Kia Picanto 3dr Halo

Good looks, high quality, great value – is this a new class leader?

Kia has gone from strength to strength recently, with massive leaps forward in both quality and design. But if the Picanto is going to succeed in the image-driven three-door market, it needs to appeal to the heart as well as the head.
The good news is that the newcomer does away with the staid image that’s typified small Korean cars in the past. It’s modern and European looking, and small changes mark it out from the five-door version.
Video: watch CarBuyer's video review of the Kia Picanto
Whether all the detailing works together as a cohesive piece of design is open to debate, but for those who think the Fiat 500 is chintzy, the defiantly non-retro Picanto will appeal.
Everyone will be impressed with the modern, high-quality cabin. It sets the standard in this sector, with first-rate materials used throughout. The dash is simply laid out and white trim inserts brighten things up.
The driver’s seat adjusts for height, as does the steering wheel, while there’s plenty of storage with a big glovebox, door bins with bottle holders and twin cup-holders.
Rear legroom is better than in the 500, the seats split and fold and with three adjustable headrests and a trio of full seatbelts as standard, it’s the only car here that carries three people in the back. However, only the passenger seat slides forward automatically so it’s tricky to get in behind the driver.
The 1.2-litre engine is the larger of the two petrols on offer and it’s refined at start-up and low speed. However, the 121Nm torque figure is 24Nm down on the Fiat and peak output arrives higher in the rev range, so the Kia doesn’t feel as responsive – it trailed the 500 in our in-gear tests.
On the plus side, it was a fraction quicker in the sprint from 0-60mph (11.4 seconds), and it outperformed the Ford here, too. More importantly, it has the smoothest stop-start system, and with a relaxed gearshift and light controls, it’s easy to drive.
The Kia has smaller wheels and narrower tyres than its rivals, so it doesn’t change direction as sharply, while the light steering lacks feedback and is artificially weighted either side of straight ahead.
The brakes have a lot of servo assistance so there’s a positive response as soon as you touch the pedal, but the ABS comes in early and we recorded disappointing stopping distances.
There’s more body roll than with the 500, but overall the handling is predictable, and the Kia is the only car with standard stability control.
The ride is fairly stiff for a small city car and the suspension thumps into potholes. But on smoother surfaces, road, wind and tyre noise are all well suppressed.
The Picanto makes a strong case. The quality of the cabin and refinement mean you have to constantly remind yourself you’re driving a small city car, while generous standard kit helps justify the £11,695 price.


Chart position: 1WHY: Small Kias have always been sensible buys, but the new three-door Picanto hopes to add some style and desirability to the mix.

Most Popular

New 2022 Range Rover leaks: first look at new Land Rover flagship SUV
Range Rover leak - front
Land Rover Range Rover

New 2022 Range Rover leaks: first look at new Land Rover flagship SUV

Images of what could be the next Range Rover have appeared on social media ahead of next week’s reveal
21 Oct 2021
New Hyundai Ioniq 6 targeting Tesla Model 3 with 311-mile range
Hyundai Ioniq 6 - watermarked

New Hyundai Ioniq 6 targeting Tesla Model 3 with 311-mile range

The new Hyundai Ioniq 6 saloon will join the Ioniq 5 in the brand’s all-electric line-up and our exclusive image previews how it could look
21 Oct 2021
New Kia EV6 2021 review
Kia EV6 front tracking
Kia EV6

New Kia EV6 2021 review

With a sporty drive, 300-plus miles of range and plenty of tech - could the new Kia EV6 be one of the best electric cars on sale?
19 Oct 2021