What is it?
It’s a tiny car, and a huge one. Because while Kia has been making strides in other segments with vehicles like the Cee’d and Sportage, the baby of its range, the Picanto, remains a crucial model for the firm.
The Korean manufacturer shifted more than a million examples of the outgoing Picanto over its seven-year life span and believes this new, more mature incarnation has the potential to build on that success.
Kia is said to have smarted over the glowing reaction to the Hyundai i10’s chassis set-up, so it has given the new Picanto’s settings a few revisions. Apart from the slight increase in wheelbase, there’s now more castor angle in the MacPherson strut front suspension, along with 12 per cent softer springs and 20mm shorter bump stops.
The rear torsion beam set-up gets a more thorough rethink. The beam axle is 60 per cent stiffer, with 29 per cent softer springs and 15mm shorter bump stops. Kia claims the settings reduce understeer but improve stability and compliance.
What’s it like?
The Picanto certainly looks like it’s grown up. Gone are the cute but unmistakably Far Eastern curves of the original, replaced by Peter Schreyer-influenced sharp lines everywhere. The main cues are the Kia ‘family face’, widened bumpers that give the car an unusually chunky head-on appearance and particularly neat, angular tail-lights.
Based on the Hyundai i10, the new Picanto is a longer car than before (by 60mm, with a 15mm hike in wheelbase), delivering a modest increase in legroom over the old car and a decent gain in boot space (up by more than a quarter, at 200 litres).
There will also be a three-door version for the first time; it’ll turn up before the end of this year, with more sporty styling helped by redesigned bumpers. But in the meantime, the five-door will launch this summer equipped with two engines: a 1.2-litre, four-cylinder unit producing 84bhp, and the 1.0-litre triple tested here.
This 68bhp motor can deliver CO2 emissions as low as 95g/km when fitted with stop-start, although in this price bracket we’d quite understand if Kia elects to offer the three-pot only in regular, 99g/km form.