Compact yet mature
Everything is new! For the new Picanto (2017) Kia started out with a blank slate. However, the concept of the Picanto remained the same. Again, the car had to be compact yet mature and again the Picanto should offer excellent value for money.
And that meant the car wasn't allowed to grow. A bigger car would be less manoeuvrable, less economic and less affordable. And because the price had to remain low, there was no space for technical innovations. Don't expect electric drive or a computer to assist the driver. Regretful, but considering the price tag no more than reasonable.
Kia found the improvement in "packaging". This means the car doesn't just look better, it's also a lot smarter underneath the skin. While the car still looks like a Picanto, the sharper lines make it look more modern.
The new GT-Line provides this compact Kia with sporty looks and makes the whole package more desirable. For example, the test car is fitted with sporty bumpers, side skirts, a double exhaust and aluminium pedals.
By positioning the wheels even more into the extreme corners, the wheelbase was extended while the total length of the car remained the same. Because of this the cabin space improved noticeably. In the rear the Picanto now offers more head and legroom than most competitors. The boot space also increased, so this smallest Kia now offers the biggest luggage space in its segment.
But there's more! The dashboard has been moved 1.5 cm closer to the windscreen and that also gives a greater feeling of freedom in the front. An (adjustable) armrest with cupholder makes for a bit more comfort and storage in the front.
Although the Picanto isn't innovative, it is modern. Depending on the trim level, the Picanto can be pretty luxurious. For example, the test car (GT-Line) featured a light and rain sensor, cruise-control, heated seats and even a heated steering wheel.
When it comes to electronics, Kia offers wireless charging for mobile phones, a rear-view camera and a well specced infotainment system. The latter combines audio, satnav and communication and also supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The safety features are no more than sufficient. Only the most luxurious version can detect danger and brake autonomously. This system only detects other cars, it doesn't brake for pedestrians. It's only in this field that the Picanto lacks behind compared to the competition.
Because the Picanto had to remain a cheap runabout and because customers don't demand high tech solutions, the car comes with two basic petrol engines. The first has a disposition of 1.0 litre and has three cylinders; a bog-standard engine for a car like this.
The output is 67 PS / 98 Nm which is also average. It's adequate to flow along with traffic. Also, the noise from the engine, wind and tyres are minimal and therefore the Picanto doesn't feel like a simple or cheap city car. At the same time, at high speeds (over 60 mph) and in mountainous terrain it becomes painfully obvious that this is a light engine.
As long as the Picanto has been on the market, customers have been complaining about high fuel real-life consumption. Therefore, once again: the carmaker states an average fuel figure and one for city traffic. When only driving short distances (less than 30 km), one will use a lot more fuel than when driving long distances. The long test drive over open roads, rural areas and city traffic cost exactly 5 litres per 100 km.
Next to the 1.0 litre three-cylinder engine, a 1.2 litre four-cylinder engine is available. In real life it is as quiet and as strong as the smaller engine. The difference is that the bigger engine performs with more ease. The bigger engine also allows for a more lazy driving style because one has to shift gears less frequently. Be warned that the bigger engine uses a lot more fuel in city traffic. On longer distances both engines almost achieve about the same fuel economy.
The best has been kept till last: handling. Thanks to a longer wheelbase, a stronger body and weight reduction, handling has been improved significantly. The new underpinning offers more comfort on poor road surfaces and a more alert reaction to input from the steering wheel. The turning circle is remarkably small and that means less hassle in small streets.
The improved mechanics are being assisted by smart electronics. The new Picanto can be fitted with "Torque Vectoring by Braking". This means the brake of the inner wheel will momentarily be activated in a corner, which makes the car more stable and much safer in extreme situations.
What's new with the new Kia Picanto? Everything and nothing. The concept behind the car remained exactly the same. Still, the Picanto is an economic, well handling small car that feels solid and mature. This is how the previous Picanto distinguished itself from the competition and it's how the new one does it as well.
By developing the Picanto from scratch, Kia accomplished meeting those goals even better. The new model looks better, offers more space while retaining the same exterior size, offers more value for money and handles better thanks to more modern mechanics. That's how this car managed to remain small while offering more.
- Great handling
- Compact yet all grown up
- Frugal, both in theory and real life
- Sixth gear is missing
- Low front bumper easily hits obstacles
- Price increases rapidly for more luxurious version