ecodynamics gear is 67.3mpg.
It’s not uncommon to assess a vehicle and wonder why it has been launched. Some manufacturers get their product design cycles out of phase with economic conditions while others launch into a once fashionable market that’s gone cold. Then there are those that arrive plum square with the right product at the right time and the Picanto is most definitely one of the latter.
Its blend of affordability coupled with solid engineering, impressive build quality, generous equipment and clean styling build upon its tiny ongoing running costs to form a convincing buying proposition. Back that up with a great warranty and the Kia Picanto emerges as one of the very best city cars we’ve seen in quite some time.