While there’s talk of many manufacturers putting the brakes on the production of city cars, that certainly isn’t the case for Kia with their ever popular and highly impressive little Picanto.
And how things have changed. When it first appeared, the Picanto was something of a sparse creation, with uninspiring, drab looks. Fast forward, and by the time the third generation arrived, it had morphed into a stylish design combining much more interior space, higher quality finishing and more equipment.
And while the driving experience has also become more grown up, Kia has developed the range — available across what now totals 10 Arnold Clark Kia dealerships — to include an SUV-style X-Line model for drivers keen on the crossover look.
The third-generation Picanto was unveiled in 2017 but was faced by serious competition from the likes of the Hyundai i10 and Volkswagen up!.
Kia sensibly gave its model a mid-life facelift in 2020 and, in addition to introducing further levels of improved standard equipment, updated the engine.
While the likes of the Peugeot 108, Toyota Aygo, ŠKODA Citigo and Citroën C1 are no longer in production, the Picanto goes from strength to strength. Okay, the three-door is no longer available, but the stylish five-door hatchback is one which is certainly worth trying if you’re in the market for a supermini.
Sensibly, and thankfully rather logically, Kia identifies the Picanto’s trim levels as 1, 2, and 3. Simple. The top of the range includes the X-Line S, GT-Line and GT-Line S models. As you would expect, the GT-Line and GT-Line S cars get a healthy, sporty look.
In contrast, the X-Line S gets an altogether more rugged look with chunky off-road bumpers, a raised ride height and wheel arch extensions. In many ways, it looks like a mini SUV.
You can grab an entry-level Picanto from around £13,415, with the most expensive tipping over £17,470.
You can choose from two petrol engines, the 1.0-litre three-cylinder and a 1.0 T-GDi three-cylinder turbo, which deliver 66bhp and 99bhp respectively. Worth pointing out here that not all engines are sold in every trim level. You’ll need to buy the GT-Line or GT-Line S models if you want the turbo triple. It’s a good decision in my mind.
A five-speed manual gearbox is standard across the range, though the option list includes a five-speed automatic available for the non-turbo petrol.
Thinking of making the switch to electric?
The entry-level Picanto '1' trim, on the face of it, is pretty basic. You get manual door mirrors, a two-speaker stereo and electric front windows. But you do get a number of safety equipment features as standard, including a tyre pressure monitoring system and hill-start assist control.
Step up to ‘2’ and you add electrically adjustable and heated door mirrors, Bluetooth, air conditioning and 14-inch alloy wheels. The ‘3’ spec Picanto, which adds about £1,500 over the entry-level model, gets Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a reversing camera system and sat nav, plus a few more goodies, including a larger eight-inch touchscreen and a DAB radio.
If you’re considering the GT-Line, X-Line S or GT-Line S, you’ll find a sporty body kit, red detailing and big bumpers on the GT models. The GT-Line’s looks are further enhanced with the addition of rear privacy glass, LED daytime running lights and 16-inch alloys. Heated front seats, an electric sunroof and cruise control help mark out the GT-Line S.
The X-Line S model, as I mentioned earlier, gets a slightly more rugged look with bigger, chunkier bumpers, and a ride height which has been raised by 15mm. Like the rest of the Picanto range, it too is front-wheel drive.
Worth stressing that the eight-inch touchscreen on the 3, X-Line, GT-Line and GT-Line S cars is cleverly and logically laid out and is as simple and easy to use as it is in the flagship Sorento SUV.
It’s a city car, so don’t look at the Picanto expecting blood-curdling acceleration figures, ‘cos it ain’t gonna happen. The 1.0-litre Picanto does 0-62mph in 13.8 seconds. Slip yourself behind the wheel of the 1.0 T-GDi turbo petrol, and that comes down significantly to 9.8 seconds. And, as we know, this engine is only available in more expensive GT-Line and GT-Line S models.
The non-turbo 1.0-litre three-cylinder motor though is perfectly tuned for life in the cities, where speed limits can fluctuate between built-up areas and more opens spaces. Here, torque and tractability are king and the Picanto performs well, taking 9.5 seconds to get from 30-50mph in fourth, and 13.9 seconds from 50-70mph in fifth. It’s a pretty flexible engine.
It’s definitely one of the most affordable cars you can buy. And that not only goes for the list price, but also fuel, insurance, servicing and consumables.
Depending on which spec you choose, the 66bhp Picanto will return between 55.4-58.9mpg when mated to the manual gearbox. This drops slightly to 52.3-54.3mpg if you opt for the automatic box. The manual 99bhp turbo-petrol engine should, according to Kia, deliver an average of 53.3mpg.
Not surprisingly, the less-powered engine performs best in terms of CO2 emissions, with a reading of between 110-123g/km depending on the spec. Again, these figures rise marginally in the turbo-petrol engine, up to 123-129g/km. The positive is these slight changes mean the 99bhp 1.0 T-GDi should only be marginally more expensive to tax.
And those tax groups range from 1 to 5 for the regular models, or from 2 to 5 for X-Line versions. Fitted with the 66bhp engine, the GT-Line and GT-Line S cars range from 2 to 4. However, slot the more powerful turbo-petrol engine in and the tax group jumps to group 11.
Remember, this is a city car, so should be judged accordingly. But while it does boast rather tiny exterior dimensions, the interior is pretty impressive in terms of space.
Measuring 3,595mm in length, and 1,595mm wide, the Picanto is among the smallest cars on sale. One large benefit is: it’s a cinch to park. Also worth mentioning, the X-Line S version is slightly larger, being 30mm wider and 15mm taller. It’s also 75mm longer.
Access through the wide-opening rear doors makes getting in and out of the Picanto infinitely easier — one of the major benefits of Kia removing the three-door from the range — and the majority of the Picanto range is exclusively available in a four-seater spec. There’s certainly more rear legroom in this third generation of Picanto, a result of the longer wheelbase.
If you really need the extra space for a fifth occupant, you’re better opting for the slightly higher-riding X-Line S.
All-round visibility is good thanks to the thin pillars and upright rear screen. Elsewhere, there’s also usable door bins, a decent glovebox, a small central armrest and a couple of cupholders ahead of the gear lever. Top-spec cars also include a reversing camera as standard.
The best in class: that’s how good it is. With the rear seats in place, you can stow 255 litres of shopping or other goodies. To put that into context, that’s as much as some superminis. Fold the rear seats down, and space increases to 1,010 litres.
If you’re looking for a stylish, good-looking city car, the Kia Picanto should certainly be on your shortlist. Its combination of dinky exterior size allied to its surprising interior space make it a more than worthwhile candidate.
Throw in the comprehensive list of trim levels and the choice of power outputs and performance, and there’s a plethora of options for you to enjoy. Add in the fact buyers have the security of an impressively strong seven-year/100,000-mile warranty and the Picanto becomes even more of a winner.