The Kia Picanto competes in what has become known as the city-car class, joining its rivals in offering low running costs and a spacious interior in a package that's easy to use and manageable around town. It also steals a march on the competition by coming with a seven-year warranty.
Its chief rival is our favorite city car, the Hyundai i10. The Picanto does offer more space inside than the Hyundai, however in other regards it falls short and ends up trailing the likes of the Skoda Citigo, SEAT Mii and Volkswagen up! as an overall package. Those three offer better design, performance and quality. Buyers should also consider looking at the Peugeot 108, Citroen C1 and Toyota Aygo – another three cars that share a basic design. There's also the characterful Renault Twingo to consider.
The Picanto still has much going for it, though, with a choice of 1.0 and 1.25-litre petrol engines, the least powerful of which can achieve 67mpg. However, that economy comes at the cost of performance, with 0-62mph taking a sluggish 14.1 seconds.
There's a more powerful version of the 1.0-litre engine, but it still isn’t very nippy, so we recommend the 1.25-litre, which makes life a lot easier in fast traffic. It's also capable of achieving economy figures not much worse than the smaller engine, in part because it doesn’t have to work so hard.
Although small and easily handled, the Picanto doesn’t offer the fun driving experience of some rivals. While its soft suspension setup makes for a smooth ride over urban surface imperfections, it does little to prevent the car pitching and leaning into corners. The Kia is easy to drive and has very safe road manners, but does little to put a smile on the your face like the VW Group rivals can.
The Kia Picanto is best sold from the inside out. Passenger room is a strong point, with a choice of three or five doors allowing easy access to a spacious interior with space for five adults. The boot is actually among the smallest in its class, although it is well shaped.
We can’t recommend the cheapest Picanto, as it saddles you with the slow 1.0-litre petrol engine and not a great deal of standard equipment apart from a height-adjustable driver's seat, electric front windows and a 60:40 split-folding rear seat.
A far more enjoyable car to live with is the Picanto 2, with the added attractions of automatic air-conditioning and heated door mirrors, as well as niceties like alloy wheels and body-coloured exterior detailing. It also has electric windows at the back, plus Bluetooth phone connectivity. Best of all, this model allows you to specify the more powerful and far nicer 1.25-litre engine.
The Kia Picanto is well built and reliable, although it did only manage to finish 122nd overall in our 2016 Driver Power owner satisfaction survey. Kia as a brand came 14th, the performance offered by its cars being one factor that lets them down. Euro NCAP independent crash-testing gave the Picanto a four-star rating out of a possible five – all models come with electronic stability control, hill-start assistance, ABS and ISOFIX child-seat mounts.
All in all, and when you take into account the peace of mind that comes with its seven-year warranty, the Kia Picanto is a good choice if fun or style are not high priorities compared to reassurance and ease of ownership.