GROWN-UP KIA IS THE PIC OF THE BUNCH

New and im­proved: the Kia Pi­canto

Belfast Telegraph - NI Carfinder - - News - ANDY EN­RIGHT

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.

Driv­ing Ex­pe­ri­ence

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.

Sum­mary

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.

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