Kia Picanto – Review
by Liam Bird
You can sometimes tell a lot about a car simply by its ignition key. It is, after all, the thing on which your first impressions of every automobile are formed. Bentley keys, for instance, are heavy, beautifully engineered and have a hint of Volkswagen about them, just like a Bentley – well, a modern one at least. Recent Rolls Royce keys are the same, but instead they have a faint hint of BMW about them. Land Rover keys are big, rubbery and rugged. Renault keys, meanwhile, feel cheap and a bit flimsy, whilst Volvo keys are smooth and free of unnecessary adornment – very minimalist, very Scandinavian.
Then there are the really memorable ones. The keys to a modern Aston Martin aren’t called keys at all – they’re Emotion Control Units and they’re made of crystal glass. And then there’s Ferrari. The only Ferrari key I’ve encountered was a real disappointment; completely ordinary looking expect for its red plastic top, like something you’d buy in your local Timpsons. Thankfully the 458 Spider to which it belonged was sublime. Funny though, what you remember.
The Kia Picanto’s ignition key is rather nice. It’s smooth, tactile and made from quality-feeling materials. Its buttons feel nicely damped and long lasting, engineered you could say, and overall it feels like a quality item – or to use a more technical motoring journalist adjective: premium. It is not perhaps the kind of key you’d expect to accompany a sub £13k city car, especially one made in Korea, but Kia does claim to have “The Power to Surprise”.
The Picanto is a stylish little thing and Kia’s smallest car in the UK. Available in both 3-door and 5-door variants, a recent refresh sees it gain a few subtle styling upgrades. There’s revised bumpers front and rear, vertical foglamp housings and new eight-spoke alloy wheels. Longer, and lower than the previous incarnation Picanto it now also sports the biggest boot in its class. Don’t get too excited. Its trunk only trumps its competition’s capacity by an extra litre. That said, although not exactly cavernous, what’s there will happily swallow the weekly shop.
Inside the Kia Picanto, the list of standard kit is a generous one, especially (and perhaps as expected) if you plump for the range topping “4” spec. Voice-controlled Bluetooth, leather-trimmed steering wheel and gear-knob (it’s always the bits you touch that make the difference), power-windows front and rear, air-con, USB input, electric mirrors and height adjustable driver’s seat, are all standard, attractively laid out and within easy reach.
Plus, there’s hill hold assist, LED running lights, ABS with EBD, ESP and a whole host of other abbreviated electro-witchcraft that you can’t see. It could be said that some of the plastics used lower down in the cabin are still very much in the hard and scratchy league. Nevertheless everything feels as though it’s been put together with precision. Overall this little Kia’s interior is an attractive, comfy and a rather mature feeling place to be. Also worthy of note is that the new Picanto will accommodate four six-footers for an hour or two – just. Kia claim it’s good for 62.8 mpg on the combined cycle too. Probably not when travelling “four-up” though.
European styling and sharply creased body aside, one look at the Picanto is all it takes to tell you that is in no-way a sportscar. Power – just 84 bhp of it in the test car – comes from a four cylinder 1.2litre petrol engine. Fast it isn’t. 0-62 takes a leisurely 11 seconds. And with just 89-lbft of torque available at 4000 rpm you’ll be calling upon the 5 speed ‘box time and time again to keep things on the boil. Nevertheless, things remain surprisingly smooth. Once up to speed the Picanto rides well even at motorway speeds. Which, incidentally it seems happy to do all day.
At lower speeds the stiff suspension set-up does sometimes thump into potholes. Plus, both the clutch and the brakes are a tad snappy. Yet once acclimatised the combination of light steering and excellent all-round visibility with a well thought-out driving position more than make up for those foibles.
It may not be quite class-leading; it doesn’t feel as solid as the similarly-sized Seat Mii, Skoda Citigo, or VW Up (they’re essentially the same car). It’s also not quite as good to drive as some of its Japanese/French competition. But if you want something that comes with a huge amount of kit that other manufacturers will happily charge you extra for, a big car feel, and a seven year warranty that few can match, you might well find that, like its key, the Kia Picanto feels a lot better than at first you might have expected.
Kia Pro Picanto 1.25 Petrol “4” 5dr
Engine: 1,248cc 4Cyl 12V petrol
Transmission: 5 speed manual, front wheel drive
Power: 84 bhp @ 6000r pm
Torque: 89 lbft @ 4000 rpm
0-62MPH: 11 Sec
Max Speed: 106mph
MPG: 62.8 combined