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First look: Kia sketches its new baby

Incoming Kia: New Picanto will emerge in production trim in Switzerland in three months.

Redesigned Kia Picanto emerges ahead of Geneva and could be headed our way

7 Dec 2010

KIA has provided the first official glimpse of its all-new baby in the shape of front and rear renderings of its next-generation Picanto.

Now formally confirmed to make its global debut in final production guise at the Geneva motor show in March, the redesigned version of Kia’s smallest model globally is a good chance to be sold in Australia.

Kia’s third-generation Rio light-car is also expected to debut at Geneva and is due for local release in mid-2011 as a five-door, with sedan and three-door body styles to follow by the end of next year.

The replacement for the South Korean maker’s smallest Australian model, the seven-year-old JB Rio that currently wears an official list prices starting at $14,990 for the 1.4-litre five-door, is expected to be larger and more highly specified.

Kia Motors Australia (KMAu) does not deny that would leave space a for a smaller, more affordable A-segment model positioned below $14,000 to compete directly with a host of new or upgraded pint-sized models from Korea, Thailand, India and China.

Fresh from launching its award-winning new Sportage compact SUV, KMAu will in January release Kia’s lauded new mid-size Optima sedan.

However, at least officially, it says the replacement for a model that put Kia on the map in Europe when it went on sale there in 2004 - but has never been sold in Australia - remains unconfirmed for local release.

“There are no immediate plans to bring Picanto to Australia, but we have been looking - and will continue to look - at opportunities in areas in which we do not currently compete,” KMAu chief operating officer Tony Barlow told GoAuto.

“Picanto now has the advantage of being an all-new car and if it makes sense as a business case then it is certainly not off the agenda.”

17 center imageApart from confirming the production version’s Geneva debut and proclaiming it will be a stand-out newcomer to the A-segment, Kia has revealed no information about the new Picanto, which was styled by Kia’s European design team in Frankfurt under the direction of chief design officer Peter Schreyer.

“Exuding self confidence, solidity and maturity, the next-generation Picanto is designed to break the city-car mould and will be officially unveiled at the Geneva international motor show in March 2011,” said Kia.

Unlike the Getz-based original, the slightly larger and much more sophisticated second-generation Picanto - known internally as the TA - will be underpinned by an all-new chassis architecture that shares components with the new UB-series Rio as well as the related Hyundai i20.

Apart from improving on its forebear’s sub-standard three-star Euro NCAP safety rating, the next Picanto is expected to be powered by an all-new 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine in naturally aspirated and turbocharged forms, while an all-electric version with technology borrowed from Hyundai’s i10 EV could follow.

Larger, more upmarket successors for volume-selling B-cars like Toyota’s Japanese-made Yaris and Holden’s Korean-built Barina and are due on sale by October next year, while a facelifted Honda Jazz will be the next model to join Nissan’s new Micra hatch in Australia’s booming light-car segment.

On sale from this month priced at $12,990 plus on-road costs (or $13,990 drive-away), the fourth-generation K13 Micra hatch will be joined within 12 months by a light-sized sedan in a segment Nissan expects will grow by almost a third in the next eight years.

However, Suzuki’s Indian-built Alto five-door ($11,790 plus ORCs) last year pioneered Australia’s emerging sub-light segment, which was joined in October by Holden’s new Barina Spark ($12,490 plus ORCs) and next year will grow further with the addition of micro-cars from Chinese brands Chery and Great Wall, plus new Malaysian micros from Proton.

As we’ve reported, Ford Australia is likely to fill the market space beneath its facelifted Fiesta with the Australian-engineered Figo city-car, while all-new models from Toyota and Honda emerged last week in the Etios and Brio, which could eventually become sub-Yaris and sub-Jazz models in Australia respectively.

Kia’s parent company Hyundai could also choose to introduce the i10 in Australia, where it would effectively replace the Getz as its A-segment contender alongside the i20 hatch and next year’s new Accent-based i25 sedan, while Suzuki could eventually slot the Splash in between its entry-level Alto and the larger, more expensive new Swift due on sale in January.

Currently, the Rio accounts for almost 40 per cent of all Kia vehicle sales in Australia, but it remains to be seen whether the new Picanto can be sourced cheaply enough for it to compete with its most direct sub-$12,000 rivals - and to avoid cannibalising its new larger sibling.

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