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Kia Picanto to continue 'in some form': Next-gen Fiat 500 and Suzuki Ignis rival could go all-electric

Kia's Picanto exists in a segment with few others, but could its next iteration be electric only?

Kia’s Picanto micro car enjoys quite a unique market position, offering a truly city-sized hatchback for Australians in a segment where other manufacturers can’t or won’t play. But now at least half way through the current car’s life-cycle, what’s in its future?

That was one of the questions pitched to Kia Australia product planning boss Roland Rivero at a media briefing in Sydney.

“The Picanto… that car will continue in some form,” Mr Rivero explained. “What that looks like? We don’t know. It could go fully electric.”

Interestingly, Mr Rivero noted it’s the significance of the facility in which the Picanto is built in the brand’s Korean domestic market that will define the light hatch’s future.

“The issue is the factory that makes the Picanto. The Seosan facility is a joint-venture, it has some significance to the Korean domestic market as it also produces the Ray," Mr Rivero explained. "That facility can’t be shuttered, there are a lot of workers there.

Could the Picanto soon follow the Fiat 500 and Honda e into the world of electrification? Could the Picanto soon follow the Fiat 500 and Honda e into the world of electrification?

“What that [next-gen] car looks like, whether it’s electric, whether it will come to Australia, we don’t know yet.”

The Seosan facility is a joint-venture between Kia Motors Corporation (Kia Australia’s Korean parent company) and Donghee, a Korean domestic parts manufacturer. While it has a relatively large output capacity of 230,000 units, it only produces the Picanto, which is sold globally, and the related Ray mini MPV solely for the Korean domestic audience.

Interestingly, the Kia Ray became Korea’s first production electric car in 2011 with an EV variant. It had a 139km range from a 16.4kWh lithium-ion battery pack with power outputs at 50kW/167Nm. Importantly, the Ray could be built on the same Seosan production line as its conventional equivalents.

The Kia Ray is a Korean domestic market mini-MPV which became the country's first-ever production EV in 2011. The Kia Ray is a Korean domestic market mini-MPV which became the country's first-ever production EV in 2011.

It would also make sense for the Picanto to move to electric powertrains, as pressure to keep emissions down from western European markets has had its influence elsewhere on Kia’s line-up but also on the light car’s key rivals. The new-generation Fiat 500 is electric only, while the European-market version of the Suzuki Ignis is available with a mild-hybrid system.

Meanwhile, Honda has entered the electric city-car market overseas with the e hatchback not destined for an Australian launch for the time being. The larger but price-competitive MG3 from China's SAIC Motor could also be going electric only in its next iteration, according to MG's Australian representatives.

The Picanto has recently had a midlife update in Australia, bringing new technology across the range and a slight aesthetic nip-and-tuck. It is powered primarily by a 1.25-litre petrol four-cylinder engine (62kW/122Nm) with either a four-speed automatic or five-speed manual, however a top-of-the-line manual-only GT has also been reintroduced with a 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo (74kW/172Nm).

Now starting from $15,190 plus on-road costs, the Picanto is one of the most affordable new cars on sale in Australia, and commands a 77.3 per cent market share of the micro-car segment (which technically does not include the Ignis).

Stay tuned as we keep you updated with Kia’s 2021 model line-up in the coming months.