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Kia Picanto may come here

Pictures from Kia show a car with the funky style that is becoming typical of the brand.

The baby Picanto is being assessed for a starting spot in Australia as the next Rio, currently priced from $14,990, is moved a little higher in the line-up.

The Picanto would likely have a $13,000-ish bottom line with the larger Rio moving up beyond $15,000 with more safety and luxury equipment as standard.

"We're looking at it. It's not off the table," says Kia's Australian spokesman, Kevin Hepworth.

The five-door Picanto hatch is called a 'city car' by Kia and is revealed this week from Seoul ahead of its full-scale unveiling at the Geneva Motor Show in March.

Pictures from Kia show a car with the funky style that is becoming typical of the brand, with a chiseled nose and a compact body.

"New Picanto features significant sculpting and a very prominent rising character line. The result is a layering of light and shadow and this breaks up the height, giving the car a more sure-footed stance," says Kia's charismatic chief designer, Peter Schreyer.

Mechanically, the car is based on the Hyundai i20 that is already on sale in Australia. The i20 is priced from $15,490 with a 1.4-litre engine.

Kia says the Picanto is substantially different to the i20, and a significant improvement over the previous-generation Picanto that was passed up for Australian sales. It is larger than the earlier Picanto and is only likely to come as a five-door hatch, although there are plans for a three-door sporty model in Europe.

If the Picanto comes to Australia it will be built in Korea, but there is no hint yet on the mechanical package. The car is being built with both 1.0 and 1.2-litre engines, with LPG bio-flex and flex-fuel systems fitted for some countries.

Hepworth says Kia will make an early decision on any Picanto plan.

"If a decision is made to go forward with the vehicle, we would take it at the first opportunity. Possibly by the end of this year," he says.