Honda Civic VS Kia Picanto
- Looks are good (or bad)
- Suspension and steering are both terrific
- Plenty of legroom in the rear seat
- CVT drones at pace
- Standard safety lacking on base models
- RS is noisy on the wrong road surfaces
- Fun and funky styling
- Good suspension and steering
- Added safety features and tech
- Carry-over engine feels outdated
- Four-speed transmission grates outside the CBD
- Elements of interior feel cheap
If you think the new Civic Hatch looks a little lower-slung than its sedan sibling, that can likely be attributed to the crushing weight of expectation placed on its little metal shoulders.
See, this 10th-gen Civic might be the most important car Honda has ever made. While most manufacturers were pouring funds into their SUV ranges, Honda was diverting a huge chunk (heavily tipped to be a whopping 35 per cent) of their research and development budget into the Civic, using the evergreen nameplate as a key pin in their Australian comeback.
And with that much riding on it, it had to be good. In sedan form, which launched here last year, it mostly lived up to the hype, with Honda shifting more than 800 units per month. And with the Civic hatch finally touching down in Australia, Honda is hoping to add 1000 sales to the tally.
So the question now is, does this new hatch version shine, too?
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
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.
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
Energetic and engaging (if not quite sporty), the Civic hatch is quiet and comfortable around town, but it can more than hold its own on a twisting backroad, too. It’s looks will either appeal or not, but a lack of comprehensive safety equipment on the cheaper models is sure to ruffle some feathers.
For us, the cheapest way into the turbocharged engine forms the pick of the bunch, so we'd call the VTi-L the sweet spot.
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.
The word 'polarising' is usually a thinly disguised way of saying 'lots of people don’t like it'. And the all-new Civic sedan was, well, very polarising. A glance at this new hatch version shows it hasn’t strayed too far from that design approach, either.
It’s as understated as a snakeskin suit in all grades, but nowhere is it quite so busy as in the RS trim level, in which the sporty trimmings jump out from every possible angle. Strangely, though, we quite like the way it looks, and it's undeniably an individual in the small car segment.
Inside, Honda has produced the comfortable and tech savvy interior that was missing from the outgoing model, but the sense of well executed semi-premium fades as you approach the spartan rear seat.
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.
The Civic hatch is surprisingly spacious in the cabin, where up front the two seats are split buy a central bin housing two of the fattest, deepest cupholders we’ve ever seen (that would be America’s 'Big Gulp' influence on the Civic’s design), along with a hidden USB and power source that sits behind the centre console, hiding the ugly chords while you’re plugged into touchscreen unit.
The back seat, is plenty spacious in the longer and wider hatch - which also sits on a 30mm longer wheelbase than the outgoing car - with more shoulder, leg and knee room for backseat riders.
Which is just as well, as there’s not much else happening back there, with no air vents, power outlets or USB points on offer, with just the two cupholders housed in a pulldown divider that separates the rear seat.
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.
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.
Price and features
Thanks to what Honda refers to as its “One Civic” philosophy, this new hatch lineup perfectly mirrors the sedan range that was launched here last year, with the only major change being the ‘Ring-burning Type R, which will be hatch-only when it arrives later in 2017.
And that means the five-strong Hatch range kicks off with the entry-level VTi ($22,390) before stepping up to the VTi-S ($24,490) and the VTi-L ($27,790). Next up is the sport-sprinkled RS ($32,290), before the range tops out with the high-flying VTi-LX ($33,590).
Entry-level shoppers will make do 16-inch steel wheels, fabric seats and single-zone climate control, but there are some nice and premium-feeling flourishes, like LED DRLs, a 7.0-inch touchscreen that’s now Apple CarPlay and Android Auto-equipped and a second colour screen in the driver’s binnacle for your trip information.
Stepping up to the VTi-S adds 16-inch alloy wheels, integrated LED indicators in your wing mirrors and proximity locking and unlocking, along with some clever safety stuff we’ll come back to under the Safety heading.
Along with a better engine (more on that in a moment), springing for the VTi-L will earn you 17-inch alloy wheels, twin-zone climate control and automatic windows in both rows, while the sporty-flavoured RS adds LED fog and headlights, along with a hearty dose of sporty styling courtesy of a bumper kit, skirting and a liberal splashing of piano black highlights.
Inside the RS gets leather trimmed seats, a better 10-speaker stereo and and a standard sunroof, too.
Finally, the range-topping Civic - the VTi-LX - gets satellite navigation, and a fairly comprehensive suite of safety kit.
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.
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.
Engine & trans
Like the sedan version, there are two engine choices on offer, with the cheaper option a 1.8-litre petrol engine, good for 104kW at 6500rpm and 174Nm at 4300rpm found in the VTi and VTi-S trim levels.
The better option, though, is a perky turbocharged 1.5-litre petrol engine that will push 127kW at 5500rpm and 220Nm at 1700rpm to the front tyres.
Both engines are partnered with a CVT automatic transmission, with or without wheel-mounted shifters, depending on the trim level.
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.
Fuel use is pretty impressive across the board, with the 1.8-litre engine sipping a claimed combined 6.4-litres per hundred kilometres, while the turbocharged version needs just 6.2 litres on the same cycle.
Emissions are pegged at 150 and 142 grams per kilometre of C02 respectively.
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.
Honda struggles a little in explaining exactly what its new 1.5-litre turbo-powered Civic is.
Is it a hot hatch? Nope, the incoming Type R will handle those duties. Oh, so it's a warm hatch, then? Not really - it's mechanically identical (same engine, gearbox and suspension) to the other, top-tier Civics. In fact, only the brand of tyres seperate the RS from the more luxurious VTi-LX.
"We would say it's a 'sporting hatch'," says Honda's head honcho, Stephen Collins.
And sporting it is, with its clever turbocharged 1.5-litre engine a willing and perky unit, delivering plenty of oomph all over the rev range and with no noticeable, soul-destroying lag in its power delivery.
The steering, too, has a sporty flavouring, it's super direct, and offers such crisp direction changes that you have to pay keen attention driving, as even the slightest input will see you steering out of your lane. And while the ride is a little crashy through bumps, it pays you back with composed cornering antics that see the front wheels hanging on to the tarmac for much longer than you might expect.
But the best trick of the 1.5-litre engine is that it doesn't require much accelerator to make it move, which means there's never too much strain on the CVT auto in town. And, given the auto is both loud and intrusive when you ask too much of it, that can only be a good thing.
Like most CVT 'boxes, it's quiet and composed in city driving, but loud and with a tendency to surge when you start to test it. So much so that heavy acceleration requires a kind of lucky dip as to when to back off the throttle, with the Civic continuing to accelerate for a moment or so even once you get off the gas.
Happily, then, the 1.8-litre models are much easier to classify. They're the cheap ones.
It's a a simple, honest and hardworking engine that feels both slower and slower to respond than its newer, turbocharged sibling, but is more than capable of getting up to speed, even if it struggles to add pace from the mid-range onward.
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.
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.
While some of its key competitor are throwing safety functions at all trim levels, with Honda it’s still sadly a case of you get what you pay for.
The entry-level VTi, for example, makes do with six airbags (front, front-side and curtain) and a 180-degree reversing camera, opting for the VTi-S, VTi-L or RS adds front and rear parking sensors and Honda’s cool 'LaneWatch' (with activates a side-mounted camera when you indicate, beaming an image of the lane running alongside the lefthand-side of the car up onto the 7.0-inch screen).
The entire Civic range was awarded the maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating.
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.
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.