Car Review: 2017 Kia Picanto.

There’s small cars, and there’s micro cars, and those that sort of slot in between. Kia’s Picanto is a small car that defies its external size to offer a well packaged and uncommonly roomy interior, all the while looking like it would fit into the tray of a four wheel drive ute. A Wheel Thing explores the funky 2017 Kia Picanto, priced at (at the time of writing), $16230 driveaway with metallic paint (Pop Orange on the test vehicle).And when AWT says Picanto, it means Picanto. To paraphrase Chief Engineer Scott from Star Trek:The Next Generation’s brilliant episode “Relics”: “There’s no bloody S, no bloody Si, no bloody GT Line”. What you get is a single trim level, a 1.25 litre four, a five speed manual or archaic four speed auto, which is what the test car was fitted with. The little engine that could delivers 66 kilowatts at 6000 rpm and 122 Nm which peaks at 4000 rpm.The fuel thimble holds just 35 litres however fuel consumption for the auto is rated at 5.8L/100 km for a combined cycle. As it’s a city car in intent, figure on 7.9L/100 km around town. If you do decide to drive outside of the big city, it’s rated for 4.9L/100 km. That’s from a dry weight of five kilos under the tonne. AWT finished on 6.6L/100 km in a mainly city environment and generally with one aboard.

We said it was small. How does 3595 mm long, 1595 mm wide, 1485 mm tall, and a huge (relatively 2400 mm) wheelbase sound? Sounds horrible, right? But it’s that wheelbase increase (up slightly from the previous model) that provides ample legroom up front, enough for reasonable comfort for two adults in the back, and enough shoulder and head room for four without constant body contact. There’s even enough room to slide in 255L of cargo space with the comfortable rear pews up.What’s not small is the ability of the Picanto to deal with varying driving conditions, thanks to the brilliantly Australianised specification for the suspension. Kia’s engineers have tweaked the McPherson strut front and coupled torsion beam rear even further, and what is delivered is nothing short of surprising. It’s fair to expect a small car, riding on 175/65/14 rubber (wrapping steel wheels with alloy look wheel covers) from Nexen, to hop/jump/skip around on anything other than billiard table flat surfaces. Nope. You’ll get a car that’s composed, unflustered, sometimes even displaying indifference to broken or breaking up surfaces. Toss the little machine into a long flowing curve and there’s a subtle shift of balance as the car resettles. It’s nimble, adept, and sure footed.

There is a bit of crash from the front as you roll over the damnable shopping centre speed humps, but there’s no ongoing motion, simply an acknowledgement of a minor irritant. The electrically assisted steering and overall size play a major part in making this environment easy and liveable to deal with, as is moving it around on the tarmac. A smooth and fluid transition from lane to lane is also what this Picanto will deliver. Like most cars of this size, it will understeer when pushed hard, scrubbing the tyres, but really only in tightening corners and when taking advantage of the chassis dynamics.If there’s a downside to the driving experience, it’s fingers pointed at the transmission. No, not because it’s harsh, unforgiving, stuttery as it’s completely the opposite in being smooth, quiet, responsive. It’s the number four. As in ratios. As much of not being a fan of CVT as A Wheel Thing is, the small torque output would be ideally suited to one of them. A further option to explore would be to look at what niche small car maker Suzuki has done. They’ve engineered some pokey small capacity turbo engines and have bolted them to six speed autos. Straight up it improves the driveability of the car, the usefullness of the engine and by having the extra ratios, economy hovers around the 6.0L/100 km mark.The interior is markedly improved from the previous model, with a seven inch touchscreen mounted up high in the centre console, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility, reverse parking sensors and reverse camera, supportive cloth covered seats, a driving position that is comfortable enough, cruise control, and classic Kia ergonomics. Tech wise there’s auto headlights, globe lit driving lights, Bluetooth, and a USB and 12V socket in the front centre console.A noticeable feature or two of the Picanto’s interior is the resemblance to a couple of icons. One is the cluster that holds the dial based aircon controls, looking like a controller from a games console from Japan. The other is the broad sweep of the dash that terminates at either end with two air vents that bears more than a passing resemblance to a 1950s Cadillac’s tail.The trim itself is a mix of textured black plastic, alloy look highlights, and splashes of piano black around the touchscreen. The cloth trim has a subtle charcoal and light grey trim and complements the roof lining’s grey shade. The rear cargo space is trimmed with the standard hard wearing carpet and leads to a space saving spare. Storage inside is adequate with two cup holders in the centre, bottle holders for the doors, and there’s even a coat hook in the rear.The outside lifts the Picanto onto another level, with a striking sweep to the headlights, a determined and assertive font design, a pert and tight rear and in profile shows all four wheels pushed as far as practically possible to the corners. There’s potential in the exterior design, potential…..Naturally there’s six airbags, driver aids in the form of stability managements, hill start assist and the like, 2 ISOFIX child seat mounts, plus the standard seven year warranty and capped price servicing for seven years. Maximum cost is at the four year or 60000 kilometre mark, with a current scheduled price of $493.At The End Of The Drive.
A Wheel Thing sees potential above what the Picanto already delivers. It has the potential to become a cult classic car thanks to the fabulous chassis underneath, funky and eyecatching looks, and simply needs a more sporty engine and transmission combination, and a mild fettling of the body, to be a cult classic city car. Head over to Kia Australia’s Picanto to check it out for yourself.


2016 Kia Picanto Si Auto: Car Review

2016 Kia Picanto Si Auto profileCity 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.2016 Kia Picanto Si Auto dashThe 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.2016 Kia Picanto Si Auto engineIt 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.2016 Kia Picanto Si Auto front profileInside, 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.2016 Kia Picanto Si Auto front seatsBut 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.2016 Kia Picanto Si Auto consoleThe 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.2016 Kia Picanto Si Auto rear seatsIt 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.2016 Kia Picanto Si Auto cargoApart 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.2016 Kia Picanto Si Auto rearPeak 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