Reviews and opinion 4.10.2017 08:29 am

Pint-sized Kia Picanto packs a punch

Third generation of Korean favourite offers a lot of car for less than R200K.

Small and compact, the Kia Picanto has been a key player in the A-segment as a city car for some time now.

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Now in its third generation, the new Picanto combines perfect styling cues, refinement and more space – further setting a high mark for competitors such as the Volkswagen UP and Hyundai i10 to reach.

If I was in the market for a city car that uses less fuel, offers adequate space and looks good, the Kia Picanto I tested a while back would then be the pick of the bunch.

In smart trim and carrying a price tag of R195 995, it sits on top of the new Picanto range.

This means you get all the accessories, such as seven-inch full-colour touchscreen infotainment system and Bluetooth with voice recognition, rear park distance control with reverse camera as standard.

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Although it remains the same size as the outgoing model, it looks a bit different. It has been redesigned. Our test unit came fitted with the new projection headlamps, LED indicators and LED daytime running lights. Inside, you get a spacious and improved interior.

Our test unit came fitted with a two-tone black and grey leather seats.

Do not look at its size and assume it is cramped inside. The Picanto offers plenty of interior space for most young families, while its small dimensions make it easy to park and manouevre – perfect for inexperienced drivers. Space in the front seats is adequate even for tall passengers.

However, these same individuals might feel a bit cramped at the back during long journeys.

High specification models like our test unit feature a 7-inch full-colour touchscreen infotainment system offering a Bluetooth connection to smartphones to play music on the go.

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The 7-inch touchscreen HMI system also supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for full smartphone integration.

These systems offer not only a convenience benefit to users, but also a significant safety benefit in that it curbs the growing hazard of distracted driving. In both instances, only the most important Apps (such as telephony functions, messaging, music and maps) are available to use while the vehicle is in operation.

As vehicles featuring Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also equipped with Bluetooth incorporating voice recognition, drivers can use these Apps through voice control, meaning your hands never have to leave the steering wheel, and your eyes never leave the road.

Auxiliary and USB ports are located at the base of the centre console, ensuring drivers can play music directly from a smartphone or MP3 player, and keep mobile devices charged on the move.

High specification models also feature a rear-view parking assist system, incorporating a rear-view parking camera with dynamic guidelines, as well as electrically folding, and heated side door mirrors. A sunroof is available as an option on high specification models.

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Boot space has been enlarged from 200 litres to an impressive 255 litres – something that competitors struggle to match, thanks to a two-step boot floor for more space or to keep items out of sight.

Space can also be increased to 1,010 litres by folding down the rear seat back.

On the road, the Picanto is not a race car, but it delivers impressive performance in spades, thanks to the 1.2-litre naturally-aspirated four-cylinder engine that delivers 61kW and 122Nm of torque.

The Picanto’s drive is solid and engaging even at highway cruising speeds.

The steering is sharp and responsive while offering a sensible speed of direction change.

Steering had not been the older Picanto’s strong point, but a new rack for the column-mounted motor-driven power steering means the steering ratio has been quickened by 13% over the outgoing Picanto, from 16.5:1 to 14.3:1.

Not only does this enable more immediate responses to driver inputs, but reducing the turns of the wheel lock-to-lock (from 3.4 to 2.8 turns) makes the Picanto even easier to drive at low speeds and in the city.

With the front wheel pushed closer to the front of the vehicle, resulting in a shorter overhang, the reduced weight ahead of the front axle reduces inertia for more agile handling.

The five-speed manual box is slick and precise.

During my week with the car, I managed to average 6.7l/100km instead of Kia’s claimed 6.4l/100km, which is reasonable.

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Kia says the new Picanto is the safest A-segment they have ever made. Thankfully we did not test that, but it comes with ABS as well as a driver and passenger airbag.

To all mothers, ISOFIX child seat anchors come standard. The Kia Picanto is sold with a five-year/unlimited km warranty and three-year/unlimited km roadside assistance.

A service plan is offered as an option.

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