Hmm. It looks a bit better than the old car
It does, doesn’t it? Out goes the old cat’s arse grille, to be replaced with something altogether neater. There are new bumpers front and rear, a new bonnet, front wings and light units. The intention was to give the Picanto a family resemblance to its big brother, the Ceed hatchback. Not sure about those bug-eyed headlights, though.
Tidied up styling isn’t the only change to the face-lifted Picanto. The cabin has had a refresh, too, with a new fascia, better plastics, and a proper integrated stereo instead of a fiddly aftermarket unit. Even the indicator stalk is now on the left-hand side, so no more indicating with the windscreen wipers.
Yes, but is it any better to drive?
Er, no. The chassis has been left alone, so there’s still the same choppy ride and bags of lean through corners. There’s little feedback through the wheel. If you want a city car that’s enjoyable to drive the Fiat 500 is a much better bet.
The Picanto is more at home in town than on a favourite back road. The ride is still poor, but the half-pint dimensions, 4.6-metre turning circle and light steering combine to make parking a doddle.
What about the engines?
As before, there’s just the two to choose from: a 61bhp 1.0-litre and a 64bhp 1.1-litre petrol.
While there might not be much between them in power, the 1.1-litre has a lot more torque. It’s the one to go for unless you want the paperboy on his pushbike to beat you away from the lights.
Even with the 1.1, performance is leisurely, reaching 62mph in 15.1 seconds. Keep your foot on the floor and it will max out at 96mph, but don’t hold your breath, and be prepared for lots of engine and road noise on the way.
Cheap to fuel, though, I suppose?
That’s the big compensation for accepting such lacklustre performance. The 1.0-litre promises 57.6mpg on the combined cycle. The 1.1 should achieve 53.3mpg, and even the 1.1 auto manages a respectable 47.1mpg.
There is a 1.1 diesel Picanto in some markets, but there are no plans to bring it to the UK. Kia says UK fuel pricing and the Benefit-in-Kind tax penalty for diesels mean demand would not be high enough, especially when the petrol models are so economical.
It looks tiny. Can’t be much room inside
Space is very tight. The narrow cabin means you’ll bump elbows with the front seat passenger every time you change gear, and tall drivers will run out of rear-seat travel long before they find a comfortable driving position. At least there’s now height adjustment for the driver’s seat on all but the entry-level car.
This basic model makes do with two seatbelts in the back, although the rest of the range can seat five – in theory. In practice, three across the back is realistic for short trips only.
On the other hand this is a city car, so it’s churlish to be too critical of limited space, and the finish is a step up in quality over the pre-face-lift car. But rivals like the Daihatsu Charade and Fiat Panda both have more practical cabins.
I think I’ll pass, thanks. Or is there something I’m missing?
Two words. ‘Price’ and ‘value’.
The most basic Picanto 1.0-litre costs just £5995. That’s £1000 less than a boggo spec Panda and nearly £1500 less than the cheapest Daihatsu Sirion.
The Picanto 2 1.1-litre starts at £6795, so still undercuts these two rivals. Leather trim for the steering wheel and gearknob, a height-adjustable steering wheel, driver’s seat height adjustment and remote central locking are standard. Another £200 buys the Ice model, and adds air-conditioning to the list of standard kit.
Kia describes the Picanto 3 as the sports-luxury model (and somehow keeps a straight face). Heated door mirrors, 15-inch alloys, front fog lamps and alloy pedals are added to the list of goodies, with a price tag of £7995.
What’s more, it’s rumoured that the warranty might soon be extended from three to five years’ cover.
The Picanto is not a very ‘Car’ car. It’s not quick, it’s not fun, it’s not innovative or particularly stylish.
But judged on its own terms, it’s a better car than you might credit. Prices are low and running costs are rock bottom. So long as you avoid the entry-level models, equipment levels are reasonable, too. Anyone on a tight budget but determined to own a new car could do worse.