There is a certain thrill to be had in wringing the last ounce of potential out of a small petrol engine, and this 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine fitted by Kia to the Picanto is currently one of the best out there for doing just that.
Although its interesting, rasping soundtrack and willingness to rev make it a delight to thrash around the place, that’s not what most of its owners will want to do with it, so consider it a welcome side benefit to a motor that otherwise does a good job of towing the 940kg Picanto around.
Its main strengths lie in providing good low-down response for fairly prompt acceleration at anything up to about 50mph, but it needs to be worked hard for what amounts to fairly average acceleration at higher speeds. Its peak torque output of just 70lb ft at 3500rpm is more to blame for this than the 68bhp power output, and it can leave you feeling a little exposed on faster motorway journeys.
Kia's four-cylinder 1.25-litre petrol is better at higher speeds, with 83bhp and 89lb ft, and can also work more effectively from low revs. However, for solely urban driving, the cheaper three-pot’s breathless motorway response is unlikely to be a deal-breaker.
The brakes are a far greater irritation. Actual stopping power is fine, but the initial pedal response is too sharp and, even with familiarity, it requires a conscious effort to avoid unnecessarily heavy applications of the brakes around town. It’s a shame, because well-judged and easily modulated brakes are a key part of a fuss-free urban runabout.