Kia Picanto 1.25 ISG EcoDynamics20 | 05 | 2011Scotcars rating

    Kia takes its little Picanto and turns it into the class-leading car it always wanted to be

    Overview

    To be honest, the pint-sized Picanto from Kia has never been high up on my wish list. In fact, it’s never figured at all. The only time I’ve ever driven one has been on holiday in Spain and even then, only because it was the cheapest deal from the hire company. Having said that, I found it did the job of runabout very well and as a bargain basement rental car, it had everything I needed, although a wee bit of aircon would have been appreciated.

    It’s been around since 2004 and with only a couple of minor tweaks has been virtually unchanged in that time, having effectively led the advance of Kia into the battle to become a serious force in the economy area of the market. By far it has been the Korean’s best-seller in what is now an impressive range including the superb Sorrento and Sportage 4x4s, and the C’eed, which has the lead automotive role in Top Gear’s “Star in a Reasonably Priced Car."

    Now the Picanto has been completely revamped with a great new look, more space inside, advanced technology, improved efficiency and a high quality finish… .. and all at a very attractive price. Built in Korea, the new Picanto is expected to sell up to 12,000 models in the coming year, taking around 8% of the huge A segment supermini market. From my experience of driving some of the first models over a couple of hundred miles, that’s a cautious prediction. Kia’s problem will be supplying the demand.  

    On the road

    It’s a small car on the outside – only 60mm longer and with a 15mm wider wheelbase than the previous model – but clever design has created much more space inside with increased legroom and more luggage area without increasing the car’s height or width.

    The whole image of the car has been changed. The previous model was regarded as “cute and feminine” while the new one is much more butch with more muscular wheel arches, a more positive front end and wide set alloys. There are two engines choices — a three-cylinder 1.0 litre unit, which even with only 68bhp is extremely capable in a range of conditions, and a 1.25 litre version of the Kappa-family engine — and three transmission options; threre's the standard manual transmission, four-speed automatic, and the EcoDynamics of the test car with fuel consumption of almost 66mpg and low emissions, achieved in part through engine stop-start.

    In a range of road conditions from city streets to open countryside, the car felt solid, stable and secure without any of the small car feel of the previous model. Changes to the front suspension have improved straightline stability and the ride is much better from a stiffer rear axle and softer springs.

    The overall impression was one of quality, efficiency and good sense knowing that it represented excellent value for money and would be very easy on the pocket of any buyer. OK, it’s not the fastest away from the lights but with the level of traffic being what it is, the joy of performance is often something limited only to dreams of days gone by.

    Comfort & Safety

    A small car at the bottom end of the market it may be, but I felt very comfortable and even more than a hundred miles of rural motoring seemed little more than a quick run round the block. As for safety, the new car uses high strength steel to create an all-round stiff body structure. The B and C pillars enclose reinforced hoops and there’s additional strengthening in the side sills for added protection in a side impact. It has all the usual safety features in the braking system and front, side and curtain airbags.

    The trim level 2 of the test car came with Bluetooth, aircon and electric windows as standard and like every car in the Kia range has a seven-year or 100,000-mile warranty, the best in the business and the envy of every other manufacturer. The only thing I couldn’t find – and it may have been finger trouble on my part – was an outside temperature gauge. I suspect it was there; I just couldn’t find it on my roamings round the otherwise informative and clear and concise dashboard.  

    Even before the car goes on sale at Scotland's Kia network on June 17, the manufacturer has added to the range with the introduction of a new version called the 1 Air; priced £8595, a £600 premium over the base model and £1000 below the higher-specced mid-range 2 version, the 1.0-litre 1 Air comes with a manual aircon unit. The 1 Air will be available from September.

    Should you buy one?

    It’s great value for money; it’s sensible and practical and it looks good too.

    Alan Douglas  

    Quick Stats
    Price OTR/As Tested £10,195 / £10,195
    Engine / Power: 1248cc / 84bhp
    How fast?: 11secs / 106mph
    How big/heavy?: L3595mm W1595mm H1480mm / 950kgs
    How thirsty/CO2?: 65.7mpg / 125g/km
    InsGP/Road tax: 7P / Band D  £95
    Alternatives: Hyundai i10; Chevrolet Spark; Daihatsu Sirion; Suzuki Swift; Toyota Aygo; Fiat Panda

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