Kia Picanto Ice Comfort

Mid-life makeover brings city car into line with rest of Korean range

  • Upmarket cabin with surprising amounts of interior room
  • Unsettled at low speeds with too much kickback through the steering

The Cee’d family hatch has grabbed all the headlines so far this year, but the Picanto remains Kia’s best-selling model in the UK. The Korean firm worked hard to give the original model a distinctive look, so any potential facelift was never going to be too radical.

A new front end is the biggest change, with round headlights, a new grille and softer bumpers. This gives the Kia a friendlier shape that also brings it in line with the brand’s other models. It is a little generic, though, and there’s a hint of the Chevrolet Matiz about it – we’re not convinced this is really a step forward. The exterior alterations don’t go much further, because every panel from the windscreen back remains exactly the same – although there are fresh light clusters at the rear.

It’s inside where the biggest changes have taken place. The cabin has been given a serious overhaul and now features an all-black dash and door trims, replacing the drab grey of the old car. There’s a new steering wheel, while the instruments are backlit in orange. Overall, it looks and feels much more upmarket than before.

The driving position is good, too. As with the 107, the steering wheel can only be adjusted for rake, but unlike the French car the driver’s seat has height movement, so it’s easier to get comfortable behind the wheel. Elements such as the gearlever and handbrake also have a better-quality feel.

A longer wheelbase and an extra 105mm in length mean the Kia has the beating of the Peugeot for passenger and boot space. There’s also plenty of stowage, with twin cup-holders and decent door pockets. However, the cabin is narrower than the 107’s and for occupants in the back shoulder room is cramped.

Comfort around town isn’t as good as in the Peugeot, either. The ride is not as well damped and the Kia tends to skip and bounce over potholes and uneven surfaces. There’s little feedback through the steering, but the Picanto is easy to manoeuvre into tight spaces.

It’s very capable on open roads. The skinny tyres provide decent grip, and although body control isn’t kept in check as well as in the Peugeot, it feels competent when pushed hard. It’s stable at motorway speeds, too, even if wind noise can be a little intrusive.

With only 64bhp generated by its 1.1-litre engine, the Picanto is hardly a performance car. The unit is carried over from the old model, and while power has remained unchanged, tweaks have been made to enhance fuel economy. At the test track, the Kia was slower than its rival from 0-60mph – completing the sprint in 13.8 seconds – but managed to post better in-gear times in third and fourth, despite its heavier kerbweight.

This is because the 97Nm torque output peaks at 2,800rpm – that’s 800rpm sooner than the 107’s three-cylinder. At high revs, the Kia’s motor is short on refinement and isn’t particularly pleasant to use, as the throttle is overly sensitive. However, the four-cylinder powerplant was quieter both at idle and on the move.

The Picanto’s trump card is its excellent value for money. This mid-spec Ice model weighs in at £6,995 and comes with air-conditioning, electric windows and five doors. The same money would only get you an entry-level three-door 107 Urban Lite, which is sparsely equipped. Just bear in mind that the Korean car comes with only two airbags and achieved a three-star Euro NCAP crash test rating. The 107 gained four.

Details

Price: £6,995Model tested: Kia Picanto Ice ComfortChart position: 2WHY: Can the recent changes to the styling reinforce the Picanto’s place as Kia’s top-selling UK car?

Economy

Our Picanto arrived with only 15 miles on the clock, yet still achieved a respectable 44.1mpg with us. Despite a small 35-litre fuel tank, it has a useful range of 340 miles.

Residuals

Both models will do well second-hand. Residual figures aren’t available for the revised Picanto yet, although the outgoing 1.1 LS keeps 46.2 per cent of its value after three years

Servicing

At £567 for three services, the Kia is the cheaper car to maintain. And the brand came a superb 15th out of 32 in our Driver Power 2007 dealer survey – ahead of Audi, VW and Mercedes.

Tax

Although it has the less powerful engine, the Picanto emits 17g/km more CO2 than the 107, at 126g/km. Yet the lower list price means the Kia is cheaper for lower-rate fleet users, at £231 a year in tax.

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