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Kia brings turbo power to its city car in range-topping trims. Does it become a credible rival to the Volkswagen Up GTI?
13 November 2018

What is it?

This is the latest and arguably greatest Kia Picanto, now with added turbocharging.

It was inevitable, really. City cars used to be bare-bones, unpretentious transport for pootling about town in an unhurried manner, with few concessions made to straight-line performance. But as their prices and exterior dimensions have increased, their targeted remit has become broader. 

The rise in contract hire and leasing deals has increased the popularity of top-spec models across the board. After all, why settle for an entry-level variant when, for an extra £20 a month, you can have the bigger engine or the more lavish trim level?

It’s why Volkswagen has returned to the small warm hatch formula with the Up GTI, and why, if you want to, you can now pay nearly £15,000 for a Picanto. Yes, this flagship GT-Line S variant is knocking on the door of a mid-spec supermini price-wise, but it packs a punch to justify it.

Kia has shoehorned in the same 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol motor used in a number of its larger models, including the Rio. Here, it makes 99bhp and a healthy 126lb ft of torque. Ordinarily, these aren't numbers worth shouting about, but in a car weighing slightly over a tonne, it’s promising.

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Unlike the Up GTI, though, this isn’t a bone fide sporting model. There are no suspension or steering changes, just a smattering of visual faux-sportiness and a faintly staggering kit list for a car at this level. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring, heated seats, a heated steering wheel and even a wireless smartphone charger are just some of the big car features thrown in on this range-topper. 

What's it like?

The Picanto 1.0 T-GDi is more of an Up TSI rival than a fully fledged Up GTI worrier. The third-generation Picanto impressed us when we first drove it last year, and this new turbo variant builds on that in a couple of areas.

Let’s start with the obvious: this Picanto is within striking distance of actually being called brisk. A sub-ten-second 0-62mph time is par for the course for high-level superminis, but it’s still a rarity in a city car. The in-gear performance is even more worthy of note. 

Like most forced induction small capacity engines, it starts to pick up steam once it’s spinning beyond about 2000rpm, feeling strong and muscular with the characteristically thrummy (but not overbearing) three-pot warble accompanying it. As a result, the Picanto is much less troubled by inclines or overtakes, so, as well as being more enjoyable at lower speeds, it’s more relaxing over long distances. 

Unfortunately, the power delivery tails off noticeably for the last 1000rpm before it hits the limiter, meaning diesel-like short-shifting takes precedence over rev-chasing fun. That’s not something the higher-tune 118bhp version of this engine suffers from, so it’s a pity Kia didn’t go all-out with that unit and create a Picanto GT.

With less need to wring the Picanto’s neck to keep up with the general traffic flow, it’s also more refined on the move, with the engine complimenting the markedly well-damped interior. The only disturbance is caused by the 16in wheels, which can introduce a touch more tyre drone over coarse surfaces than lesser rims. 

But that’s a small price to pay, many would argue, for the more youthful stance at which Kia is aiming this car. Those wheels and the resulting tyre profile also help give the Picanto enough grip for the increased cornering speeds afforded by its engine. 

The GT-Line S Picanto feels surprisingly well tied-down given its upright body and short wheelbase. It’s not thrill-a-minute, but body control is assured and tight, the steering feels pleasingly direct and naturally weighted and there’s none of the high-speed instability that can plague short-wheelbase cars. It trades in some of the big-sidewall softness of lesser Picantos, but the ride is still composed enough that you might think you’re in something from the class above.

Should I buy one?

We’d understand if you took one look at the Picanto’s sticker price and let out a snort of derision. After all, it’s a full £1600 more than the similarly powerful and good to drive Up and even pricier than the five-door Up GTI. 

The seriously impressive kit tally almost makes up for that (you couldn’t spec the Up to the same level even if you wanted to), although even the more reasonably priced GT Line version of the Picanto is hardly sparse. That would be the pick of the bunch for us unless a tempting monthly finance deal made upgrading to the S a no-brainer.

Whether or not the racy aesthetics and punchy engine of this flagship model are enough for the Picanto to shake off its rather anodyne image remains to be seen. But its spacious and well-made interior, punchy engine and sorted driving dynamics mean that, cost aside, this is a very capable city car. 

Kia Picanto 1.0 T-GDi GT-Line S 

Where Berkshire Price £14,720 On sale Now Engine 3cyls, 998cc, turbo, petrol Power 99bhp at 4500rpm Torque 126lb ft Gearbox 5-spd manual Kerb weight 1020kg Top speed 112mph 0-62mph 9.8sec Fuel economy 55.4mpg CO2 117g/km Rivals Volkswagen Up, Renault Twingo GT

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Comments
11

13 November 2018

Kia have gotta watch their prices.  £1,600 more than the UP, even pricer than the GTi UP.

  Bling can oly take you so!

typos1 - Just can’t respect opinion

13 November 2018
xxxx wrote:

Kia have gotta watch their prices.  £1,600 more than the UP, even pricer than the GTi UP.

  Bling can oly take you so!

As stated though, you can't even spec an up to match, so it's equipment level does help to justify its price, however if this engine is available in the lower, but still well kitted out, versions it could make this Kia a pretty good value and worthy/better option than the up.

13 November 2018
si73 wrote:

xxxx wrote:

Kia have gotta watch their prices.  £1,600 more than the UP, even pricer than the GTi UP.

  Bling can oly take you so!

As stated though, you can't even spec an up to match, so it's equipment level does help to justify its price, however if this engine is available in the lower, but still well kitted out, versions it could make this Kia a pretty good value and worthy/better option than the up.

As I said bling can only go so far.  In a nippy city run-about heated steering wheel/cloth seats isn't that important and you can get a wireless charger for £20.   Taking deprication into account the GTi will work out even cheaper.

Having said that I'd go for the slower ignis, even with the bling it'll probably be the cheapest (blinged SZ5 is currently being banged out for £13k) and that has to bear the cost of a mild Hybrid engine in it! 

typos1 - Just can’t respect opinion

13 November 2018

I do like the ignis.

FMS

14 November 2018
xxxx wrote:

si73 wrote:

xxxx wrote:

Kia have gotta watch their prices.  £1,600 more than the UP, even pricer than the GTi UP.

  Bling can oly take you so!

As stated though, you can't even spec an up to match, so it's equipment level does help to justify its price, however if this engine is available in the lower, but still well kitted out, versions it could make this Kia a pretty good value and worthy/better option than the up.

As I said bling can only go so far.  In a nippy city run-about heated steering wheel/cloth seats isn't that important and you can get a wireless charger for £20.   Taking deprication into account the GTi will work out even cheaper.

Having said that I'd go for the slower ignis, even with the bling it'll probably be the cheapest (blinged SZ5 is currently being banged out for £13k) and that has to bear the cost of a mild Hybrid engine in it! 

 

Moronic post from you fatigue...ignored the SEVEN year manu warranty, ignored the Kia engine that has a chain driven cam, where the VW has a belt, tensioners, etc that cost lots to change, ignored the gearbox woes of the VW...ignored or just plain ignorant of these little things,

 

You'd "go" for the "slower" Ignis?. What does speed have to do with the purchase of a city car, for driving mainly around "CITIES"?. You will "go" for nothing, because you can only dream of owning a car...having to make do with making engine noises, sat on your decrepit sofa. TwIT, the w is silent, as you should be.

30 November 2018

Got the GT-Line model when Kia were doing the £2000 scrappage, thought it was better value than the GT-Line S. Probably one of the first Turbos in the country, the dealer didn't even have one.

Now we've put some miles on it the engine has come alive, doesn't need any more power with this model which sneaks in under a tonne. Good steer, biggest drawback is the road noise from the tyres, but not that bad.

Cracking little car, traded in a 14 year-old MK1 Picanto - like night and day :-)

 

13 November 2018

At last someone has reviewed this car with the 1.0 T-GDi engine - it has been ignored by every motoring publication in the UK since it was launched whilst the Up GTi seems to get a new review every other week!

Although the review briefly mentions the lower spec GT-Line trim (i.e. not the GT-Line S here), that is far more comparable to the Up in terms of equipment levels versus list price. And if you know where to look, you can get a new one from an online broker for less than £11k. I'm seriously tempted myself after experiencing VW's usual dealership 'charm' when looking at an Up GTi.

The longer warranty, competitive servicing packages and the absence of a very long waiting list just make the case against the Up stronger.

It might not be the last word in sports driving, but I'm after a go-faster city car that can do a few other things which this car fits the bill well - if I wanted a true sports car I'd buy something much more focused on that brief.

But it is a shame they didn't drop the more powerful 118bhp turbo lump in it (as also mentoned in the review) - maybe Hyundai will do that with an 'N' version of the next i10  which I think is due next year.......

 

Everyone has a right to an opinion - don't confuse that with insulting your mother :-)

FMS

14 November 2018
gavsmit wrote:

At last someone has reviewed this car with the 1.0 T-GDi engine - it has been ignored by every motoring publication in the UK since it was launched whilst the Up GTi seems to get a new review every other week!

Although the review briefly mentions the lower spec GT-Line trim (i.e. not the GT-Line S here), that is far more comparable to the Up in terms of equipment levels versus list price. And if you know where to look, you can get a new one from an online broker for less than £11k. I'm seriously tempted myself after experiencing VW's usual dealership 'charm' when looking at an Up GTi.

The longer warranty, competitive servicing packages and the absence of a very long waiting list just make the case against the Up stronger.

It might not be the last word in sports driving, but I'm after a go-faster city car that can do a few other things which this car fits the bill well - if I wanted a true sports car I'd buy something much more focused on that brief.

But it is a shame they didn't drop the more powerful 118bhp turbo lump in it (as also mentoned in the review) - maybe Hyundai will do that with an 'N' version of the next i10  which I think is due next year.......

 

Of the H/K brands, Kia seem to be the "sporty" one, eg Stinger, Proce'ed GT, Picanto GT-Line S, so perhaps not an i10N, but guessing that Kia have already thought of Picanto GT, with the 118bhp engine and might let it out next year. The Rio with this engine/ GT-Line S spec is Ins Gp 10, so again, looking good for decent running costs.

13 November 2018

It would be nice if you could have the extra kit without someone going crazy with the red highlighter.

 

14 November 2018

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