Kia Picanto review
The Kia Picanto is a stylish city car that offers low-running costs, a seven-year warranty and great equipment levels
The first generation Picanto was a huge success for Kia in the UK, thanks to the fact it was so popular with buyers taking advantage of the Government’s scrappage scheme, and this second-generation model is a big improvement on the old car.
It offers even more value-for-money, but it’s also a lot more stylish, better equipped and is a more sophisticated offering in almost every way.
The Picanto is a few years old now – and a number of new rivals have launched since it first went on sale – but it still looks good, and holds its own as one of the more stylish models in the class.
That’s largely down to the distinctive ‘tiger-nose’ grille and its sporty-looking stance.
But the fashion-model looks haven’t detracted from the Picanto’s practicality. It has a bigger wheelbase than its predecessor – and hence more interior space – and a bigger boot, too.
The two petrol engines on offer are quiet and efficient, too, and provide enough power to ensure the little Kia is nippy around town, even if it does feel a little underpowered on motorways.
You get a choice of five specification levels: 1, 2, 3, VR7 and White, but all models come with a generous level of equipment.
Our choice: Picanto 1.25 '2' ISG
The first-generation Kia Picanto was bland to say the least. Not so the second generation. As with other Kia models launched in the last few years, it gets a far more upmarket, sporty design.
The stand-out feature is Kia’s ‘tiger-nose’ grille, which blends superbly with the Picanto’s small dimensions. It’s surrounded by a pair of swept-back, oversized headlights and two large, sporty-looking air vents.
The three-door model is pretty much the same size as the five-door car, but looks even sportier. The nose is even more distinctive thanks to a larger grille opening featuring either red or silver trim around the edges. It also gets a wider front bumper and chrome-tipped twin exhausts.
The interior is neatly designed but doesn’t look anywhere near as stylish as the exterior.
The Picanto range is available with a wide choice of colours. Three-door models are available in Clear White, Bright Silver, Blaze Red and Galaxy Black. The five-door version can be had in any of those colours plus Lemongrass, Blue Breeze and Fuchsia Blush.
Trim levels on the three-door include: 1, 1 Air, VR7 and White. While five-door specifications include: 1, 1 Air, VR7, 2 and 3. All models come with electric windows, trip computer and MP3 connectivity.
The range-topper is the three-door White model, which comes with 15-inch alloy wheels, parking sensors, Bluetooth connectivity and air-con.
The Kia Picanto is at its best when zipping around town – unsurprisingly, given it’s a city car. The steering is direct and light, which is great for navigating the Picanto’s small dimensions through crowded town traffic.
There is a choice of two engines: a 68bhp 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine and an 84bhp 1.25-litre petrol engine. The smaller engine is available on 1, 1 Air, VR7 and 2 spec models. It’s efficient and economical but it’s also a bit sluggish. You’ll find it struggles on motorways. It’ll do 67.3mpg and 99g/km CO2, making it exempt from road tax.
The larger engine is available on 2, 3 and White spec cars. It offers a bit more punch and is much better at coping with motorway speeds – especially when it comes to overtaking. It offers decent economy, too, and will return 60mpg.
One of the areas where the Picanto is starting to show its age is its safety rating. It scored four-stars in the Euro NCAP crash tests. And while that may have been acceptable for city cars a few years ago, it looks pretty disappointing now, as newer rivals all have five stars.
However, you shouldn’t let the four-star rating put you off. The Picanto was marked down by Euro NCAP because entry-level European spec models don’t come as standard with electronic stability control – but entry-level UK cars do.
And the Picanto scored decent marks for Adult Occupant and Child Occupant protection, receiving 86 per cent for the former and 83 per cent for the latter. It also comes with a decent range of safety kit, including ABS, traction control, ISOFIX points for child seats and driver, passenger, side and curtain airbags.
There should be no problems with the Picanto when it comes to reliability. The quality of Kia’s cars have been improving at a staggering rate in recent years, but any lingering concerns you may have should be put well to rest by the company’s brilliant seven-year/100,000-mile warranty.
Kia has also been performing well in customer satisfaction surveys. It came seventh in the 2013 Driver Power manufacturer rankings – ahead of brands like Audi and BMW, not to mention Ford and Vauxhall.
The Picanto also put in a decent performance in the Top 100 Cars league table, finishing 68th – which is impressive for a city car, all of which are inevitably hindered by poor marks for practicality and performance. The Toyota iQ was the only rival to finish higher (it came 65th) – although, to be fair, cars like the VW up!, Skoda Citigo and the new Hyundai i10 were still too new to figure in the survey.
The second-generation Picanto is more spacious on the inside than the previous model, thanks to the fact it has a larger wheelbase. Five-door cars are obviously more practical than three-doors, due to the improved access to the rear seats.
The Picanto’s boot has 200 litres of capacity, which is pretty average in the class. It’s better than the Fiat 500, but some way behind newer rivals. The Volkswagen Group trio of city cars – the VW up!, SEAT Mii and Skoda Citigo – for example, have 251 litres of capacity. While the Hyundai i10 boasts 252 litres of space.
The Kia comes with 60:40 split-folding rear seats as standard, though, which helps to improve practicality. Fold them flat and space increases to 870 litres. The boot has a wide opening, too, which helps with squeezing in large objects.
There are plenty of storage compartments and cubbyholes dotted around the interior, too, plus a decent sized glovebox. Mid-spec models get a twin cup holder underneath the centre console as well. Frustratingly, though, the steering wheel only adjusts for rake, not reach.
One of the main selling points of city cars is the fact that they are cheap to run – and the Picanto is no exception to this rule, despite the absence of a diesel engine. The 68bhp 1.0-litre three cylinder engine does 67.3mpg and emits just 99g/km CO2, making it exempt from tax.
The larger 1.25-litre engine will do 60mpg and emits 109g/km CO2 – although Kia offers the EcoDynamics stop-start system as an optional extra with this engine which improves the figures to 65.7mpg and 100g/km CO2.
Avoid the four-speed automatic gearbox is you’re looking to keep a lid on running costs. The three-door White 1.25 auto model emits 130g/km CO2 – a phenomenally high figure for a car of this size.
Insurance group ratings are low across the board, which will help to keep your premium down. And Kia’s seven-year/100,000-mile warranty will ensure you don’t get hit with a major repair bill, too.