Road Test: Kia Picanto
What is it? All new second-generation version of Kia’s city car
Key features: Bolder styling, new engines, extra space, more electronics
Our view: The Picanto is not Kia’s most important car, according to the brand’s UK sales director Yaser Shabsogh; “But it is a very important car…”
The Picanto is one of Kia’s three current volume models alongside the c’eed and Sportage, and outsells both of them. Launching in 2004, the A-segment city car has brought many new customers to Kia, and proved the maker’s strongest weapon in the quest for scrappage sales.
So a new Picanto is big news for Kia’s dealers and customers. Particularly as Kia’s marketing brains are confident that this Picanto will boost the model’s annual UK sales figures of 9-10,000 units to more than 12,000.
This confidence comes from the car being improved in all areas – more space inside, new engines offering the now increasingly common paradox of better power with improved economy and emissions, a more stylish bang-up-to-date look and of course lots more electronics.
The look is the work of Chief Designer Peter Schreyer and continues a metamorphosis that makes it hard to believe the Kias of today and just five years ago have come from the same maker.
The softer visuals of the previous Picanto make way for bolder styling with sharply-sculpted panels and muscular arches. As a whole it hangs together very well and will likely impress the increasingly important younger market – especially when a three-door with a sportier-still look joins the line-up later this year.
The car not only looks good, it’s cleverly packaged. It measures up 60mm longer than its predecessor, the wheelbase eased out by 15mm, but this translates to 36mm more front legroom and a 200-litre luggage capacity – Picanto boots have never been large but the increase is some 27 per cent.
Certainly for a small car the new Picanto feels spacious, while fit and finish levels are also of a high standard.
Both engines available are petrol units, the 1-litre three cylinder offering 68bhp, 67.3mpg and CO2 emissions of 99g/km. That compares to 61bhp, 58.8mpg and 114g/km of its similarly-sized forebear.
A new 1.25-litre engine replaces the old 1.1 and can be supplied with Intelligent Stop and Go technology – this works well if a little clunky on restarting. You get almost seven extra miles to the gallon and 14g/km less in emissions, and you also get a significantly swifter unit, the 60mph sprint taking 11 seconds instead of 14.6
The smaller engine passes 60mph in a whisker under 14 seconds (almost two seconds quicker than its predecessor) yet it does not feel outdone by its larger sibling. Performance is sprightly and smooth – only when accelerating hard from low down the rev range (in third when a car in front has suddenly slowed for example) does it show any shortcomings, a drop to second called for.
Kia says that a combination of longer wheel travel, softer front springs and a stiffer rear axle have improved the Picanto’s road prowess. Certainly it feels assured – easy to place in corners and confident and stable at higher speeds.
The standard safety specification is creditable, including front, side and curtain airbags, Electronic Stability Control and Electronic Brake Assist.
Trim levels number three, stunningly dubbed 1, 2 and 3… The 1, only available on the 1-litre car, makes do without USB and aux audio sockets, audio controls on the steering wheel, Bluetooth, electric rear windows and air conditioning – the latter sorely missed on the test route in a sunny Bordeaux… The top-line 3 gets auto air con, as well as auto headlinghts and daytime running lights.
Remarkably, within a week of the launch event at which Car and Van News was not the only outlet to comment on the lack of air conditioning on the 1 trim, Kia announced a new ’1 Air’ model, adding manual air conditioning, costing £600 more than the 1 and available from September – the power of the press?
Overall the Picanto will tick most boxes for those seeking a good-looking, strongly performing and easy-to-live-with small car. And when you factor in the standard seven-year warranty, the confidence in those sales figures is easy to understand.
Model Tested: Kia Picanto 1.0, 1.1
On Sale: June 2011
Engine: 1.0, 1.1 petrol
Power (bhp): 68, 84
Torque (lb/ft): 70, 89
0-60mph (sec): 13.9, 11.0 (auto 12.9)
Top speed (mph): 95, 106 (auto 101)
Fuel economy (combined, mpg): 67.3, 60.1 (ISG 65.7, auto 53.3)
CO2 emissions (g/km): 99, 109 (ISG 100, auto 12.5)
Key rivals: Hyundai i10, Renault Twingo
Test date: May 2011
Words by: Andrew Charman