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Future models - Kia - Picanto

Kia’s Picanto back in the frame

Tiny triple: The diminutive Kia Picanto looks set to join the local line-up next year after several years of uncertainty.

Tiny Picanto city car back on the table for Kia in Australia, but it won’t be cheap

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Kia logo2 Oct 2014

By TIM NICHOLSON

KIA Motors Australia (KMAu) has confirmed that the tiny Picanto city car is back in contention for a local berth, after it was put on the backburner thanks to an unfavourable business case.

The backflip on the three-cylinder Picanto means it could go on sale in the second half of next year, and by that time it will likely be the facelifted version expected in 2015.

If approved, it would face micro cars rivals such as the Mitsubishi Mirage, Suzuki Alto, Fiat 500 and Nissan Micra.

KMAu media and corporate communications general manager Kevin Hepworth said the Picanto was “seriously back on the program” for Australia after a number of years in the background with little chance of a local debut.

Mr Hepworth said should the business case for the Picanto get up, it would not be a bargain basement city runabout, and while he could not go into detail, it would be marketed in an innovative fashion.

“It’s never going to be a cheap car,” he said. “The cost of that car is quite substantial in the market place.

“It’s not going to be a $9990 car. There is a quite innovative marketing plan to go with it which could set a trend that is going to blow people out of the water.”

Mr Hepworth highlighted the low volumes in the micro car segment and said finding interesting and engaging ways to market a new car could spell sales success.

“You have to find a hook for it,” he said. “You have to find a reason for people to consider it and this (marketing program) is potentially the reason why.” While Mr Hepworth would not be drawn on potential pricing, the Picanto would sit under the larger Rio light hatch, which starts at $15,290, plus on-road costs, in base three-door S guise, and tops out at $19,990 for the SLi five-door.

The Picanto went on sale in global markets in late 2011 after its debut at the Geneva motor show earlier that year, and despite initially pushing for a local release, the tiny hatch became less of a priority for KMAu, despite it revisiting the car’s business case more than once.

Interestingly, former KMAu chief operating officer Tony Barlow told GoAuto in October 2012 that it would monitor the sales success of the diminutive Volkswagen Up micro car to help determine the Picanto’s future.

Volkswagen Australia recently confirmed that it would discontinue the Up after it failed to fire in the local light-car segment, with the company saying it wanted to simplify its line-up and ditch underperforming models.

Kia has previously said that once safety and some basic comfort and tech features were added, the price of a tiny light car could grow quickly.

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