Kia Picanto hatchback
Price £8,045 - £12,495
- Attractive price and long warranty
- Smooth drive
- Generously equipped
- Jerky brakes and clutch
- Lacks badge appeal
- Excessive body roll
At a glance
"Unless you’re on a very tight budget, we’d go for the Kia Picanto with the 1.25-litre engine, fitted with stop-start."
The Kia Picanto was one of the first of the new Korean cars that were good enough to compete with the best from Europe and Japan. It has cheeky looks and bright colours that mean the model can grab attention if you want it to, while the interior has been improved in the facelifted car.
The Picanto can be had with either three or five doors and the option of two very frugal petrol engines, which make it perfect for driving in the city. Picantos also come with decent levels of equipment, for the price, while Kia's excellent seven-year warranty offers unbeatable peace of mind.
Buyers can choose from the basic Picanto ‘1’, the next-model-up VR7, the mid-range Picanto ‘2’ or the top-of-the-range Picanto ‘3’. All models get electric windows, a trip computer and a stereo.
MPG, running costs & CO2
Economical engines make it cheap to buy and run
The Picanto can be had with either a 1.0-litre or 1.25-litre petrol, both are very frugal and feel nippy enough for city driving. Unsurprisingly, it is the smaller of the two that offers the best economy, managing to return up to 67mpg and emissions of 99g/km that qualify the car for free road tax.
The 1.25-litre's extra power makes it better equipped for motorway driving, but it's less frugal, with economy of 60mpg. Emissions of 100g/km mean the 1.25 is also exempt from paying road tax – but only when fitted with the company's stop-start technology (which saves fuel by turning the engine off when the car is stationary). Without it, emissions hit 109g/km for road tax of a perfectly manageable £20 per year.
Interior & comfort
The current Picanto is quiet and spacious inside
The Picanto's larger dimensions provide a lot more room inside than the car it replaced, with significantly more legroom. The seats are also generally improved, with greater back support. There's also better headroom in the back, with enough space for most adults to sit comfortably.
Most road and wind noise is held at bay by good sound insulation, but the three-cylinder 1.0-litre engine emits a distinctive and intrusive whirring sound if you push it. Overall, the ride is comfy enough, but the suspension can feel firm and it doesn’t always prevent body roll through some of the sharper corners - not really a good balance.
Practicality & boot space
Roomy up front, but the rear seats are cramped
The new Kia Picanto's wheelbase – the area between the front and rear wheels – is longer than before, meaning interior space has increased. Up front, most passengers should find it easy to get comfortable, although the steering wheel only adjusts for height, which may prove a headache for some drivers.
Rear headroom and legroom are also pretty decent (for this class of car), but the boot's 200 litres of space cannot compete with the capacity you’ll find in the Volkswagen up!, Skoda Citigo, and SEAT Mii – all of which offer an impressive 251 litres.
The Picanto does offer plenty of storage compartments around the cabin, though, and also has 60:40 split rear seats, which fold down to reveal a total load-lugging capacity of 870 litres.
Reliability & safety
Superb seven-year warranty and improved safety features
The Kia Picanto came 68th (out of 150 cars) in our 2013 Driver Power survey, with poor performance and practicality being the main bugbears, although we should point out that no small cars offer lightning pace or big-car space.
Despite its average showing in our survey, the Kia's standard seven-year warranty betters all the competition and should reassure potential customers.
In 2011, the Picanto was awarded four stars for safety by Euro NCAP, when it was marked down for not having electronic stability control as standard – a feature that is now fitted across the range. All models also get six airbags, ISOFIX child-seat anchors and ABS brakes.
Engines, drive & performance
Punchy 1.25-litre car is easy to drive in town and competent on the motorway
The Kia Picanto's 1.0-litre and 1.25-litre engines make for frugal and peppy performance around town. The car's narrow shape and short length also make it perfect for nipping through city streets, while its dimensions and excellent visibility mean parking should also be pretty straightforward.
The 1.0-litre Picanto has an enthusiastic engine sound, which makes working it hard less of a strain on the ear, but all Picantos suffer from grabby brakes, which make driving smoothly tricky.
Get out of the city, though, and chinks in the Picanto's armour appear. Neither the 1.0-litre nor the 1.25-litre engines are particular well suited to fast motorway driving, with quick progress translating into plenty of engine noise. The larger engine is the one to go for, though, if you want to make quick and safe overtakes.
The fun driving experience encountered in town also rapidly diminishes out on the open road, where there is plenty of body lean in the corners and you feel the suspension get choppy, which means the suspension isn’t as comfy as competitors such as the Skoda Citigo's. We would also prefer it if the front tyres weren’t so easy to spin coming out of junctions.
Price, value for money & options
Extensive equipment list and competitively priced
While budget models such as the Dacia Sandero undercut the Kia Picanto in terms of price, they don’t offer anything like the same equipment levels. Even the basic Picanto models get remote-controlled central locking, a four-speaker stereo, trip computer electric front windows, and hill-start assist. The next-model-up Picanto ‘1’ Air adds to that with air conditioning. Opting for the VR7 models brings things like reversing sensors, a leather-trimmed steering wheel, leather-trimmed gear shifter, a Bluetooth phone connection and alloy wheels. The Picanto ‘2’, meanwhile, gets electric windows all round and steering-wheel mounted audio controls, while the top-of-the-range Picanto ‘3’ gets heated front seats, climate control, 15-inch alloy wheels, and bright LED daytime running lights.
What the others say
"While the previous car had a budget feel, you can’t say the same of the new one. Bold, chunky styling and sculpted lines help to create a premium look, as do the optional LED headlights and tail-lamps. Inside, there's a classy layout with materials that now at least look expensive, even if they can feel a bit scratchy on further inspection."
"The boot's high sill makes loading bulky items a challenge but, generally, the car feels bigger and more substantial even if it measures up more or less the same as before. Luggage capacity is up 43 litres and Kia claims more front-seat legroom too."
"The Picanto has nothing that identifies it as Korean either outside or inside - no extra bits of chrome or gaudy add-ons. In fact, if Audi had to come up with a sub-£10K city car, it might very well look like this."