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Kia Picanto hatchback (2011-2017) - Engines, drive & performance

It’s not exciting, but the Kia Picanto feels remarkably grown-up to drive, while the larger 1.2-litre engine delivers decent performance.

Carbuyer Rating

3.5 out of 5

Owners Rating
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Engines, drive & performance Rating

3.0 out of 5

Low running costs and a bargain purchase price are the name of the game with the Kia Picanto, so it's not a very exciting or engaging car to drive. It does have a comfortable upright driving position, light steering and simple, clear controls, however, so it's ideally suited for its intended purpose of town-centre and suburban driving.

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It's not a brilliant long-distance or motorway car, but it's perfectly acceptable for the occasional extended journey, as long as you don't mind the noisy din from the 1.0 and 1.25-litre petrol engines as they approach top speed.

Kia Picanto petrol engines

If you can afford it, the 1.25-litre is definitely the one to go for. Although it's not as economical as the smaller engine on paper, the difference won't be that much in the real world, and it makes the Picanto more enjoyable to drive overall. The extra power gives a 0-62mph time of 11.5 seconds (versus 14.1 seconds for the 1.0-litre) and allows you to nip into gaps in traffic easily and overtake slow-moving vehicles with confidence. You'll also be glad it's there if the car is full of passengers and shopping, which is when the 1.0-litre will really struggle.

A four-speed automatic gearbox is available if you need it – but we wouldn't recommend it if you can drive a manual. The five-speed manual gearbox shifts nicely and returns much better fuel economy and CO2 emissions than the automatic can manage. Watch out for the somewhat vague clutch pedal, though – using it smoothly can take a little bit of practice.

Elsewhere, a soft suspension set-up helps to cushion you from the worst urban potholes and speed bumps, but also means the Picanto can roll around a bit on twisty roads, so you'll want to take it easy. Overall, though, the Kia offers the kind of safe, predictable and undemanding driving experience that city-car buyers want – it's just a little less refined and grown-up on the motorway than some of its rivals.

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Richard is a former editor of Carbuyer, as well as sister site DrivingElectric.com, and he's now Deputy Editor at Auto Express. Having spent a decade working in the automotive industry, he understands exactly what makes new car buyers tick.

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