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Kia Picanto 2017 review

EXPERT RATING
7.6
Kia's Picanto is cheap. But that doesn't mean what it used to mean. It looks nice, is filled with safety things, and will mirror your smartphone on a big screen inside. So it's cheap, but not 'cheap.'

The Kia Picanto is a cheap car. There's no two ways about it. But that doesn't mean what it used to mean.

There was a time, not so long ago, when our cheapest cars sported panels forged from old Coca-Cola cans, were as technologically advanced as a shoe horn and would offer all the structural integrity of an Easter egg should you ever have had the misfortune of being in an accident.

But this new Picanto isn't any of those things. For one, it's nice to look at. Plus, it's filled with clever safety things like a reversing camera and rear parking sensors. And it will mirror your smartphone so you can play your music or display navigation instructions up on the 7.0-inch screen inside.

So it's cheap, then, but not really 'cheap' at all.

Kia Picanto 2017: Si
Safety rating
Engine Type1.2L
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency5L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$11,490

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   7/10

You're not exactly spoiled for choice with the Picanto, with a single trim level (S) on offer, which can be had with an automatic transmission or manual gearbox.

The pricing is slightly mysterious, with an official starting point of $14,190 for the manual version, but with Kia hinting heavily that it will actually be $13,990 drive-away in any of its dealerships. The automatic, however, is a little more straightforward, wearing a simple $15,690 drive-away price tag.

No matter, there's no escaping that it's a price-led offering. The seats are cloth, the 14-inch wheels have hubs caps on them and the interior plastics are rock hard. But there have been some key, and critical, updates inside. The new 7.0-inch touchscreen, mounted high above the dash, is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto equipped, and that means, provided you have a smart phone that's in range, you get standard satellite navigation.

  • The interior plastics are rock hard. The interior plastics are rock hard.
  • The new 7.0-inch touchscreen is equipped with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The new 7.0-inch touchscreen is equipped with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Among the other new stuff is cruise control and automatic headlights, which are tacked onto the (actually, pretty extensive) standard feature list of the outgoing model. So, power windows in both rows, halogen DRLs and keyless entry all still appear, along with a rear fog light, electric (and heated) mirrors and a 2.6-inch driving display screen housed between the traditional dials in the instrument binnacle.

Overall, we think it looks rather fetching.

2017 Kia Picanto

Explore the 2017 Kia Picanto range

Is there anything interesting about its design?   7/10

It's as perky as your morning cup of coffee, the Picanto. The car's designers - it was a shared job between teams in South Korea and Germany - set out to broaden the car's appeal by strengthening its character relative to the outgoing model, ironing out the sharp crease that ran the length of the body, and making the grille bigger and wider.

We quite like the look of it, especially viewed front-on, which starts narrow at the headlights before widening as it descends into the gaping, whale-shark-mouth grille.

There's a few other blink-and-you'll-miss-them changes, like a redesigned boot handle, C-shaped tail-lights and a new number plate housing. But overall we think it looks rather fetching.

There’s a few blink-and-you’ll-miss-them changes, like a redesigned boot handle, C-shaped tail-lights and a new number plate housing. There’s a few blink-and-you’ll-miss-them changes, like a redesigned boot handle, C-shaped tail-lights and a new number plate housing.

How practical is the space inside?   8/10

Kia has robbed Peter to pay Paul here. Provided, of course, Peter is riding in the back seat and Paul is sitting up front.

While the Picanto's length and width hasn't changed, it is 5mm higher, and it sits on a 15mm longer wheelbase. And while those numbers seem microscopic, Kia has used them to shake up the interior set-up, adding head, shoulder and legroom for front seat passengers, but stealing a little space from those riding in the back seat.

But the true Tardis is the boot, which now offers up 255 litres (+55 litres) of luggage space with the rear seat in place, and a genuinely impressive 1010 litres (+140 litres) with the 60/40 split rear seat folded flat.

The boot now offers a genuinely impressive 1010 litres with the 60/40 split rear seat folded flat. The boot now offers a genuinely impressive 1010 litres with the 60/40 split rear seat folded flat.

Front seat passengers share two cupholders, and there's a USB, aux and power connection in the dash, along with room in the doors for bottles. Sometimes it's the little things you appreciate, too, like an integrated phone holder under the multimedia screen that's big enough to house one of those new jumbo-sized iPhone Plus smartphones so it won't slide around the cabin when you're plugged in to the USB point.

The backseat is a little barren, though. There's a single seat pocket and a single cupholder for your backseat riders to Hunger Games over, and that's about it. There are no pockets in the doors or pull-down dividers, either, but you do get automatic window controls.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   6/10

Just the one engine available, a carry-over 1.25-litre petrol unit that will produce a non-pulse-quickening 62kW at 6000rpm, and a slightly improved 122Nm at 4000rpm. It's paired with a new five-speed manual in the cheapest model, or a four-speed automatic in the more expensive version, with both sending power exclusively to the front wheels.

  • A 1.25-litre petrol unit will produce a non-pulse-quickening 62kW, and a slightly improved 122Nm. A 1.25-litre petrol unit will produce a non-pulse-quickening 62kW, and a slightly improved 122Nm.
  • The Picanto has a five-speed manual in the cheapest model, or a four-speed automatic in the more expensive version, with both sending power exclusively to the front wheels. The Picanto has a five-speed manual in the cheapest model, or a four-speed automatic in the more expensive version, with both sending power exclusively to the front wheels.

How much fuel does it consume?   9/10

It's impressively frugal. Sipping a miserly 5.0 litres per hundred kilometres on the claimed/combined cycle in the manual car, and 5.8L/100km in the automatic. But even after some, well, vigorous driving on a twisting backroad, the number was still only sitting on 5.8L/100km in the auto, and 4.8 in the manual.

Emissions are pegged at 117 grams per kilometre of C02 in manual vehicles, and 134g/km in the automatic.

If it's not the most dynamic-feeling car in its segment, it's got to be damn close.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   8/10

When we drove the old car, we pointed out a lack of key safety kit now generally expected to be present and accounted for, but this new model addresses most of those concerns. 

There are six airbags (dual front, front sides and curtain bags) and rear parking sensors, like the old model. But new for 2017 is a reversing camera, a new brake-based torque vectoring system and what Kia calls 'Straight Line Stability' - designed to keep the car tracking straight under heavy braking. Kia is also pushing to introduce AEB sometime this year.

The Kia Picanto is yet to be evaluated by ANCAP in Australia.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

7 years / unlimited km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   9/10

Kia's ownership offering really can't be beat, and the Picanto is covered by the brand's seven-year/ unlimited-kilometre warranty with capped-price servicing and roadside assistance for the duration. Which is not just very good, but the best in the Aussie industry.

What's it like to drive?   7/10

Because the last car was really only a case study, Kia never bothered to subject it to the local suspension and steering tuning process it puts the rest of its cars through. But this new Picanto has undergone the full treatment, and the results are very good. If it's not the most dynamic-feeling car in its segment, it's got to be damn close. 

But those changes are let down a little by the largely carry-over engine-gearbox combination. The engine feels lethargic on anything steeper than a gentle climb, and the four-speed automatic being fidgety and loud when you've got your foot pinned. Which you will have. A lot.

Things are so much better in the new five-speed manual version, though, where you can wring every ounce of power out of the engine, but Kia tells us the market for self-shifting is miniscule. But if it was us, we'd be taking the cheaper manual every day of the week.

If it's not the most dynamic-feeling car in its segment, it's got to be damn close. If it's not the most dynamic-feeling car in its segment, it's got to be damn close.

Better still, wait for the incoming sportier version, powered by a clever turbocharged three-cylinder engine (74kW/172Nm) paired with a five-speed manual 'box. Kia confided it's already got a sportier suspension tune waiting and ready for the Picanto - and now they just need the car, which they're pushing for by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, though, the cloth seats are comfortable, but lacking much in the way of bolstering - which becomes pretty apparent when you start pushing it into bends - a task to which the Picanto is surprisingly well suited. 

But by far the biggest and most positive change is the new screen perched above the air vents in the centre of the dash. It's big, clear, easy to use and, most importantly, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto equipped, unlocking a world of easy - and free - navigation for budget minded shoppers.

Verdict

The Kia Picanto is now less cheap and more cheerful, adding the technology and safety stuff sorely missing from the outgoing model. For us, the pick has to be the five-speed manual, squeezing the most bang from the little engine.

Could Kia's new Picanto be your next city car? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Pricing Guides

$12,990
Based on 20 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$11,490
Highest Price
$14,777

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
GT-LINE 1.2L, ULP, 4 SP AUTO $10,890 – 14,850 2017 KIA PICANTO 2017 GT-LINE Pricing and Specs
S (AEB) 1.2L, ULP, 4 SP AUTO $9,900 – 13,530 2017 KIA PICANTO 2017 S (AEB) Pricing and Specs
S (PHASE 2) 1.2L, ULP, 4 SP AUTO $9,900 – 13,530 2017 KIA PICANTO 2017 S (PHASE 2) Pricing and Specs
Si 1.2L, ULP, 4 SP AUTO $11,490 – 14,777 2017 KIA PICANTO 2017 Si Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7.6
Price and features7
Design7
Practicality8
Engine & trans6
Fuel consumption9
Safety8
Ownership9
Driving7
Andrew Chesterton
Contributing journalist

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