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Kia Picanto 1 1.0

The most expensive choice in this test stands out with its good design and solid build

Even in its most basic form, the Kia looks classy and boasts a stylish, well equipped interior. It’s also surprisingly practical, and backed by the brand’s industry-leading warranty. It’s only held back by its breathless engine and the fact that it isn’t as accomplished on the road as the Skoda.

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Kia clearly understands that cheap cars don’t have to look low rent. The model in our pictures is a range-topping City, but our entry-level Picanto 1 test car gets body-coloured bumpers, mirrors and door handles, while the rising shoulder line and boomerang rear lights help it stand out from the crowd.

The Picanto certainly looks more appealing than the basic Sandero, and proves that you don’t have to spend big money to get eye-catching car design.

The theme continues inside, where you’ll find an attractively styled and thoughtfully laid-out dashboard. Solid trim and decent materials mean the Kia’s up there with the Skoda in terms of quality. Drivers also benefit from a standard height adjustable seat and steering wheel, which means it’s easy to find a comfortable driving position.

Like the other models in this test, opting for the cheapest car in the range means living without air-conditioning, but the entry-level Picanto does get central looking and electric front windows. More importantly, standard safety kit includes stability control, curtain airbags and a hill hold system.

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Rear legroom is closely matched to the bigger Dacia’s and, unlike the Skoda and Suzuki, you get a trio of rear seatbelts. The 200-litre boot may be on the small side, but split-fold rear seats are standard.

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Unfortunately, the Kia doesn’t have the performance to keep up with its rivals. The 998cc three-cylinder engine lacks the eager nature of the Skoda and feels strained at higher revs. It had the slowest in-gear response, and feels sluggish around town and breathless at higher speeds.

In corners, the Picanto doesn’t change direction as sharply as the Citigo, and while there’s less body roll than in the Sandero, the artificially light steering weights up unpleasantly either side of the straight ahead. On top of that, the brakes are too grabby.

But our biggest gripe is with the ride quality, as the stiff suspension thumps over bumpy tarmac. And while the cabin is well insulated from wind and road noise on smoother surfaces, the Kia isn’t as refined, grown-up or accomplished as the Citigo.

On paper, the £8,045 Picanto is the most expensive car to buy, but this is offset by decent residuals and sub-100g/km CO2 emissions, which mean road tax will cost you nothing, plus Kia is offering £250 off the list price if your order before 1 April. That makes it just £75 more than the Citigo. And once you factor in Kia’s seven-year warranty and the reasonable standard kit, this car looks a strong choice.

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