What is it?
The new Kia Picanto – a car that, in a world in which the Renault Twingo has become a platform-twinned Smart car and the Ford Ka no longer exists as once we knew it, looks like something of a grandee among city cars.
Now entering its third full model generation, this Korean-built supermini came along in 2004 and helped to set the template for the modern European micro-hatchback years before Europe’s own car-makers – Peugeot, Citroën, Volkswagen, Seat, Skoda and Vauxhall – could get in on the act themselves with their various, often inter-related alternatives.
Now that European buyers have so many locally built options to choose from, of course, the Picanto is in danger of fading into the background - unless it can hit those pioneering high notes all over again. Besides the rivals already mentioned, it now has full-size budget superminis such as the Dacia Sandero, MG 3 and Ford Ka+ to contend with. Success in such a crowded niche will take a lot more than it once did.
This new version starts in the right place, though, with a lighter, stiffer body structure. It then adds a longer wheelbase, suspension and steering systems that have been respecified as well as retuned, more assertive and eye-catching body styling, improved cabin and boot space, a more upmarket-looking dashboard and a revised engine range featuring, on its uppermost tier, a new, 99bhp turbocharged petrol motor that promises to do transformative things for the car’s driving experience.