Kia is clear that its first foray into the light car market with the Picanto last year was something of a test program ahead of the arrival of this new model.
That 2016 car was already five years old when it arrived in Australia, but with city cars a declining market in Australia the opportunity was just right to see if Kia could make the mico car formula work with a low price and highly specced sub-compact car.
The arrival of this new generation Picanto confirms that Kia’s plan worked - in fact the last Picanto managed to grab 40 percent of the market, outselling rivals like the Mitsubishi Mirage, Holden Spark and Suzuki Celerio,
Now, with a fresh new look, extra technology and equipment, but pricing that continues to hold a tight line, the new Picanto seeks to build on the success of its predecessor.
Vehicle Style: Micro hatchback
Price: $14,190 plus on-roads (manual), $15,690 driveaway (automatic)
Engine/trans: 62kW/122Nm 1.2-litre 4cyl | 5sp manual, 4sp automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 5.0 l/100km manual, 5.8 l/100km automatic
The Korean brand has also added a five-speed manual variant to the range, to go with the four-speed automatic, though the three-pedal version is expected to only account for a small 10-20 percent slice of sales.
Pricing for the automatic Picanto is a driveaway deal at $15,690 (up by $700 compared to the previous version) with the manual listed at $14,190 plus on-road costs, making it theoretically more expensive by the time on-road charges are added - provided you don’t haggle your local Kia dealer down to a tighter bottom line.
The price rise appears justified though, with Kia loading the Picanto up with the kind of features the last model missed including a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard, plus a reversing camera, cruise control, and more for an even better-value deal.
- Standard Equipment: Cloth seat trim, height-adjustable driver’s seat, air conditioning, remote central locking, power windows, dusk-sensing headlights, cruise control, trip computer, multi-function steering wheel, 14-inch steel wheels with full wheel covers
- Infotainment: 7.0-inch touchscreen, AM/FM radio, USB and Aux inputs, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity, four-speaker audio
- Cargo Volume: 255 litres to rear seats, 1010 litres with seats folded
Kia has unlocked more space inside the Picanto thanks to a longer wheelbase and a redesigned dashboard that frees up more room.
Design themes for the new Picanto’s interior are similar to the outgoing model, but sharper and more modern - nowhere more so than the 7.0-inch ‘floating’ touchscreen mounted proudly in the dash top which brings essential connectivity in the form of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
That new screen - in place of the LCD display of the last generation - also allows for a reversing camera to join the standard features list, taking the Picanto’s spec toe-to-toe with the Holden Spark.
Elsewhere the interior boasts power windows for all four doors, cloth trim, air conditioning, remote central locking and cruise control with a single specification making the buying process as simple as can be
At the rear boot space also gets a leg-up with 255 litres behind the rear seats, up by 55 litres next to the previous model, and 60:40 folding rear seats that unlock up to 1010 litres of cargo space.
A deep storage bin ahead of the gear shifter, centre console storage tray, and bottle holders in the front doors provide plenty of interior storage options for such a compact car.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 1.25-litre naturally-aspirated four-cylinder petrol, 62kW @6000rpm, 122Nm @4000rpm
- Transmission: Five speed manual or four-speed automatic, front wheel drive
- Suspension: MacPherson Strut front, torsion beam rear
- Brakes: 256mm vented front discs, 234mm solid rear discs
- Steering: electrically assisted power steering, 9.4m turning circle
Kia has kept things familiar under the bonnet, with a carry-over 1.25 litre engine from the previous Picanto although outputs have been massage slightly to 62kW and 122Nm - a drop of 1kW but a gain of 2Nm.
The Picanto also sticks with a four-speed automatic in lieu of a CVT auto favoured by competitors. A five-speed manual also joins the range for the first time in Australia.
Unfortunately fuel consumption in the Picanto auto has risen slightly, up to 5.8 l/100km from its previous 5.3 l/100km rating in the old model. The manual is the more frugal option with a claimed 5.0L/100km.
TMR’s first test of the new Picanto took place on some of the more challenging mountain roads between Brisbane and Noosa, a fun little drive, without a doubt, but hardly the Picanto’s home turf.
To its credit the which the Picanto proved reasonably accomplished dashing about out of town but in the hills the little engine’s lack of grunt made it tricky to maintain speed on inclines. Back where it belongs, in city and suburban roads the Picanto felt much more comfortable.
Part of the reason the Picanto felt at home out of town lies in the new-generation car’s locally adapted suspension tune, something the previous model missed out on. That means the suspension and steering has been tweaked and tested on Aussie roads, and the positive effect is obvious.
Although not made as a corner-to-corner hot hatch the Picanto felt secure, agile, and responsive over challenging back roads with nicely tuned tuned steering and the ride comfort that keeps occupants comfortable while holding the road confidently.
All of that is simply icing on the cake though, with the Picanto more likely to grab the attention of buyers thanks to fresh looks and new connectivity as well as the sharp pricing and low cost of ownership.
ANCAP Rating: The 2017 Picanto has yet to be tested by ANCAP.
Safety Features: Six airbags (dual front, front seat side, full length curtain), ABS brakes with brake assists and electronic brakeforce distribution, electronic stability and traction control, load-limiting front seatbelt pretensioners, ISOFIX child seat mounts, reverse park sensors, reversing camera.
Autonomous emergency braking is not yet available on the Picanto.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
Like Kia, Holden has invested in a local suspension tune and the latest smartphone connectivity making the Spark a pleasing drive with all the right connectivity on board. Entry level pricing is enticing, but move up the range and the cost can rise quickly.
Suzuki has kept it simple with the Celerio. One trim level, a choice of auto and manual, and some of the cheapest new car pricing in Australia. Specifications don’t quite match the Picanto and the interior is a little plain, making the Celerio feel a little old-fashioned.
Where it once ruled the segment the Mitsubishi Mirage is starting to look and feel a little old. Mitsubishi has tried hard to keep it fresh but it isn’t overburdened with modern features, lacks connectivity tech, and becomes expensive if you opt for the LS grade that better matches the Picanto’s features.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The price is still sharp, there’s new technology, safety, and connectivity, and the driving feel is better than before - so there’s no reason why the new Picanto shouldn’t build on the success of the charming model that came before it.
Kia’s continued push for well-priced auto cars, reflected in the larger Rio and Cerato and their respective driveaway deals, proves that Kia has its finger on the pulse in Australia's compact car market.
Beyond pricing though, the Picanto delivers a quality feel, appealing connectivity, and funky looks to meet the needs of first car buyers, plus industry-best owner care thanks to a seven year warranty, seven years of roadside assist, and seven years of capped price servicing to help keep a lid on ownership costs.
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