Kia’s smallest car in third-generation guise sports an updated look and chassis, and a retuned 1.2l four-cylinder engine but retains its four-speed auto where the competition predominantly uses CVTs.
Does it matter? The proportion of sales from city cars these days reflects their size, accounting for just one per cent of the new car market year to date, or roughly 1000 units. Most comprise Spark and Mirage sales, the remainder shared between Celerio and outgoing Picanto. The A sector continues to be diminutive here, probably because of the small price difference between these and the superminis one sector above that offer so much more.
Mirage, for example, starts at $19,990 but so too does the new Swift range, offering similar economy but more performance, style and space. The Kia and Spark kick off around $18,500 but for an extra $1500-$3000 you can get into base Jazz, Mazda2, or Fabia, cars which can take to the highway with a degree of refinement and verve that eludes the babies. And that’s what folk spending in the $20k area do, for the small car class is ten times the size of the city car sector….
Into the cellar dweller city runabout club lobs new Picanto. And this one’s a bit special, being the range-topping GT Line. Kiwis often seem to buy the headlining act, figuring the extra kit will help come resale time. However, in the city car area value is king, buyers wanting something not too expensive, economical, small and with new car warranty, in this case five years.
For those who do want something extra, in the GT Line you get that but it’s at a price ($21,490 plus ORCs). The base LX Picanto kicks off at $18,490 for the manual variant, a five-speeder, while for an extra $500 you can get an auto with one gear less. Nowadays in this sector, most car makers have moved to CVTs in their city cars or superminis because they offer better fuel economy. For the GT Line, Kia claims average fuel use of 5.8L/100km which is somewhat above the low fives and high fours for most of the CVT opposition.
On the trip computer we found that on bowling green flat sections of motorway instantaneous consumption came in at 5.5L/100km. In the suburbs expect mid-sixes. The short gearing is primarily to blame for higher than hoped for open road fuel use figures, 100km/h in fourth bringing up 2900rpm. In CVT opposition, the engine is spinning much closer to or even below 2000rpm.
The chassis of the Picanto has undergone a big revolution, receiving double the amount of high strength steels (up from 22 to 44 per cent), and extra use of adhesives results in an almost 40 per cent hike in bending rigidity. Add to that the implementation of torque vectoring by brake in the GT Line, a quicker steering rack, and the bigger tyres and wheels and you’ve a city car that can crank in the corners.
Sure, the straights take a while to devour, 0-100 requiring around 13sec, and you’ll need 10sec of clear road for an overtake, but this holds fast in the corners, proving a bit of a tearaway in the twisties. It really rather surprised in that regard. The lack of pace, on the other hand, relates not specifically to a four-speed auto, but mainly to weight of just over one tonne, more than 100kg heavier than Ignis or Mirage.
Power of 66kW and torque of 120Nm are about line-ball for the class. As to the ride, don’t expect miracles because it’s not that big, being just under 3.6m in length. Dimensions are much the same as before, only there’s now 15mm more of wheelbase length, and a longer rear overhang. That means quite a bit more available luggage space, up 55L to 255, expanding with the seats folded to just over 1000L, though the larger area is two-tiered.
Resite the seatback in its normal possie and you can fit two adults in the rear provided they’re not XL size. None of the cars in this class is exactly runway model material, so the Picanto has a bit of an advantage in a design sense, especially the GT Line which features a sports styling pack along with LED daytime running lights and projector headlamps. Helping are larger alloys, the 16s a full two inches bigger than those of the LX.
Inside, there’s a bit more than expected too, with two-tone leather, climate air, cruise and audio on the wheel, and pushbutton start. Entry is by key pad. The most noteworthy cabin feature is a new “floating” touchscreen displaying rear view camera images, and compatible with music from all smartphones. Steering column adjust is for height only. Safety runs to the usual electronics, plus six airbags and autonomous emergency braking.
Our advice? Drive this and compare with like-priced Ignis and Spark, and also base Swift, which offers the best small car value currently.
|Model||Kia Picanto GT Line|
|Engine||1248cc, IL4, EFI, 62kW/122Nm|