The Kia Picanto is the baby of the Kia family, sitting under the recently launched Rio in terms of both cost and size. That’s not to say the third-generation Picanto doesn’t offer brains in that small body though.
The latest model of the South Korean company’s city car features support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as numerous safety features and advanced driver assistant functions, making it the most technologically advanced Picanto yet.
So how does the little car perform and can it win city lovers’ hearts?
Kia Picanto (2017) review: Design
The second-generation Kia Picanto was cute and cheeky but the new Picanto goes for an angrier, sportier look. Like the new Rio, Kia has redesigned the 2017 Picanto with sharper angles and straighter lines, resulting in an overall more serious stance than its predecessor.
The new Picanto offers exactly the same footprint as the second-generation model – it’s 3,595mm long and 1,595mm wide – but Kia has changed the overhangs: the front one is now shorter for that sportier look, while the rear one is longer in order to create 255-litres of luggage space compared to the 200-litres of the previous model.
There are wider grilles and air intakes on the front of the new Picanto too, plus a bolder bumper on both the front and rear. The silver or chrome (which is dependent on trim) signature tiger nose grille is present but it is wider and slimmer than before, leading into the headlights and further emphasising the sportier look.
Fog lights are either positioned in separate side grilles or within the main lower grille – it’s all dependent on the trim choice (and if such panels exist as a result) – while air curtains in the side grilles channel air away from the more defined wheel arches that house either 14-inch, 15-inch or 16-inch wheels (again, trim dependent).
On the rear, the C-shaped rear light clusters are similar to the previous Picanto but they are larger on the new model and more detailed, while the rear roof pillar is more upright in order to deliver greater cabin space (it’s 5mm taller than the outgoing model).
The new Kia Picanto is only available with five doors, like the Kia Rio, with the rear door handles being the same as the front ones, rather than integrated like the Nissan Micra 2017, for example.
It comes in five trims in the UK, which fall under 1, 2, 3, GT-Line (pictured in white) and GT-Line S (pictured in red). The two GT models have larger front and rear sport bumpers, twin exhaust tailpipes, plus red accents in various places such as along the side sills and within the upper grille.
Ultimately, all the new Picanto models look good – but the GT-Line and GT-Line S are our favourites for the couple of extra design details that bring the new Kia baby to life. They certainly move away from the cuteness other city cars offer, like the Fiat 500 and the Smart ForTwo Cabrio, making the Picanto stand out as a sportier and more serious car.
Kia Picanto (2017) review: Interior and infotainment
Inside the new Kia Picanto, things follow in the same footsteps as the 2017 Kia Rio. The structured dashboard features a satin chrome trim strip to separate controls and display, while vertical ventilation grilles at each end emphasise the width of the quiet, comfortable and spacious cabin. The finish is a little plasticky, just like the Rio, though the GT-Line and GT-Line S have some additions to their interiors that make them pop a little more.
Seat upholstery is trim dependent, with either black cloth, premium black cloth or black and red faux leather present. The faux leather comes on the GT-Line and GT-Line S, along with additions such as a high-gloss black centre fascia trim, satin chrome interior door handles and stainless steel pedals, all contributing to a more premium inside finish than the standard trims.
There are electric front windows on all models, as well as remote locking and a radio with USB ports. The Grade 2 models add Bluetooth with music streaming, four speakers compared to two, a leather-trimmed steering wheel and gear lever, among a couple of other extras. The Grade 3 models offer further additions including Bluetooth with voice recognition, a six-speaker system and a 7-inch “floating” touchscreen with TomTom navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The GT-Line S also features this 7-inch touchscreen, which is brilliantly responsive and simple to use, as well as a wireless phone charger, an electric sunroof and heated front seats, making this model the one to opt for if you want the all the tech. As Kia doesn’t offer “options” as such, you can’t add the 7-inch touchscreen and all its connectivity or the wireless charger to a Picanto “1”, for example, meaning for Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, you’ll need to choose the Picanto 3 (priced at £12,650) or the GT-Line S (priced at £13,950).
Beneath the touchscreen are the temperature controls, a shelf for your smartphone or anything else reasonably small, and cup holders. There are also further control buttons in front of the gear stick, though these are dummy buttons on the trims that don’t have heated seats, as well as on the steering wheel itself and on the driver’s door. There’s a secondary screen on the driver’s display, but as with the Rio, this is a settings menu rather than a useful second display.
Kia Picanto (2017) review: Experience
The new Kia Picanto is available in nine options in the UK at launch, with two engines, two transmissions and those five aforementioned trims.
The 1.0-litre petrol is available with 66bhp and five-speed manual in the Picanto 1, 2 and GT-Line; the 1.25-litre petrol engine with 83bhp is available with five-speed manual or four-speed auto on the Picanto 2 and 3, or five-speed manual in the GT-Line S; there will also be a 1.0-litre T-GDi engine available before the end of the year.
We test drove the 1.0-litre Picanto 2, 1.25-litre GT-Line, as well as the 1.25-litre GT-Line S. The first of which accelerates from 0-60mph in 13.8-seconds and offers emissions of 101 CO2/km, while the other two engines accelerate from 0-60mph in 11.6-seconds and offer emissions of 106 CO2/km.
All three models were a pleasure to drive, offering plenty of power when it came to steep hills and increasing speed quickly on faster routes, despite not having the sportiest off-the-mark stats. Even when adding to the power, the cabin remained quiet throughout.
There was a little more power from the 1.25-litre engine, but we didn’t feel like the 1.0-litre was lacking like its figure might suggest. Both options handled and cornered very well, inspiring confidence on winding Italian roads and delivering a sturdy and stable driving experience with good visibility.
The suspension was firm, especially in the case of the GT-Line models, helping us feel connected with the road, while steering was light and responsive, and braking was sharp too. The Picanto 2 model had its fair share of not-so-brilliant roads on our specific test drive, one of which had plenty of bumps and pot holes to contend with, but it performed without any issues – certainly better and more comfortable than what our Fiat 500 would manage.
As with the Kia Rio, there is plenty of extra safety technology on board the new Picanto, with Electronic Stability Control (ESC), Vehicle Stability Management and Hill-Start Assist Control coming as standard on all trim levels.
Autonomous Emergency Braking comes as standard on the Picanto 3, GT-Line and GT-Line S, or as a £350 option on the Picanto 1 and 2. This feature will bring the car to a complete stop at speeds of up to 50mph, or to a partial stop when travelling at speeds over 50mph without driver intervention. A sheep ran across the road in front of us while in the GT-Line model, kicking the Autonomous Emergency Braking feature into action – so clearly it works well. The sheep, car and ourselves survived without a scratch.
The new Picanto also has Torque Vectoring on all models, which uses the anti-lock brake and ESC sensors to detect if the car is drifting, gently applying the brakes on the inside or outside of the rear wheels respectively. This feature was great when it came to the tight bends, working perfectly and reassuring us when the corners were sharper than we first expected.
The new Kia Picanto offers a sportier and more serious design than its predecessor, but it also delivers on the technology front. It might not come in the plethora of colours and customisation options as per the Fiat 500, but it offers plenty of power, plenty of tech and plenty of safety features, such as Autonomous Emergency Braking.
Kia’s infotainment system is very easy to use and navigate, too, making Apple CarPlay and Android Auto setup a breeze on the higher trim levels, while the various extras – such as the wireless charging pad on the GT-Line S – make it a city car that’s looking well into the future. Having the range of safety features as standard on even the lower trims is great too.
If your budget allows, we’d suggest the Picanto 3 model or the GT-Line S model in order to get the connectivity and Autonomous Emergency Braking as standard, but the Picanto 2 was good fun to drive, too, so you don’t necessarily need to splash all the cash on this new baby Kia to get a small, sporty and savvy purchase.