Kia Pi­canto City car gains 1.0-litre turbo petrol en­gine

New tur­bocharged petrol en­gine gives our City Car of the Year a use­ful boost in per­for­mance On sale Now Price from £9720

What Car? - - Contents - John How­ell John.how­[email protected]­mar­ket.com

DO YOU CLING to the no­tion that driv­ing a city car is the au­to­mo­tive equiv­a­lent of a Vic­to­rian work­house? If so, you’re miss­ing a trick. In decades gone by, agreed, lan­guish­ing be­hind the wheel of an ur­ban run­about did feel like a penance, but now? City cars are not only far safer but also can be a real hoot to drive.

The pick of the bunch is the Kia Pi­canto. It be­came our 2018 City Car of the Year af­ter beat­ing some se­ri­ous com­pe­ti­tion in the shape of the Hyundai i10 and Volk­swa­gen Up. But it’s not per­fect. While its nat­u­rally as­pi­rated 1.25-litre four-cylin­der petrol en­gine is our pick of the range, a bit more poke wouldn’t go amiss to help keep pace with quicker ver­sions of the Up.

Which brings us to this, the new Pi­canto 1.0 T-GDI. Its smaller, 1.0-litre ca­pac­ity and just three cylin­ders might sound like a ret­ro­grade step, but that’s ig­nor­ing a tur­bocharger that adds power and torque – much of the lat­ter in the mid-range, to the ben­e­fit of real-world flex­i­bil­ity.

Yet with a start­ing price of £13,320, is it the en­gine that’s about to qual­ify the Pi­canto as per­fect, or merely po­tent but pricey?

Com­pared with the 1.25 en­gine, peak power is up by 16bhp and peak torque by a sub­stan­tial 81lb ft. As a re­sult, the 1.0 T-GDI Pi­canto feels faster than its claimed 0-62mph time of 9.8sec sug­gests, and while there’s a def­i­nite pause as the tur­bocharger spools up af­ter you’ve put your foot down, it’s pulling solidly by the time you hit 1500rpm and gets stronger still as the revs build.

How­ever, it’s not the qui­etest of three-cylin­der en­gines, emit­ting a dis­tinc­tive thrum that be­comes louder the harder you work it. But while it’s a tad more vo­cal than the Up’s equiv­a­lent en­gine, that isn’t nec­es­sar­ily a prob­lem for two rea­sons. First, that ex­tra flex­i­bil­ity means you don’t need to ex­tend it to make good progress, and sec­ond, it’s not an un­pleas­ant noise. Far from it, in fact; it’s in­vig­o­rat­ingly sporty.

The rest of the Pi­canto’s tal­ents re­main in­tact, which is to say that while you need to ac­cept a slightly firmer ride than in the Up, it’s far from un­com­fort­able, and the up­shot is you’re com­pen­sated with tidy body con­trol and neat and pre­cise steer­ing.

As with most city cars, there’s a lot of road noise at mo­tor­way speeds, while the Pi­canto’s stan­dard five-speed man­ual gear­box is def­i­nitely notchier than the Up’s. It’s not too much of a chore to use, though.

In­side, the Pi­canto has a de­cent amount of space for four and, rel­a­tively speak­ing, a fine driv­ing po­si­tion, mean­ing long jour­neys shouldn’t be­gin or end with a groan. The boot is im­pres­sive, too, be­ing able to take three carry-on suit­cases – more than the i10 and Up.

In ad­di­tion, the in­te­rior is well made, feel­ing ro­bust to the touch, al­though not ex­actly plush, while top-spec Gt-line S trim comes loaded to the gun­wales with kit, in­clud­ing key­less start, a heated steer­ing wheel, heated front seats and a 7.0in touch­screen in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem with sat-nav and Ap­ple and An­droid smart­phone mir­ror­ing. Re­mem­ber, all that in a city car. Now, af­ter that glow­ing re­view, we bet you’re ex­pect­ing to see it get five stars, right? And it would do if only this en­gine were avail­able in cheaper trims rather than just the two most ex­pen­sive ones. As it stands, the jump in price over our cur­rent favourite ver­sion – the 1.25 MPI in mid-range 3 trim – is as much as £1750, and while the 1.0 T-GDI is a good en­gine, it’s not good enough to jus­tify that con­sid­er­able ex­pense. It’s not like it’s sub­stan­tially more ef­fi­cient, ei­ther, so we’ll have to stick with the 1.25 MPI as our pick of the range.

So come on, Kia, do us all a favour and of­fer this en­gine with the cheaper trims. That way, we can give it the un­al­loyed praise it de­serves.

In­te­rior is well built; 3 trim and above get a touch­screen

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