Kia Picanto asserts itself in supermini class

It is difficult not to be impressed with Kia. It used to be that the main reason for buying the Korean brand was because they were cheap. The actual product experience was not strong. The design and style didn’t match up to European expectations and the dynamics were often less than exciting.

That is all changing very rapidly. I have driven a number of Kias recently (as you can see if you click the Kia link in the ‘tag cloud’ towards the bottom of the right sidebar). The most recent of them being the new Kia Picanto, the latest version of Kia’s supermini.

Kia Picanto

Yes, it may not have the chic appeal of the Fiat 500, or a Mini, but it does have a crisply-designed fashionable suit of clothes that stands comparison with the likes of the Ford Fiesta.

Inside, although it is clear that the interior trim materials are from the budget end of the scale, the Picanto has a commendably restrained design that shuns the “cheap hi-fi” look of some other budget Far East cars. This may not be a particularly exciting place to sit, but it is pleasant and comfortable for the price and the layout is good. My only quibble is the common Kia problem of indicators that don’t cancel when exiting roundabouts.

With four doors (OK, five with the tailgate if you insist), compared with two on many of its obvious competitors, the Picanto is a very practical motor car. The kids can get in and out easier and mum, or dad, can fix a child seat with less contortions. However, this is a small car so – if the driver has the seat slid well back – adults are going to find their knees a bit crushed in the back seat. For the first time with this new Picanto there is a three-door option.

Round the back the boot is small, but not bad for a car in this class, at 200 litres. But there is a little bit of a lip to lift loads up and over.

Kia Picanto interior

In these cost and environmentally-conscious, the Picanto I tested was the one-litre. That puts it in line with the Fiat 500 TwinAir that I drove recently. Less positively, it also aligns with the Chevrolet Spark 1.0.

The power and performance figures of the Picanto might raise fears of a Spark repeat, with only 68 bhp on tap, producing a 13.9 second 0-60 acceleration time. But, that is not only 1.9 seconds quicker than the previous model, it also delivers its limited performance much more willingly, making this a far more pleasant car to drive.

The official combined mpg of the Picanto 1.0 is 67.3 mpg, almost 9 mpg better than the previous Picanto. In real-life driving I managed around 45 mpg overall. Kia have also managed to just squeeze the CO2 emissions below the tax threshold to 99 g/km, meaning your UK tax disc is free.

Far from being breathless at cruising speed, the Picanto manages to hold 70 mph quite happily despite only having five gears.

Kia Picanto

The one flaw in the driving dynamics – which will take just a little getting used to – is the over-eager brakes that tend to snatch a little too quickly.

At £7,995 the Kia Picanto is a very honest budget-priced car, which deliver budget-priced motoring in a practical manner. But while your head is whispering Kia Picanto in your ear, your heart may be telling you to look at all the attractive used cars you could buy for the same money.

What may silence your heart, though and help your head win (if a new car is really your desire) is that the Kia Picanto comes with a seven year warranty. Now that should ensure your running costs stay low!
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