Kia Picanto '2' review

Kia Picanto '2' review

Kia's new Picanto looks sharp and modern but the driving experience feels from a previous generation. Working the three-cylinder 1-litre engine to achieve reasonable performance, even when the car is lightly laden, spoils the refinement and hammers the fuel consumption.

On the plus side there's no road tax to pay, or London congestion charge, and you can carry five, thin adults around town. Compact size and good all-round vision mean parking is easy. Remainder of seven year/ 100,000 mile warranty can be passed on to the next owner so should help second hand values.

Review by Russell Bray for


Kia's second generation Picanto, effectively a cheaper version of the Hyundai i10, uses two brand new petrol engines of 1.0 and 1.25 litre capacity. Tested here is the smaller 68 bhp three-cylinder which has a 16 bhp deficit to the bigger four-cylinder. Achieving any accelerative performance requires revving the nuts off the engine and snatching gear changes so as not to lose any precious momentum. The desire not to be a mobile chicane and hold up other traffic meant economy thoughts often went out of the window. Maximum torque of 70 lbs ft arrives at 3,500rpm. Acceleration to 60 mph takes 13.9 seconds whilst I only saw the official top speed of 95 mph going downhill.


You run out of grip on the skinny tyres when cornering in the Picanto almost before you notice any real handling traits. Understeer, with the front tyres sliding straight on is the major feature, but with its narrow width and relative height Kia has wisely endowed the Picanto with an electronic stability system. There's no 'feel' for the road through the steering and 'chassis' that European car makers spend millions of pounds developing. Straight line stability was good but the car did move around a bit on a windy motorway. Mid-corner bumps upset the torsion bar rear suspension. Perhaps it was the first time that the Korean developed and built Picanto had seen the surface of a British B-road.


Former Audi designer Peter Schreyer has changed the quirky and chummy Picanto into a sharp-suited City slicker that looks good on the street. The interior is more up to date too, though he can't be happy with the cheap, stiff and vague heater controls or the hard plastic on the doors and dashboard. Five doors makes passenger access easy but the rear seats are park bench flat and about as comfortable. It's a good job the rear seats fold flat because boot space is a mere 200 litres and that wouldn't be enough for most weekly family shops. Length 3596mm. Width 1595mm.


Kia Picanto Though tall, I was able to achieve a good driving position even though the steering column only tilts and does not telescope. Bizarrely, the firm feel and progressive response of the brake pedal was exemplary and reminded of Rover's trusty old Metro.

Such precision doesn't apply to the rest of the controls. They are logical and simple enough but the steering is elastic band-like and some drivers might find the clutch rather short and fierce and the five-speed gear-change isn't as slick as you normally find in a car from the Far East. Wind the Picanto up to speed and it cruises quite smoothly with little of the racket produced to get there.


Kia's official figures say 52 mpg round town and 67 mpg on the combined test cycle. Out in the real world the test car managed 42 mpg in traffic round town and 52 mpg overall. An early morning start saw 56 mpg at one point. Kia's famous seven year warranty has a maximum of 100,000 miles. Or you can cover unlimited miles up to three years of age. CO2 emissions of 99 g/km mean there is no road tax to pay as the car is in band A. Insurance is group five, helping to keep down running costs. Kia recommends service intervals of 10,000 miles.


The Picanto relies on small size, new low CO2 engines, reduced weight and improved aerodynamics for its low fuel consumption and running costs. Kia's EcoDynamics package, seen on the start-stop 1.25 litre version where it cuts CO2 by 9 g/km, is not fitted because it would have a cost to the buyer and the 1-litre car is already below the 100 g/km mark so it already has maximum taxation advantages. A diesel option would also cost more and buyers are unlikely to cover sufficient mileage to recoup the extra cost. The tested model has a Next Green Car Rating of 27.


The '2' trim on the test car includes little alloy wheels, tinted glass, front fog lights, daytime running lights, variable speed windscreen wipers, rear wash-wipe, leather rimmed steering wheel and gear lever, tachometer (!), trip computer, RDS radio with MP3 connection, Bluetooth with voice activation, 60/40 split folding rear seats, electric windows and door mirrors, hill assist control but no spare wheel which even if you never venture on to motorways is not a good idea. In my experience cans of gung and an electric tyre pump have never worked. Metallic paint is £415 extra.


Kia Picanto

Model tested: Kia Picanto 1.0 five-door '2'
Body-style: Supermini five-door hatchback
Engine/CO2: 68bhp 998cc petrol / 99 gCO2/km
Trim grades: 1, 1 Air, 2, 2 EcoDynamics, 3

On-road price: Tested car £9,595. Range from £7,995
Warranty: Seven years/ 100,000 miles
In the showroom: Available now
Review rating: 3.0 STARS

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Russell Bray

Author:Russell Bray
Date Updated:7th Sep 2011

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