The current Kia Picanto has been around since 2017, but last year it received a facelift and tweaks to its drivetrain. What we have here on test is a 1.0-litre 3-cylinder car with just 66bhp, claimed to be capable of 100mph (though you’d need to be going downhill, with the wind behind your back, while slipstreaming another car to attain that). And at 14.1 seconds for the 0-60mph acceleration run, it’ll be beaten by one of those new London Taxis.
At this point I do hope you haven’t been put off and stopped reading, because if you did, you’re missing out on one of the most affordable and satisfying little cars out there today. After all, speed is subjective and value, in our current chastened times, is paramount.
Tested in ‘2’ spec, the second up from base model, this car is priced from just over £12,000, but boasts pretty much everything you need apart from a digital centre infotainment and navigation screen. What it does offer is a USB plug, so plug-in your smart phone, get a mount for it, and you’re sorted. Oh there’s no reversing camera either. That’s okay, just look over your shoulder, the rear of the car is literally right there.
Okay there is a bit of room, for a couple, maybe even three small roll-on cases in the boot, and two regular sized humans in the back, though it’s probably better suited to children for long-distances. Up front space is not a concern, the controls are straight-forward, visibility is great (both for you and others to see you if the Picanto is in a bright colour like this yellow – which it absolutely must be), and ease of driving is a given, even for this five-speed manual with its light clutch and well-defined nicely notchy gear-change.
Combined fuel consumption is quoted at 58.9mpg, I actually managed better with an impressive 66mpg, emissions are 110g/km, and it comes with a 7 year warranty (3-year unlimited mileage) and 1-year road-side assistance. This is frankly one of the cheapest new cars to buy and run on the market.
But it gets better. Yes it’s slow on paper, but work the gearbox hard, wring the eager little motor’s neck and it’s quick enough, and feels pleasurably fast on the go. Around town it’s tiny enough to hop into parking spaces and skip through gaps in the traffic, not to mention laugh at width restrictions. Show it some twisties and it’ll tackle them with surprising competency, eagerly changing direction and mostly shunning understeer – just keep the momentum up, as accelerating is a bore. But you’ll never be going fast enough to let things get scary.
Nor will it be frightening mixing it up with the big boys on the motorway. Yes it will be a little raucous, and the stereo will be battling the ambient sound for your attention, but it’s remarkably planted and rather grown up. Little cars tend to feel a bit wayward and precarious when charging through B-roads or keeping up highway speeds, but not this one, perhaps due to a level of sophistication under the skin belying its humble spec – unusual for a Korean car.
There’s ABS, brakeforce distribution and even brake-assist, plus stability control and vehicle stability management which, along with torque vectoring and straight-line stability systems, collude to provide that mature sophistication in poise. Reassuringly it also has collision-avoidance; front, side and curtain airbags; side-impact protection, ISOFIX child seat anchors, tyre-pressure monitoring and it’ll even unlock the doors if it detects an impact. The brakes are good, and the ride not bad either.
So the Picanto, with its cute styling, is both affordable and enjoyable to own. On the surface it gives you most things you need, and below it, plenty more you’ll never know you needed but you do. It’s hard not to like this car, and even harder not to recommend it to fun-loving but money-conscious car-buyers.