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Kia Picanto Reviews

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Kia's Picanto has earned a reputation as a no frills city scoot but the second generation model feels a far better finished item. Andy Enright reports.

In second generation form, Kia's Picanto is a little citycar that's big in importance for its Korean maker. Stylish, frugal and practical, so much better is it than the cheap and cheerful original version that it may just redefine the way many people think about this smallest category of car.

Here's how we used to understand small car categorisation and the difference between Fiesta-sized superminis and their smaller, cheaper citycar counterparts. You paid extra for a supermini because it was slightly bigger, because it was better finished and more stylish and because it had more refined engines that made possible longer journeys. So where does that kind of thinking leave us with a product like this, the second generation Kia Picanto? It competes with the kinds of models we'd see as citycars, yet like many of them now, it boasts the kind of interior space a supposedly bigger Fiesta or a Corsa had until quite recently. It's very nicely built and acceptably stylish. And yes, it's quite at home attempting longer journeys. Here is the citycar, all grown-up. Where that leaves today's supermini sector is something we don't have to worry about here. Suffice it to say that most of what you'd pay up to £15,000 or more for in that class of car is delivered by this Kia. Other urban runabouts that have previously advanced that argument have either been expensive and/or three-door only, like say a Fiat 500, or have felt too cheap and noisy to really justify themselves as only-car transport, like a Suzuki Alto or, I suppose, a Hyundai i10. I mention the Hyundai because that essentially is what this Picanto is underneath. Kia has used the underpinnings from this best-selling design, then refined them, improved the build quality and added a sharp new suit of clothes on top. On paper, a pretty effective route to creating a class-leading contender. Let's see if it's worked.

One characteristic that Kia is keen for this car to have is a perky feel. It does. Under the bonnet, buyers choose between a 69bhp entry-level 1.0-litre engine or a 1.25-litre 84bhp unit. It's a petrol-only range of course, as you'd expect from a citycar. The 1.0-litre manages 0-62mph in 13.9s en route to 95mph, while the 1.25-litre variant improves that to 11s and 106mph. The good news for those looking for a grin behind the wheel is that much of the old Picanto's suspension architecture has been carried over, albeit evolved subtly. The front suspension has been tuned for better straight line stability and Kia reckons it has not only improved the ride of the MK2 model with softer springs but made the handling a little keener with a much stiffer rear axle that helps quell understeer. The Picanto's all-disc braking system, which is standard on all models fitted with Electronic Stability Control, is backed up with standard ABS anti-lock, electronic brake force distribution and emergency 'brake assist' systems. Stopping distances from 62mph are among the class best at 41.0 metres.

It's hard to believe Kia today is the same company that launched the original Picanto. It's now one of the most progressive car manufacturers in terms of design and much of the credit for this goes to Peter Schreyer, the man who designed the original TT and now works as Chief Design Officer. Under his direction, Kia is turning out some seriously handsome cars and this second generation Picanto is no exception. It features the now trademark 'tiger nose' front grille, but it also exhibits deeply scalloped flanks with the door handles sitting atop a sharp, longitudinal crease. Available in both three and five door bodystyles, this little Kia offers a different look for each body shape, the three-door car featuring a more aggressive frontal treatment. Both look a little under-wheeled, but that tends to be the nature of city cars in general. Go for the 15-inch alloy wheels and it looks much better balanced. The cabin is cleanly styled and again it's clear that Kia is forging its own personality and brand identity on its cars. The 'three cylinder' instrument panel design is spread across the Kia range while the centre console brings the air conditioning and stereo controls within easy reach with big, easy to operate buttons. Metallic finishes lift the feel of the fascia and while some of the plastics are a little hard to the touch, the overall effect is an interior that punches well above its price point.

Prices start at around £8,000, with a £600 premium if you want air conditioning. You'll need a budget of just under £12,000 if you want the pokier 1.25-litre variant though. There's a £200 premium for the five-door bodystyle. Equipment on most models includes electronic and heated folding door mirrors with side repeaters, automatic light control with 'escort' and 'welcome' modes, steering wheel mounted audio controls and retractable dual cup holders. Other features available include smart-key entry system with engine start/stop button, AUX-IN, iPod and USB connections for the RDS radio CD player with MP3 compatibility, Bluetooth hands-free with voice recognition and heated front seats. The days when you counted yourself lucky if you came away with a radio and a set of mats and flaps when purchasing a small Kia now seem a very long way distant. At the top of the range, the Picanto 4 variant gets alloy wheels, LED daytime running lights, a power sunroof and UV solar windshield glass.

No car in this class has a sniff of a chance unless it can guarantee tiny day to day running costs and the Picanto certainly answers that particular call. Both engines have been designed to offer maximum efficiency, from their continuously variable valve timing to their low-friction valve springs. The net result is that the 1.0-litre engine emits just 99g/km of carbon dioxide in standard trim. Kia goes one stage further with its suite of EcoDynamics technologies (automatic stop-start - ISG, advanced alternator control, upgraded starter motor and low-rolling resistance tyres), cutting emissions even further - to between 95 and 102g/km. Combined fuel economy for the 1.0-litre model teamed with the EcoDynamics gear is 67.3mpg. Couple the titchy fuel bills with free road tax and cheap insurance and you have a car that makes all kinds of sense for city drivers. It's exactly because it stacks up so well on the balance sheet that residual values look set to be very healthy, helped by the fact that the oversupply of this sort of car caused by the scrappage scheme is now starting to level off.

It's not uncommon to assess a vehicle and wonder why it has been launched. Some manufacturers get their product design cycles out of phase with economic conditions while others launch into a once fashionable market that's gone cold. Then there are those that arrive plum square with the right product at the right time and the Picanto is most definitely one of the latter. It doesn't do anything that's particularly fresh or radical but its blend of affordability coupled with solid engineering, impressive build quality, generous equipment and clean styling build upon its tiny ongoing running costs to form a convincing buying proposition. Back that up with a great warranty and the Kia Picanto emerges as one of the very best city cars we've seen in quite some time.

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Overview

The Picanto is a small city car by South Korean manufacturers Kia. It has been in production since 2004 and is now in its second generation as of 2011. It is one of the best looking cars in its class but also at class leading leasing prices. A definite consideration for any city car shoppers out there.

Key Kia Picanto Points

The Kia Picanto is a city car manufactured by the new kids on the block Kia - it has been around since 2004 and has done very well, however, the Picanto has really taken the UK by storm with it's ultra stylish makeover introduced in 2011 and revised again in 2014. Top Gear have said about the Picanto " "a well-made, well-equipped, practical and affordable little thing that’s cheap to run and ought to put the wind up more expensive European cars." The Picanto separates itself from the competition such as the Citroen C1, Peugeot 107 and Toyota Aygo crowd by having a fair few different engine options above the standard 1.0i engine - giving prospective purchases out there the option of extra-oomph under the bonnet. The Kia Picanto is a superb city car and the prices we are able to offer are incredible value for what you get - this is certainly one to look out for.

Why Lease a Kia Picanto

The Kia Picanto is one of the most popular supermini/city cars on the road. It looks fantastic, the engines are fantastic and economical and there are plenty of trims to choose from. The Kia Picanto will suit almost any budget and taste as it comes in 3 or 5 doors. Kia are one of All Car Leasing's most trusted partners and we have access to thousands of stock and large discounts and this why the Picanto is one of the best value for money cars here. 

Five reasons to lease a Kia Picanto

  • 3 or 5 door
  • Gorgeous looks
  • Economical
  • Generous amount of trims
  • Cheap to lease

Conclusion

The Picanto is one of the best cars in its class. Cheap, reliable and gorgeous. If you're not sold then please feel free to have a look around the Kia Picanto car leasing hub for high res pictures, in depth review and high definition video.