Kia's super supermini

Air conditioning, CD/MP3 player, dual airbags, anti-lock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution, alloy wheels, front fog lights, electric windows front and rear (the driver’s side is automatic), electric mirrors, rear spoiler, side skirts, remote central locking, alarm, leather steering wheel, sunglasses holder. Reads more like the spec sheet of an executive saloon than a budget supermini, yet it all comes as standard on Kia’s Picanto if you opt for the £6995 SE.

And it’s not just a nasty cabin disguised with lots of kit. Apart from a mismatch between the plastics on the doors and dashboard, the Kia’s bright, cheery, Euro-look interior is great, with simple, clear switchgear and comfortable, supportive seats. Big-car details such as adjustable headlights, variable wiper speed and child locks for the rear windows give a grown-up feel – and there’s bags of room, too. The rear seat-backs are shallow and legroom is tight behind taller drivers, but there’s more room than in a Fiat Panda and enough space to offer genuine accommodation for four adults.

With just 72lb ft of torque at 2800rpm, the 1.1-litre motor is likely to struggle up hills four-up, but around town it shifts the little Kia along well, revving vigorously to the 6000rpm red line with an eager zing. The gearchange has a long throw and a wide gate, but swaps ratios sweetly, without any snatching or notchiness, and the all-round disc brakes are excellent.

It’s not the sharpest tool around, but the Picanto steers as alertly as a small car should and offers a sharper turn-in than our other favourite budget supermini, the Daihatsu Charade. There’s much less roll than in the Charade, too, though this does have an adverse effect on the ride. While it’s impressive over major intrusions such as speed humps, there is some rumble and thump from the suspension on rutted surfaces.

Still not convinced? How does group three insurance, 57.6mpg, a three-year unlimited mileage warranty and three years’ European roadside assistance sound? If there’s any justice, the friendly and practical Picanto should spice things up in the budget-supermini segment.

Alastair Clements

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