Car review: Kia Picanto

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  • | by Kristian Dando

What’s this then?

Why, it’s the Kia Picanto, the latest version of the Korean manufacturer’s wallet-friendly supermini. If the buzz is to be believed, this latest incarnation is light years ahead of its cheap and cheerful forbearers. It should be - the Picanto has been designed by Peter Shreyer, previously of premium German brand Audi.

While the last one was beloved of people of a ‘certain vintage’ thanks to its low price, running costs and seven year warranty, this new model could make Kia’s smallest car more credible than it ever has been.

How does it look?

From the outside, it truly is a quantum leap from the rather twee previous Picanto. It’s squat and purposeful, and far more aggressive looking, whilst retaining a hint of agreeable Far Eastern cuteness. A resounding success, in that respect.

How about inside?

From the budget price, you shouldn’t really be expecting cossetting luxury from the Picanto. But it’s nice enough. Our Picanto came in ‘2’ specification, which adds Bluetooth functionality and air conditioning to the package. While you might not want to do too many long-haul drives in there, it’s a pleasant enough place. The dashboard is uncomplicated and doesn’t do much to distract, while an iPod interface comes as standard. Once it’s hooked, it’s pretty easy to access your tracks, too. The soundsystem itself is a little heavy on the mids and treble but you can hardly expect bass to rattle the fillings out of your teeth but for the price.

The boot will struggle to fit a lot more than a weekly shop, but that’s a common complaint of cars in this class. Thankfully, the rear seats fold down without too much fuss – just don’t expect to be cramming too much lifestyle gear in.

How does it drive?

The Picanto’s dinky 1.0 litre three-cylinder engine won’t be setting too many hearts a flutter, but it’s peppy enough, and means that the Picanto is cheap to insure and returns decent economy - we squeezed about 50mpg out of it over the course of a week. You’ll need to be shifting gears frequently a lot to get the best out of it though. There's a 1.2 litre option too, which will provide a bit more oomph, if you require it.

The steering is responsive and nimble, and the Picanto is surprisingly fun to chuck around thanks to its light weight, making the negotiation of roundabouts a rather zesty experience. Go easy on the brakes though – they’re a bit sharp.

What do other people think about it?

They’re generally pleasantly surprised – the default phrase goes along the lines of “actually, it’s quite nice.” Kia seems to have succeeded in making it much more difficult for folk to be sniffy about the Picanto.

What are the alternatives?

The Hyundai i10, which the Picanto shares a platform and engine with, is considered to be the class leader. Ford’s new Ka is also a contender, while the Vauxhall Agila and Suzuki Alto are also worth a look.

Who’d drive one?

Somebody who wants a hassle-free, uncomplicated way of getting from ‘A’ to ‘B’ which won’t break the bank, but looks pretty cool too. Preferably, they wouldn’t want to lug too much stuff - or large pets - about.


The Picanto is still cheap and cheerful, but now it can add ‘respectability’ to its CV, too. Good handling and decent running costs make it a tempting proposition – you don’t even have to pay Vehicle Excise Duty (road tax) or the London Congestion Charge with one.

We like: Stylish looks, good economy, fun handling, seven year warranty, cheap running costs.

We don’t like: Small boot, sharp braking, tinny soundsystem.

At a glance…

Kia Picanto 1.0 Petrol ‘2’

Engine: Three cylinder, 998cc 0-60mph: 13.9 seconds

Top speed: 95mph

Efficiency: 67.3mpg (combined, claimed)

Emissions: 99g C02/km

Our Picanto came with the following selected specification: Metallic paint, air conditioning, Bluetooth connectivity, alloy wheels.

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