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Fiat might’ve launched its baby hatch over 10 years ago, but thanks to its award-winning design, the 500 looks like it hasn’t aged a day.
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Just when you thought Kia’s tiniest car couldn’t be given more attitude, a GT version of the Picanto comes along. Yup, the Picanto already looked like some kind of angry baby panda, and the GT not only adds more aggressive styling but Kia’s Australian engineers say they have turned it into a more capable beastie on the road, too.
We headed to the launch of the new Kia Picanto GT to see how it performed, not just in terms of its handling, but also how practical and economical it is while considering its value for money.
|Kia Picanto 2019: GT (turbo)|
|Engine Type||1.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
The Kia Picanto GT costs $3800 more than the entry grade Picanto S with its drive-away price of $17,990. Kia’s also likely to keep that drive-away price in place for some time as it’s done on other models, so check with your dealer to see if it’s still being offered.
That price is only $700 more than the Picanto GT-Line and the standard features are almost identical between the cars. Actually, all Picantos including the base grade S pretty much have the same equipment such as the 7.0-inch screen with rear view camera, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth connectivity, six-speaker stereo, and air-conditioning.
What does paying more for a GT get you, then? There are sporty seats (they feel like leather but it’s synthetic) with red piping and alloy sports pedals, but they also come on the GT-Line and the AO (Australian Open) Edition.
Really, what you’re paying for is the GT body kit, the upgraded suspension and the more powerful three-cylinder engine.
Despite having almost identical features, the value is still pretty darn good. Rivals include the Holden Spark, Fiat 500 and Mitsubishi Mirage, but there are no rivals out there that come even close to the features and value of a Picanto and none at all that offer the handling capability of a GT.
Let’s rephrase that question: Is there’s anything uninteresting about the Kia Picanto GT? The answer is no.
It’s all interesting from the fierce little face with its giant manga-like eye headlights to the chopped-off looking rear with it’s equally big tail-lights and twin exhaust.
The GT gets a body kit almost identical to the GT-Line with the large lower grille framed by a chunky front splitter, flanked by big air vents. There are side skirts, too, and chrome twin exhaust pipes poking out through the gloss black diffuser. The GT, like the GT-Line, gets the red element treatment to the upper grille, the skirts, front air vents and diffuser, too.
The Picanto GT has a tough, wide stance on 18-inch alloy wheels and has almost no front or rear overhangs.
The cabin feels premium and modern – cover the Kia logo on the steering wheel and it could pass for something with a prestige badge.
I like the layout of the dashboard, with the vertical air vents at each end and the chrome-look strip which runs through the centre, dividing into it into upper and lower segments, while the instrument cluster looks grown up and those seats, while not leather, are mighty cool. Yes, there are a lot of hard plastics but this is a budget car.
You don’t need me to tell you the Picanto GT is tiny, but here are the dimensions anyway. The Picanto GT is only 1.6m wide, 3.6m long and 1.5m tall. Just for the hell of it I put those dimensions into a Google search and most of the results were building plans for ensuite bathrooms.
If you’ve just read the design section above, you’ll know the Picanto is the size of a tiny bathroom. What does that mean for space inside? Well, up front it was snug for myself and my co-pilot, but head, shoulder, elbow and legroom was still fine. It’s the rear seats that may pose a problem if you’re ferrying people around.
I’m 191cm tall and there was no way I could sit behind my driving position – there was just not enough room back there to sit without adopting a sort of side-saddle position. Headroom was excellent though.
Cabin storage is great for this segment with bottle holders in the front doors, two cupholders and a parcel shelf above them. The storage bin under the centre armrest is skinny but deep, there’s a great floor console storage tray and a decent-sized glovebox, too.
The Picanto GT’s boot has a cargo capacity of 255 litres which is the biggest in the class – bigger than the boots of the Holden Spark, Fiat 500 and Mitsubishi Mirage. There was enough room for three carry-on style bags.
For charging there’s a USB port up front and a 12V power outlet.
While the Picanto is tiny and doesn’t have the cargo carrying capabilities of a wagon its practicality is outstanding for the class and deserves this high mark in comparison to its rivals.
The Picanto GT has a 74kW/172Nm 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo-petrol engine. Even though it’s tinier than the four-cylinder in the AO Edition, the S and GT-Line grades it makes more power and torque.
Maximum torque comes in at 1500rpm and stays around until 4000rpm, which means it’s always under your foot, and when teamed with the five-speed manual (you can’t get an automatic transmission on the GT) made driving this car easy and stacks of fun.
The only negative point I'd like to make is that the engine in the Picanto GT should produce more grunt if it's to wear that badge.
Kia says you should get 4.8L/100km over a combination of open and urban roads using just regular unleaded. After 47.7km of fun winding country roads on the launch drive program the trip computer said it was using 6.7L/100km.
All grades of the Kia Picanto were given a four-star ANCAP rating when it was tested in 2017. While it scored high marks for adult occupant protection, the Picanto scored just 64 per cent for child protection, which is below the 75 per cent pass score. Pedestrian protection is also low at 54 per cent.
A space-saver spare lies under the boot floor
For child seats there are two ISOFIX points and three top tether mounts.
The Picanto GT has the same rating and safety equipment list as all other 2019 grades of the model.
Under the boot floor is a space-saver spare.
7 years / unlimited km warranty
ANCAP Safety Rating
Servicing prices are capped for seven years as well with the first being $248, then $429, the third being $302, followed by $470, then $280, $541 and $297 for the seventh service. So, you can expect to pay no more than $2567 after seven years of regular servicing.
The Picanto GT's 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine makes more power than the bigger four-cylinder that’s in the S, GT-Line and AO Edition.
That gearbox, the low-end torque, disc brakes all around, and the stiffer suspension helped create a good bond between me and the Picanto GT. Weighing in at just over 1000kg the Picanto GT isn’t super light for a car this size and therefore wasn’t as ‘chuckable’ as it looks.
Kia’s local engineers were limited in the changes they could make to the suspension to improve handling but having driven the GT on some twisty roads they should be commended, given the parts they had at their disposal. It would be great to see an even more capable Picanto GT in the future with better handling.
That said the Picanto GT is fun to drive when the road starts to curve, comfortable to cruise in on the motorway with tall gears that see the engine hum along at quite low revs even at 110km/h, and easy to pilot in the city.
The Picanto GT is good value with excellent features, looks great and is fun to drive. Don’t expect the GT to be lightening quick or for it to have sports car-like handling. If you are after a Kia that’s more capable step up to the new Cerato GT.
|AO Edition||1.2L, ULP, 4 SP AUTO||$11,600 – 17,050||2019 Kia Picanto 2019 AO Edition Pricing and Specs|
|GT (turbo)||1.0L, ULP, 5 SP MAN||$11,800 – 17,270||2019 Kia Picanto 2019 GT (turbo) Pricing and Specs|
|GT-Line||1.2L, ULP, 4 SP AUTO||No recent listings||2019 Kia Picanto 2019 GT-Line Pricing and Specs|
|S||1.2L, ULP, 5 SP MAN||$9,000 – 13,530||2019 Kia Picanto 2019 S Pricing and Specs|
|Price and features||8|
|Engine & trans||7|