First DriveSporty GT Line styling gives Kia's city car the visual lift it needs to go toe-to-toe with its European rivals, and the 1.2-litre engine does a power of go
First DriveThird-generation city car sets a high bar on refinement, packaging and out-of-town dynamism, but avoid the entry-level engine
What is it?
It’s not enough for a city car to simply be cheap and small, these days. To be a real success it must be a liveable everyday car even for those who do substantial mileage, and the all-new Kia Picanto does this better than anything else currently in its class.
We’re testing the 1.2 Ecodynamic model, complete with new engine (already used in the popular Hyundai i10), a five-speed manual ‘box and standard stop-start.
What’s it like?
More than its energetic and composed driving style, it’s actually the Picanto’s interior that sets it apart from the rest of the class. The Ecodynamic model is only available in mid-spec ‘2’ trim, complete with air-con, Bluetooth, wheel-mounted audio controls, USB/aux-in and various other useful luxuries, and it’s noticeable from the moment you sit in the driver’s seat that the Picanto feels like a big car. Not only because of its decent spec, but mainly because of the wide, comparably spacious cabin and solid-looking, effective architecture of the dash and controls.
The experience on the move is equally grown-up. This 83bhp motor is the more powerful of two engines (the other being a 1.0-litre) available in Kia’s new city car, and it does prove to be a less demanding engine for most situations. You still need to work it hard if you want to make good progress, but it has enough urge to feel comfortable at motorway speeds or to sit at low revs around town without straining.
The Picanto is also impressively refined by class standards. In normal driving conditions noise and vibration is well suppressed and it’s a surprisingly relaxing car to cover miles in. Our test car rode on optional 15-inch alloys (14s are standard) and soaked up the creases and cracks in French roads very effectively, offering plenty of grip and enough body control to also make it quite entertaining should you want it to be.
The biggest flaw in the package is the steering, which is good for urban use but feels a little too nervous off the dead-ahead at higher speeds and for motorway use. A reach-adjustable steering wheel would also help improve an adequate but not all that flexible driving position.
Should I buy one?
Absolutely. At just over £10k some might question the price, but we’d say this model is the sweet spot in the range; worth the £2k over the base 1.0-litre thanks to its generous standard spec, more flexible motor and the tempting running costs. The Picanto suffers fewer compromises for its price and size than any rival. It’s nothing so restrictive as a city car, it’s just a short hatchback.
Kia Picanto 1.2 Ecodynamics
Price: £10,195; Top speed: 106mph; 0-60mph: 11.0sec; Economy: 65.7mpg; Co2: 100g/km; Kerb weight: 930kg; Engine type: 4cyls, 1248cc, petrol; Power: 83bhp at 6000rpm; Torque: 89lb ft at 4000rpm; Gearbox: 5spd manual