FROM BLUE RINSE TO STREET CRED: KIA UP­DATES THE PI­CANTO CITY CAR

Kia has up­dated the Pi­canto, its pop­u­lar ur­ban runaround. James Bag­gott tries out the lat­est Korean sib­ling

Belfast Telegraph - NI Carfinder - - Front Page - KIA PI­CANTO

WHAT’S NEW?

You may think the Kia Pi­canto is the car most likely to be driven by your granny, and you’d be right. But now the man­u­fac­turer is look­ing to ditch that blue-rinse im­age and tar­get a younger age group with its suit­ably spiced-up city car.

De­signed to at­tract youth­ful buy­ers, the re­freshed model teams sporty looks with a more fo­cused driv­ing style to woo young pro­fes­sion­als to part with their cash. But are the tweaks enough?

LOOKS AND IM­AGE

Well, there’s no doubt Kia has worked hard to liven things up. There’s an ex­tended ‘ tiger nose’ grille, the likes of which we’ve seen spread across the maker’s range, smart LED driv- ing lights and a large air in­take at the front.

Dou­ble wheel arches add some flair at the sides, while a ‘shark’ an­tenna – which ini­tially made an ap­pear­ance on BMWS – has fil­tered down to the city car seg­ment for the first time. What’s more, for added sporti­ness, the Gt-line spec­i­fi­ca­tion gets some ran­dom red trim – be­cause noth­ing says sporty like added red in­serts – and a twin-tipped ex­haust.

Kia even went as far as de­scrib­ing the new de­sign as ‘sexy’ in their launch pre­sen­ta­tion. Per­haps our def­i­ni­tion of sexy is slightly at odds with Kia’s, but we get what they’re try­ing to achieve. Sort of.

SPACE AND PRAC­TI­CAL­ITY

The Pi­canto is Kia’s sec­ond best-sell­ing model in the UK af­ter the Sportage, so the third-gen­er­a­tion model has a huge weight on its shoul­ders to per­form. As it’s pre­dom­i­nantly bought as a sec­ond car by more ma­ture buy­ers, Kia thinks the new tech – such as wire­less charg­ing for your mo­bile, park­ing cam­era and Ap­ple Carplay – will tempt younger, first-time car buy­ers into deal­ers.

At just 3.6 me­tres (the same as its pre­de­ces­sor) Kia has man­aged to eke

out a lit­tle more cabin space by in­creas­ing the wheel­base and re­duc­ing the front over­hang, but you’re still go­ing to wish your legs were fold­able if you’re sat in the back. Up front, you’ll sit shoul­der to shoul­der with your pas­sen­ger, but there’s am­ple leg room and the driv­ing po­si­tion’s com­fort­able.

Au­ton­o­mous emer­gency brak­ing – which warns then stops you if it senses a crash – as well as a smart torque vec­tor­ing system that im­proves han­dling by brak­ing in­di­vid­ual wheels, are also avail­able.

BEHIND THE WHEEL

It’s behind the wheel where the Pi­canto will di­vide opin­ion. Older buy­ers look­ing for a re­laxed and com­fort­able ride will no­tice the im­proved sus­pen­sion and ca­pa­ble way it deals with nasty, pot-holed road sur­faces.

How­ever, the sprightly en­gines, quicker turn in and faster steer­ing may make them feel a lit­tle too hur­ried behind the wheel. It’s these very char­ac­ters that Kia is hop­ing younger buy­ers will ap­pre­ci­ate.

The jux­ta­po­si­tion of char­ac­ter­is­tics is a trait of a car de­signed for a global mar­ket, where dif­fer­ent mar­kets want dif­fer­ent things. In the UK, you may be more likely to find a Pi­canto in the bridge club car park, but in south­ern Europe it’ll be left aban­doned out­side night­clubs while its own­ers party the night away.

Over­all, there’s a no­tice­able im­prove­ment in both ride and han­dling, largely thanks to re­duced weight and stiffer body, but whether that’s suit­able for you will de­pend on your driv­ing style.

VALUE FOR MONEY

As this was an early test of a left­hand-drive model, sadly there were few de­tails as to what op­tions will fea­ture on UK mod­els. The Kia UK boss ex­plained each mar­ket is given a menu to pick from and said his team is cur­rently work­ing on refin­ing what they’ll take. We do know that this will fol­low the con­ven­tional Kia strat­egy of 1, 2, and 3 levels of spec­i­fi­ca­tion and that the Gt-line, driven here, will slot be­tween 2 and 3.

In the Gt-line model we tried at the Span­ish launch, a seven-inch me­dia screen, wire­less charg­ing for mo­biles, An­droid Auto and Ap­ple Carplay all fea­tured. There was a heated steer­ing wheel, seats, cli­mate con­trol and elec­tric win­dows and mir­rors. Buy­ers will have to wait a few weeks to find out ex­actly what’s on of­fer in the UK, though.

WHO WOULD BUY ONE?

Kia be­lieves buy­ers will be largely fe­males, de­scrib­ing them as ‘ur­ban and dy­namic’. Typ­i­cally, the Pi­canto is used for com­mut­ing and as a pop­u­lar city runaround.

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