We’ve been flown to Barcelona to review the new KIA Picanto which is due in Ireland during May 2017. While the car is pretty much the same size as before, things have certainly been changed for the better in the all-new Picanto.
The Kia Picanto has proven itself to be a very important car for KIA, and since the launch of the second generation model in 2011, KIA has succeeded in selling more than 1.4 million globally. Three hundred thousand of these were in Europe.
The city car segment is very important for Europe. People seem to be opting for them for some simple reasons. Firstly, if you do have to get around city streets (especially narrow ones) on your way to or from work, this type of car is a lot easier to shift around town than most other vehicles. The other bonus is getting in and out of parking spaces. They’re usually cheaper than your average C-Segment car too - which is definitely appealing to those of you who need a car, but don’t necessarily have the budget for a larger hatchback. City cars are generally good in terms fuel economy and because their fuel tanks are tiny, you don't feel like you're eating into your mortgage payment every time you fill it up.
While all of those are positive reasons for opting for a city car, they do have negative points too. Firstly, space is smaller within the vehicle, and taking five adults on a trip that's longer than 50km is generally a no-no. Also, because that same fuel tank is smaller, you do tend to fill up more often. Other negatives of a city car include being noisy and powerless on the motorway. Road noise can be an absolute nightmare when you do get up to 80-120km/h. Whilst this segment has both its positives and its negatives, anyone who opts for a city car already knows the advantages and disadvantages of owning one.
The new Kia Picanto is all-in an improvement on the outgoing model. The quality, feel, and drive, is much better than what was on offer before. We drove both the GT and EX trims of this car and I’d feel it's on-par, if not better, than the likes of the Volkswagen Up! or the Skoda Citigo.
Even though KIA has added extra padding to the interior, you will still hear a lot of road noise while sitting in the cabin, but this is typical of the segment. I'm not knocking city cars for their road noise - the size and build of small cars means that noise from the exterior in inevitable. Where the Picanto scores best marks for comfort is in its completely updated infotainment system. Our test car came with a 7-inch touch screen which is easy to use and not dissimilar to what we've tested before in the KIA Niro.
The interior also comes with a spacious front cabin, a little more room in row two, and enough space for two adults. Row one's dashboard has been slightly raised, so the leg space certainly feels better up front. Head room to the rear is good, but legroom back there is still tight.
Most comfort will come if you opt for the new GT trim. The GT trim is doing the rounds in most new KIA cars, and it adds a better-looking interior and exterior to the car, with nicer stitching and colours throughout the interior. The new version of this car is certainly less boring on the inside that its predecessor.
GT-line in the KIA Picanto also results in a nicer looking vehicle on the outside and potential buyers will note that it has more air inlets, side skirts and chrome-tipped exhausts. Even without the GT badge, the new Picanto is a much more exciting machine than before.
While the new Picanto pretty-much has the exact same dimensions as the outgoing model, the all-new car has a longer wheelbase. The wheels are further apart and because of that, the new KIA Picanto feels a lot more grounded and offers much better grip than before. The steering has been improved, and the suspension set-up is good enough to deal with minor road imperfections. The new KIA Picanto also feels more rigid, which means that you you'll not be bouncing around the car as much as you drive over those rumble strips!
The positive notes about the all-new car keep on going too. In terms of steering, it's far more responsive than before. And, because the grip is better, and the body is more rigid, the car doesn't roll too badly in corners either.
In terms of engines, well... the big news is yet to come. As in, the exciting new turbo engine wasn't ready for the international launch, but it should be ready for punters in Ireland by September. So, at the launch, we tested the 1.0 (66 hp) and the 1.25 (83 hp) petrol engines. As is typical of me, I preferred the more powerful 1.25 litre engine. The smaller 66hp, 1.0-litre felt a little sluggish for my liking and I founded myself willing the car to pick up a bit of speed. The 1.25 is the more enjoyable of the two. Kia gave us a gutsy course to follow on our test drive. It had an excellent mix of small-town streets, motorways and the most fantastic twisty mountain roads. Both engines performed well on the flat roads of the city and the motorway, but, and this is why I said “Kia gave us a gutsy course”, both cars required a certain degree of gear dropping as the cars struggled successfully getting up mountain roads. While there was a need to drop the gears significantly, the cars still made it up without too much trouble, but I expect when the 100bhp turbo engine gets released towards the last quarter of the year, that it will tackle those hills with zero issues.
Another “gutsy”, but very fun move by KIA was to let us test the Picanto on a makeshift track in a car park. The course included slaloms, hairpins and other such road obstacles. It was marvelous fun, and a good way to show the improved grip and steering of the car.
We’ve been told by KIA Ireland’s marketing department that the new KIA Picanto will officially arrive at the start of May, but there was a hint of an April arrival. There will be 4 trims available, and to begin with, we will benefit from the 1.0-litre engine. The GT trim, the 1.25-litre engine and the new 1.0 turbo engine will arrive later in the year. Both of our test vehicles came with 5-speed manual gearboxes, and the 1.25 models will be available with a 4-speed automatic gearbox. We have not driven the automatic version yet.
Available trims include, TX, EX, EX ADAS, and GT. Prices for the bottom spec 1.0 TX start from €13,295 - which is €300 more expensive than the same level Hyundai version, however, with the Picanto, you will get lower CO2, and some extras, like heated mirrors and bluetooth.
So, how does the new Picanto fare against the likes of the likes of the Toyota Aygo, the Opel Karl, and the Volkswagen Up!? Well, the pick of the bunch for me is the Volkswagen Up! (SEAT Mii or the Skoda Citigo too), but I would have to say that the interior of the Picanto is more attractive. The new Picanto feels nicer to sit in than the Opel Karl, and feels more refined than the Aygo. However, this segment is full of good cars - provided you don't expect the luxury or space from larger segments. In my experience, anyone who opts for a city car, knows exactly what they're looking for from a car, and the Picanto could be it.