Do you require a cool city runabout with lots of new gadgets? Small cars are getting smarter and Kia even named their flagship Picanto accordingly. We test-drove the updated model and drew up a comparison with every other hatchback we could find!
A few years ago the design of your tiny car didn’t matter – now it’s getting more important. We think the Picanto is good-looking and reasonably well-proportioned, especially with the brand’s tiger nose which now flows into the sculpted headlights. The LED strips in its front and rear light clusters are also cool.
The interior is also a trendy place to be – top marks for the two-tone seats, floating media system, easy ventilation controls, handsome steering wheel and classic instruments. Compared to its distant cousin, the Hyundai Grand i10 (N$202,900), this is a much more exciting place to be.
We love the Picanto’s colour palette and urge you to go for that funky green (“Lime Light”), fresh yellow (“Honey Bee”) or one of its two blues or reds. If you want something really eccentric on your driveway, consider the teeny-tiny Fiat 500 PopStar (N$204,900).
It’s a small urban hatchback, what are you expecting? Tall drivers wanted more downward seat movement but nobody – tall or short – had major problems piloting this metallic red test car. Its boot space of 255L is on par for the segment and extends to 1,010L with the rear 60/40 split folding seatbacks.
If you need more room at a similar price, have a squiz at the bigger Suzuki Baleno 1.4 GL (N$199,900) or Nissan Almera 1.5 Acenta (N$199,900 but not a hatchback!).
This comes from a perky 1.2L four-cylinder petrol engine, all 61kW (or about 83hp) and 122Nm of it. Stem this against it gross weight of 1,370kg and you get 0-100km/h in 10.84 seconds at sea level and a claimed top speed of 170km/h. For anyone who’s power crazed or lives at altitude, we suggest taking the Opel Corsa 1.0T Essentia (N$200,600) for a spin.
Ride and Quality
This erstwhile rental fleet fodder rides well and displays pleasing quality both inside and out. Panel gaps, paint finish, door rubbers and cabin trim were all very satisfactory and vindicate the comparably high asking price for this posh edition.
The 1.2 Smart has 15-inch alloys with 185/55 rubber as opposed to the 13 and 14 inch hardware on its cheaper counterparts. 55 profile tyres are still sensible though and should shrug off the odd curb contact or road imperfection. For even more ride height, check out the Fiat Panda TwinAir Lounge (N$199,900).
Steering and Brakes
City driving is easy with agile handling, acceptable body roll and a tight turning radius but keep in mind that Picantos don’t have ESP (electronic vehicle stability assistance). The ABS brakes are ok as we did a single emergency stop from 100km/h in 2.91 seconds and 40.16 meters.
Steering feel is fairly lightweight while highway cruising is commendable but could benefit from a sixth gear. For a more solid feel, especially out on the open road, consider the slightly more expensive and ESP-equipped Honda Jazz 1.2 Trend (N$211,900).
Safety and Technology
Speaking of which, that Jazz and a few other dearer hatchbacks (Suzuki Swift 1.4 GLS, Peugeot 208 1.2 Active) also feature more airbags than this Kia’s driver and front passenger units. Slide down the Picanto pecking order and you end up with just one!
At least this range-topping model offers loads of goodies like touchscreen media, Bluetooth, USB, daytime running lights, power windows and mirrors, adjustable multi-function steering wheel and rear park sensors as standard. Good luck finding that elsewhere…
Price and value
For the ultimate peace of mind, ultimate dealer network and ultimate sheep behaviour, get a Volkswagen Polo Vivo (N$173,800 to N$207,200), a Polo 1.2T (N$226,900) or a Toyota Yaris 1.0 Pulse (N$199,900). Their spec levels aren’t bad but…
This is where the Picanto 1.2 Smart does well. If you want plenty of toys included in the price, not much else will keep up with the Kia brigade. Same for its warranty of five years and unlimited mileage but be sure to read the fine print.