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City slicker: Kia's new Picanto light car is a chance for Australia later in 2011.

Picanto city car revealed by Kia ahead of Geneva show debut

5 Jan 2011

KOREAN car-maker Kia has drawn back the curtains from its new Picanto city car three months ahead of its launch alongside the bigger, third-generation Rio at the Geneva motor show in March.

The smallest Kia – designed in Germany by Kia’s styling team headed by Peter Schreyer – continues the brand’s bold style revolution with a strong family resemblance to other recently released models.

Although Kia Motors Australia (KMAu) says it has no immediate plans to bring this second-generation Picanto to Australia, the sub-B-class hatch is under serious consideration for local launch in the second half of 2011 to counter the growing number of similar-sized offerings such as the Suzuki Alto, Holden Barina Spark and Nissan Micra.

In its latest announcement, Kia Motors Corporation confirmed the Picanto would be offered with a choice of four all-new engines which it says will have class-leading CO2 emissions performance.

The engine line-up will include 1.0-litre three-cylinder and a 1.2-litre four-cylinder petrol units.

“In addition to the standard petrol engines, LPG, bi-fuel and flex-fuel variations will be available depending on local market requirements,” Kia says.

These variants could be handy in Australia where LPG is readily available and E85 ethanol increasingly widespread.

17 center imageFrom top: Kia Picanto, Kia Picanto sketch released in December, current Kia Rio and Kia Optima.

Although not officially announced, a 1.1-litre CRDi diesel engine is also expected to be added later, at least in Europe.

No power or fuel consumption figures were given for any of the engines.

The pictures released overnight show a five-door hatchback, which is said to be the global model. A sportier three-door hatch has also been confirmed, although Kia says it will be offered only in the UK and Europe.

Mr Schreyer said the new Picanto’s profile featured significant sculpting and a prominent rising character line.

“The result is a layering of light and shadow and this breaks up the height, giving the car a more sure-footed stance,” he said.

Kia also has confirmed that the all-new Picanto has grown in both overall length and wheelbase, making it more spacious than the previous model, but the company held back exact figures.

As GoAuto reported in December, the new Picanto is built on a platform that shares components with both the new Rio and the related Hyundai i20.

If the Picanto does make it to Australia, it will cap a big year for the Hyundai-owned brand in this country, with the launch of its new mid-sized Optima in January followed by the latest UB-series Rio in five-door hatch form by mid-year.

The Rio, which will get four-door sedan and three-door hatch variants later in the year, is expected to move up a size, opening the door for the Picanto to slide into the line-up at the lower end.

KMAu chief operating officer Tony Barlow told GoAuto in December: “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.”

Increasingly, manufacturers are doubling up in the light-car class, offering two or even three models to cover all bases at the lower end where price and spec levels are the most sensitive in the market place.

The light-car segment was the biggest mover in passenger car sales in 2010, growing 18.1 per cent to the end of November.

The first-generation Picanto – based on the Hyundai Getz – helped to cement the Kia brand in Europe when it was launched there in 2004, but the five-door-only model never made it to Australia.

Meanwhile, Kia parent Hyundai on Monday said it would target group sales of 6.33 million cars in 2011, up 10 per cent from 5.75 million units sold in 2010. The auto giant did not give a breakdown of Hyundai and Kia sales target.

In 2010, Hyundai Motor sold 3.6 million cars, up 16 per cent, and Kia shipped 2.1 million vehicles, up 40 per cent.

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