City cars aren’t generally seen as a viable alternative to the medium and bigger cars here in Australia. There’s been attempts by big companies, such as the Mercedes-Benz backed smart car, which was more ridiculed than welcomed. There’s the slightly larger alternatives, such as the Mitsubishi Mirage and now Kia is now having a go, with a car called Picanto. In order to give the car a fighting chance, it’s been keenly priced at $14990 driveaway with metallic paint the only current option. There is a five speed manual available overseas.
It’s also been given some reasonable equipment in the sole specification model currently available, a good move given that it is due to be replaced by a newer model (it’s been available for five years overseas) in the next year and a half. You’ll get electric windows and mirrors, rear parking sensors, the full suite of airbags including curtain ‘bags, Hill Start Assist Control, Emergency Stop Signal (flashes the brake lights in a heavy or emergency stop) and halogen daytime running lights (DRL). It doesn’t get a reverse camera however.
A Wheel Thing’s test car came clad in the optionable metallic paint, a $540 ask. The colour? Honey Bee. An odd shade of yellow. Masculine, it is not. Neither are the archaic four speed auto, 1.25 litre petrol fueled four cylinder. The red backlit pixel screen radio display is another hint at age, as are also the simplistic dials in the dash and the red centre display.The engine is covered by a bonnet about the size of a newspaper and is unadorned by the plastic shrouding so commonplace nowadays. It’s by no means a powerhouse but may actually be better served by connecting to a gearbox A Wheel Thing loathes. With just 63 kW and 120 Nm a CVT potentially would be better suited to the characteristics the soft drink bottle sized motor has.
Size wise, it’s right in the ball park for city cars and looks at the Mitsubishi Mirage, Suzuki Celerio and Holden’s Spark as competition.It sits on a 2385mm wheelbase, huge given the overall length is 3595 mm. There’s 14 inch diameter steel wheels clad with plastic covers and wrapped in 160/65 tyres. Overall width is 1595 mm, making this a definite four seater only. You’ll also only get just a space saver wheel.Inside, the colour scheme is black, however that’s broken by an aluminuim look plastic swathe across the dash and the lower part of the steering wheel also has an insert, looking for all the world like a happy face. It certainly is a contrast yet doesn’t look out of place. What does, and showing that there are other models available, is the insert just above the driver’s right knee for a push button Start/Stop, as the model here is “old school” insert key and twist.But there’s new school with USB/Auxiliary connections, placed in Kia’s tradition front and centre of the console. Said console lacks an arm rest, though. It’s not a deal breaker as many would prefer cup/bottle holders instead, but there is room enough for both.The radio is a simple push button and dial setup, along with the simplistic display, yet the sound quality is reasonable from the system. There’s no A pillar or door mounted tweeters but still manages to deliver a decent soundstage. Bass response though, was lacking, as was radio sensitivity in some areas whilst being driven around. Nice to see that the humble CD player was still included.
Although, not unexpectedly, the front seats lack electric adjustment, they’re easily sorted with the manual levers and are surprisingly comfortable. There’s black cloth covering them with what resembles an electrician’s diagram print woven in. It’s eye catching and breaks up the otherwise drab look nicely. The Picanto is a compact car with just enough leg room in the back for children or two slim adults, and the rear seats also well padded and supportive, however anyone with a wholesome figure would struggle to feel comfortable.It also means that rear cargo space is minimal, making the Picanto a more suitable car for single people or couples when it comes to a weekly shop. At least there’s folding rear seats to increase the available space to 918 litres, up from 292. Overall interior feel was positive, although there was a vibration from the sliding seat belt height adjusters under acceleration and on the rougher tarmac surfaces.Apart from the alloy look plastic insert, the steerer is traditional Kia, with user friendly toggles for audio and Bluetooth. It’s just thick enough to feel comfortable to the hands and connects the driver nicely to the front wheels. As such, there’s not much to report as the car’s chassis is competent without being overly engaging. The short overall size means, though, you can get it into gaps in traffic and car parking spaces that others may not, and the light weight means it’s fleet and easy to move on the road.
There’s a short travel suspension up front, meaning that there’s a solid thunk as the nose goes over and drops when doing the larger speedbumps at low speeds. The rear is less prone to interference, thankfully, and rides better than a competitor tested recently. There’s more stability and less tendency to skip around on curves and unsettled surfaces and hangs on well enough in twisty road situations. The tiller also provides enough feedback to get a good handle on what’s happening up front.Peak torque is delivered at 4000 rpm, and with just the four ratios to play with, it takes a bit of time to get the 885 kilo car to…well…get up and go. But while you’re doing it you’ll be sipping unleaded fuel from the 35 litre tank at a quoted combined cycle figure of 5.3 litres per 100 kilometres. The urban cycle is 6.7 litres per 100 and highway at 4.5L/100 km. It’ll also emit just 125 grams of junk into the air for every kilometer travelled.
Make no mistake, though, even given the relative lack of oomph, the Picanto still climbs hilly roads well enough. In the lower Blue Mountains is a road called the Old Bathurst Road, a switchback with some tight corners. It’ll do this well enough, although it’s fair to say that having no cars in front make the job a bit easier. The transmission needs a bit more refinement as well, with a lack of smoothness in the changes, some jerkiness even on the flat road, plus the engine is somewhat thrashy when pushed…which is most of the time if not freeway cruising, where it’s then quiet enough.
As a new car buyer, you’ll get Kia’s seven year and unlimited kilometer warranty, plus the capped price servicing. There’s 15000 kilometre service gaps and you’ll see a highest service cost of $415 in year six.
At The End Of The Drive.
One of the true benefits of being an independent vehicle reviewer is being able to drive cars that wouldn’t be considered as being part of the household. For A Wheel Thing, the Picanto is a car that would not suit the household’s usage pattern. But it certainly would suit a single person, a young couple, or perhaps a retired couple.
It’s gentle to drive, perhaps a tad thirsty for the engine’s size, but that lack of torque and just four speeds are why. The colour on the test car is certainly not to A Wheel Thing’s taste but that is a personal choice. To make your own choice on the Picanto a reality, go here: Kia Picanto