A low key, fuss free approach by the manufacturers to the launch last week of the new generation Kia Picanto probably best sums up the changes that have been made to the vehicle. Kia appears to have adhered to the old adage of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” or whatever the Korean translation is, because modifications have been kept to a minimum.
A nip here, a tuck there and slight enhancements are basically the only changes to what is now the third generation Picanto. And perhaps that’s not such a bad thing, because Peter Schreyer’s award winning design appears as relevant today as it did four years ago when it debuted at the Geneva Motor Show. Changes to the new models with prices thankfully remaining the same include a restyled front bumper that now has a flatter, squarer design. Incorporated in the bumper are two fog lamp housings in the corners, which now also function as daytime running lights.
These lights come on automatically when the vehicle is switched on, and switch off again when the main headlights are in operation. The front grille has also had some minor styling tweaks. Minimal changes to the rear include a matte black lower edge that meets the revised rear fog lights. Step inside and it will take an eagle eye to notice a new surface surrounding the audio system. Once again, the Picanto will be available in both 1.0 LX (R136 995) and 1.2 EX models (R149995), and standard interior features across the range include manual air conditioning and AUX/iPod/USB connections for the audio/CD player, which has MP3 compatibility; while on the safety front you have driver and passenger air bags and ISOFIX child seat anchors.
If you do opt for the EX model, you will have the added benefit of steering wheel mounted controls; electric rear windows; metal accents sprinkled through the cabin; Bluetooth; ABS brakes with electronic brake distribution, an emergency stop signal system, and attractive 15 inchalloys (the LX has 14 inch steel wheels). Across the range, there are 10 exterior colours to choose from, with Dazzling Blue new to the range. The Picanto’s engine line up remains unchanged, with the entry level vehicle having a three cylinder 998cc unit producing 51kW of power and 94Nm of torque.
The EX, on the other hand, has a four cylinder 1248cc engine good for 65kW and 120Nm and it is this engine that was available at the launch. According to the press release, the Picanto “was born from a simple idea: an affordable car should make no compromise on styling, features or technology”. And I must admit, it largely fulfils that promise. Looks are always a subjective affair, but you would have to be pretty unenlightened not to like the styling of the Picanto. Plenty of imagination has gone in to its design and the sharp exterior lines gives the vehicle a certain edge.
The interior is also quite spacious even for those on the tall side. Everything is nicely laid out for the driver and you quickly become familiar with where certain instruments are positioned. As one would expect from an A segment vehicle, black plastic is in abundance, but the quality used is good and there is a certain refinement to the finishes. And it is the 1.2 litre engine that completes a well rounded package. Hooked up to a five speed manual gearbox (a four speed automatic is available as an option for an extra R12 000), we had no problem ticking over at 140km/h on the open road, with the Picanto feeling particularly stable and minimal noise reaching inside the cabin.
We even had a couple of laps around the Vereeniging Kart Circuit: the Picanto nimbly negotiated all the corners we threw it into. Competition in the cheap A segment is red hot at the moment. The Picanto will be going toe to toe with the likes of the Volkswagen up!, new generation Citroën C1, Toyota Aygo and Hyundai i10. It will be a battle royal for the Kia for sure.
Kia Picanto 1.0 LX manual
Engine: 998cc three-cylinder
Power: 51kW at 6 200rpm
Torque: 94Nm at 3 500rpm
Top speed: 155km/h
Fuel consumption: 4.9l/100km (combined)
Price: R136 995
Kia Picanto 1.2 EX manual
Engine: 1 248cc four-cylinder
Power: 65kW at 6 000rpm
Torque: 120Nm at 4 000rpm
Top speed: 169km/h
Fuel consumption: 5.0l/100km (combined)
Price: R149 995
*All derivatives come with a five year/ 150 000km warranty. A two year/45 000km optional service plan is also available.