All grown up

Kia have raised their game with the new Pi­canto as finds out

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Kentmotors -

Kia’s am­bi­tions are clear. Each new gen­er­a­tion of its cars has seen a sig­nif­i­cant raft of im­prove­ments over the last and the Pi­canto is no ex­cep­tion.

There’s no three-door ver­sion, Kia have de­cided to sell the mkIII in five-door con­fig­u­ra­tion only.

It’s foot­print is ex­actly the same as the out­go­ing model but pas­sen­ger space has been im­proved by adding 5mm to its height and in­creas­ing the space be­tween the wheels by 15mm.

The front over­hang has been short­ened while the rear over­hang is longer to im­prove lug­gage space which is now up to a class-lead­ing 255 litres. Fold the rear seats away and space rises to 1,010 litres.

The waist­line has been low­ered to cre­ate a lighter, airier cabin, the dash­board is slim­mer and the seats are sited lower and fur­ther back.

The range con­sists of, 1, 2 and 3 plus the flag­ship GT Line. The base model in­cludes auto head­lights, elec­tric front win­dows and ra­dio with USB and aux in­puts. I tested the 2 spec model, which adds air­con, rear elec­tric win­dows, Blue­tooth con­nec­tiv­ity, heated mir­rors, 14in al­loys and body­coloured ex­te­rior trim to the mix.

The 3 is equipped with 15in al­loys, au­ton­o­mous emer­gency brak­ing, door-mounted LED in­di­ca­tors, elec­tric fold­ing mir­rors, seven-inch touch­screen sat nav with DAB, six-speaker au­dio sys­tem and rear park­ing cam­era.

The GT Line dis­penses with the touch­screen but adds an­other inch to the al­loys and a sporty body kit while the GT Line S rein­tro­duces the touch­screen, plus heated seats and steer­ing wheel, elec­tric sun­roof and wire­less phone charg­ing.

There are three petrol en­gines to choose from: A 66bhp 1.0-litre 3-cylin­der unit that pow­ered my test car, a 4-cylin­der 1.25-litre en­gine with 84bhp and a tur­bocharged 3-cy­clin­der power plant with 99bhp on tap. A five-speed man­ual gear­box is stan­dard but you can opt for a four-speed auto with the 1.25.

As well as in­creas­ing pas­sen­ger space, the changes to the wheel­base have also im­proved ma­noeu­vra­bil­ity, es­sen­tial to a city car’s ap­peal, with a tighter turn­ing cir­cle mean­ing that the new Pi­canto is ab­so­lutely in its el­e­ment on congested streets. It’s well-judged con­trols, nicely weighted steer­ing and fleet- footed han­dling make light work of ur­ban driv­ing.

The Pi­canto is as much an in­ter-city car as it is city car. You can tackle longer jour­neys with ease thanks to ex­cel­lent re­fine­ment if not great pace. The 66bhp unit in my test car takes a leisurely 14.3 sec­onds to reach 62mph.

The changes have given the new Pi­canto a more ma­ture, grown-up per­son­al­ity from be­hind the wheel.

It’s ag­ile and re­sponds ac­cu­rately to steer­ing in­puts, although the lack of power does mean you’ll have to work the slick five-speed man­ual quite hard to keep the pace up.

The qual­ity in the cabin is very good. It’s a lit­tle unin­spir­ing un­less you opt for one of the colour packs.

You do feel as though you are perched on the seats, rather than in them, but they are com­fort­able and sup­port­ive. There isn’t a great amount of flex­i­bil­ity in the seat­ing and steer­ing col­umn po­si­tions but what there is should be enough for the vast ma­jor­ity of mo­torists. The dash­board has been raised by 15mm to im­prove knee­room.

Vis­i­bil­ity is ex­cel­lent and there’s a rea­son­able amount of stor­age, with de­cent-sized door pock­ets and glove­box. There’s a cou­ple of cup hold­ers ahead of the gear lever too.

The Pi­canto re­tains its pre­de­ces­sor’s com­pact di­men­sions but is more spa­cious. It’s good to drive and the equip­ment list is gen­er­ous. You also get Kia’s seven-year war­ranty for good mea­sure.

If you’re look­ing for a ca­pa­ble city run­about that’s not afraid of a long slog, look no fur­ther.

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