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Geneva show: Kia updates its Picanto

Case study: Kia Australia has never been shy about its desire to add the Picanto to its line-up, and with an incoming update, the timing seems just right for the micro-sized car to finally hit local showrooms.

Small changes to Kia's Picanto mean it's an ideal time to hit the local market

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Kia logo3 Feb 2015

KIA has detailed changes to its 2015 Picanto micro car ahead of a possible Australian launch later in the year.

The diminutive hatchback will debut next month at the Geneva motor show before going on sale in Europe, but Kia Australia is making no secret of its desire to add the Picanto to its local car line-up.

Kia Australia general manager of media and corporate communications Kevin Hepworth has previously expressed strong interest in the Picanto, and he told GoAuto that feeling has not changed.

“There is no diminution in desire for the vehicle,” he said. “It's still very much top of the tree and the launch of the new model makes the timing absolutely right.”

The changes to the new Picanto include restyled front and rear bumpers, with a new fog-light design and updated 'tiger-nose' front grille. New-look 14-inch alloy wheels round out the exterior changes.

On the inside, the Picanto receives chrome accents to highlight the driving instruments and airvents, along with a new cloth upholstery pattern and updated audio system design.

Under the skin, the Picanto gets larger brakes – increasing in size by 11mm to 252mm – improving stopping distance and braking performance.

The options list on the new Picanto will be limited to Kia's seven-inch audio-video navigation system, cruise control, speed limiter system and a choice between one of three colour packs – red, yellow or brown – that will add a combination of faux-leather and coloured accents to the interior.

Although the current-generation Picanto has been on sale in overseas markets since 2011, and with rumours of a local debut dating back to 2012, the micro-sized hatchback has never made it to Australian dealerships.

“What problems are we facing? Only the same problems you have with any car, making a business case for it,” Mr Hepworth said. “All the things are being looked at, competitive performance in the market, how that segment is going in Australia.”

However, Mr Hepworth is also quick to point out why bringing the Picanto Down Under makes sense.

“It's actually made in Korea, which is one of the benefits. It's a fairly short delivery process, which makes it a lot better.”

Powertrain options range from 1.0-litre naturally aspirated three-cylinder engines up to a 1.25-litre four-cylinder donk, and Kia is developing small displacement turbo engines for its Rio small-car, which could make their way into the local Picanto.

The Picanto is available as a three- and five-door hatch in international territories, but Mr Hepworth said that if the micro-car get the green light for Australia, it would probably launch in only one body-style.

“I can't see both models coming here, not initially anyway,” he said. “Given that it is going to be a reasonably small volume car, I would personally lean towards a five-door, but then again it all comes down to the cost equation too, so all that has got to be worked out.”

The Picanto will sit below Kia's Rio in a niche segment occupied by the Mitsubishi Mirage, Nissan Micra and in the coming months, Suzuki's Alto-replacing Celerio, but Mr Hepworth was optimistic about its place in the Australian micro-car market.

“One of the things we really think is that we are in a position to drive that segment with this car,” he said. “It's not an unknown quantity, it's just never been presented to Australia before.”

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