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Car reviews - Kia - Picanto - Si

Our Opinion

We like
Warranty coverage, cabin space, road manners
Room for improvement
No reversing camera, no cruise control, tilt-only steering adjustment, underdone infotainment

Kia logo24 Aug 2016

By STUART MARTIN

Price and equipment

THE Kia Picanto is only available in one specification level – a five-door automatic hatch for $14,990 driveaway – which slides it in beneath the Fiat 500 (which is just ahead of it in sales terms this year), between the two Holden Spark models (priced from $13,990 for the LS and $18,990 for the LT) but higher up the price scale than the entry-level Mitsubishi Mirage ES (from $12,250) and the $13,490 for the doomed Nissan Micra.

Among the Picanto’s features list is air-conditioning, remote keyless entry (but a conventional ignition key), an alarm, cloth trim, retractable cupholders, Bluetooth phone link, a height-adjustable driver’s seat but only tilt adjustment for the plastic steering wheel, which has audio and phone controls.

Cruise control is absent from the features list, a solid nod to the Picanto’s preference for pottering around the suburbs on its 14-inch steel wheels.

It also features power-adjustable exterior mirrors, a trip computer, LED interior lighting and a 12-volt power socket up front, while the rear load space can be expanded with use of the 60/40 split fold rear seats.

The infotainment system falls short of the MyLink unit on offer from Holden and it’s on the tinny side, which may not do it any favours with the target demographic, but at least the four-speaker sound system has USB, auxiliary and Bluetooth links, as well as a CD player for the baby boomers.

Interior

At a snifter under $15,000 the cabin space is not expected to be a picture of opulence and excess and it doesn’t exceed expectations – the interior feels its pricetag but not excessively so, with some trim pieces in satin silver to break up the swathes of plastic.

Littered with red dash illumination for the centre stack and infotainment, the key instruments are clearer in white the remainder of the dash is laid out for easy use.

The cloth-trimmed seats are on the small side – there’s only so much room in something this size – but are not uncomfortable for a reasonable amount of time behind the wheel.

An absence of lateral support is unlikely to be an issue either – it’s not going to require a lot given its road manners.

The driver’s height-adjustable seat doesn’t quite make up for the missing reach adjustment for the plastic steering wheel, which is one of the better low-rent helms around rear vision would be better for a taller driver if the seat would drop further.

The cabin also gets adjustable cupholders, decent door pocket and centre console storage (although there’s no armrest or console under the driver’s left elbow) and a decent glovebox ahead of the passenger.

The Picanto boasts between 200 and 605 litres (with the split-fold rear seats folded) of boot space, which is serviceable without being considerable.

Measuring 3595mm long, 1595mm wide and 1480mm tall, the five-seater makes the most of its 2385mm wheelbase, which would accommodate two average-sized adults and three little kids, all seated on cloth trim and with a reasonable view out.

Engine and transmission

You can have any engine and transmission you like, as long as it’s the 1.2 with the auto – Picanto is endowed with a peppy 1.2-litre 16-valve double overhead cam four-cylinder engine, with continuous variable valve timing, which drives the front wheels via a four-speed auto.

It’s not packing a big wallop – 63kW at 6000rpm and 120Nm around 2000rpm earlier – but a kerb weight of 994kg means the neddies don’t have that much lard to lug.

While it does take a while to get there, 100-110km/h has the tachometer ticking over between 2500 and 3000rpm, so highway cruising speeds has the engine keeping busy getting anywhere at anything other than a sedate pace requires the driver to work it hard and the resulting 7.3 litres per 100km on the trip computer is evidence of that.

The official fuel use claim on the combined cycle is 5.3L/100km, drinking from the 35-litre tank.

Ride and handling

Kia has made much of its efforts in the realm of road manners and while the Picanto hasn’t had the local input that some of its other models, the little hatchback is far from shamed in terms of its ride and handling.

The MacPherson strut front and torsion beam rear control the 14-inch steel wheels to deliver a decent suburban ride quality – as you’d expect given its a metropolitan dweller by nature – but it’s not averse to a country road jaunt either.

It sits nicely on the road and while it is busy in an engine sense the chassis deals well enough with country roads at a reasonable rate.

The steering is also better than expected, with a weight not too difficult for parking but also reasonable at suburban and open-road speeds.

Safety and servicing

A five-star ANCAP rating for the little tyke can be put down to dual front, front-side and curtain airbags, as well as pre-tensioned and load-limiting front seatbelts.

Its active safety features list also has stability and traction control, anti-lock braking for the four-wheel discs brakes, hill start assistance, emergency stop signal, a seatbelt use warning system, rear parking sensors, daytime running light, auto door locks, child restraint anchorage points and five lap-sash seatbelts, but sadly there’s no reversing camera, which erodes its appeal as a school run runt.

Unlike much of the Kia range it only has a temporary spare tyre, but the maintenance schedule makes up for that to some extent.

A seven-year unlimited kilometre warranty is the headline act, supported by capped-price servicing and road-side assistance (linked to servicing at Kia dealers) for a similar period.

The intervals are 12 months or 15,000km and at the time of writing the service bill for a Picanto for the first 84 months or 105,000km would be $2345.

Verdict

At 191cm tall, we thought the Picanto would be far from an ideal conveyance for someone of that height but it far from disgraced itself.

Cabin comfort and ride quality both stood out as better than expected and only the lack of a touchscreen infotainment system and tilt-only steering adjustment really betrayed its age.

Some may want a manual gearbox option but the automatic did an honest job of getting the engine’s outputs to ground more effectively than the numbers suggest it will find some friends in the Australian marketplace.

Rivals

Holden Spark LS from $13,990 plus on-road-costs
Holden’s baby Spark has shown some improvement and pips the Kia in offering a manual, as well as in the infotainment stakes with Apple and Android integration. The availability of a reversing camera – optional on the LS and standard fare on the LT – also puts it ahead of the littlest Kia but the Holden only has a three year/100,000km warranty.

Mitsubishi Mirage ES from $12,250 plus on-road-costs
Mitsubishi’s popular Mirage is the segment sales leader and given its entry-level model is the cheapest that is unlikely to surprise. The features list reflects the price to some extent but it also offers the choice of manual or auto, as well as a warranty that is almost as good as the Kia at 5 years with roadside assistance linked to scheduled services in the brand’s network.

Nissan Micra ST from $13,490 plus on-road costs
The long-serving Nissan sits second behind the Mirage for sales but is not long for this world. Nissan announced earlier in the year that the model would be dropped by the end of 2017. It opts for a three-cylinder powerplant, which supplies a different aural character to a four-cylinder unit. Nissan also offers a manual in the entry-level ST but the auto-only top-spec Ti gets sat-nav and a reversing camera absent from the ST. It gets a three year warranty and capped-price servicing but 12 month or 10,000km intervals – the rest here are set to 15,000km – and servicing-linked roadside assistance.

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