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Driven: Kia Picanto set to ignite micro class

Manual labour: Kia is offering the Picanto with a manual gearbox and the range kicks off from $14,190 plus on-road costs.

Redesigned Euro-focused Kia Picanto primed to build segment and increase sales

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Kia logo3 May 2017

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

KIA Motors Australia (KMAu) says its new-generation Picanto will grow the floundering micro-car segment with a combination of aggressive pricing, more standard features, a manual gearbox and fresh styling aimed at luring more male buyers to the fold.

While the $14,190 plus on-road costs price for the new manual version would cost more than the preceding auto at $14,990 driveaway once the taxes are added, KMAu chief operating officer Damien Meredith revealed that dealers are encouraged to accept offers for the base newcomer at under $14,000, but the company does not want to discount the car with low driveaway deals.

“If customers want a manual, they can do a deal with the dealer – at say $13,990 driveaway,” he told GoAuto at the launch of the JA-series Picanto in Noosa, Queensland, this week.

“We are trying to put the product where we deem the product deserves to be… so from a communication point of view, we’re not stating a driveaway price for the manual… we don’t want to advertise that price.”

Meanwhile, the Picanto automatic, which is expected to snare the lion’s share of sales, has jumped up $700 to $15,690 driveaway.

It offers more standard features including cruise control, auto headlights, a reversing camera, a central touchscreen, Apple CarPlay/Android Apple phone connectivity and an auto power window switch for the driver.

This is on top of the old model’s six airbags, rear parking sensors, Bluetooth audio and phone streaming, four-wheel disc brakes, electric windows all-round and remote central locking, which carry over.

The upshot, according to Mr Meredith, is that the South Korean-built five-door hatchback is in the hot seat to push past 300 sales monthly and lead the micro-car class in Australia, aided by the arrival of the price-leading manual variant that should account for up to 20 per cent of total volume.

“It will give us between 250 to 300 per month,” he said. “And the manual will help. The previous Picanto was successful for us because it typically brought in 200 incremental sales month in, month out.

“And (last time) the manual was an option given to us, but with the outgoing Picanto we had to make a decision on that vehicle very quickly when we brought it in. So we decided not to be convoluted and went with the auto only. The dealers at that time wanted a manual, but specifically we thought manual wasn’t right for that point of time. But now things have changed a little now so we’ve brought both in.

“The old Picanto was just a test – this is very important to us now because of the full range.”

Unlike the previous ‘toe-in-the-water’ exercise TA-series that arrived in Australia in April last year, despite being released in other markets in 2011, the JA arrives just months after its global debut in South Korea, where it is sold as the Morning.

Kia says the engineers concentrated on infusing a more masculine look to the Picanto’s evolutionary styling, with a slightly broader look and beefier bumpers to help achieve that goal.

Work was carried out jointly in Namyang, South Korea and at the brand’s Frankfurt studio in Germany, under the watch of long-serving design boss Peter Schreyer.

Due to Korean home-market tax regulations, Kia kept the hatchback’s overall length (3595mm) and width (1595mm) the same, but pushed the wheelbase out 15mm to 2400mm. While an extra 10mm of rear overhang has been included (to boost cargo capacity from 200 to 255 litres, or 1010 litres with the split/fold backrest dropped), a similar amount has been shaved from the front overhang.

Another stated aim was to create a roomier and more ‘upmarket’ interior, resulting in noise-path reducing measures like extra foam in the pillars, improved door seals, better sound-deadening pads and a more effective engine cover.

The chassis is a development of the second-generation Hyundai i10’s, released back to 2013, but not offered in Australia. Conventional in layout, it features completely redesigned MacPherson-style struts up front and a torsion-beam rear suspension module.

Kia says that the new version is the first Picanto to undergo extensive Australian spring, damper, sway bars, suspension geometry and electric power steering retuning for local conditions. The latter sees a reduction in turns lock-to-lock, from 3.4 to 2.8 turns.

The only real carryover item is the powertrain, but the 1.2-litre ‘Kappa’ twin-cam 16-valve variable-valve four-cylinder petrol engine has been given a small output increase.

Power rises 2kW to 62kW at 6000rpm and torque tops out at 122Nm at 4000rpm. As before, the in-house automatic has just four speeds, or five for the new manual gearbox. Capable of running on 91 RON standard unleaded, the former averages 5.8 litres per 100km – a half-litre degradation due to a hefty 110kg weight rise to 995kg (tare) – while the latter is steady at 5.0L/100km. Carbon dioxide emissions are 134g/km and 107g/km respectively.

On the safety front the Picanto gains what Kia calls ‘Torque Vectoring Brake Based’ understeer control as well as ‘Straight Line Stability’ tech that uses brake pressure to counteract yaw. The body is torsionally stiffer (to the tune of 32.3 per cent) and the amount of advanced high-strength steel in it doubles to 44 per cent.

The Picanto runs on 175/65R14 tyres, stops on 256mm vented front and 234mm solid discs, and uses a space-saver spare.

AEB Autonomous Emergency Braking is under development for Australia, and is expected to be available somewhere around the end of the year, according to Mr Meredith.

“AEB hasn’t been developed for the Australian market, but we are working on it,” he said. “We’ve requested it with research and development and they are studying i.”

There is no ANCAP crash-test rating on the Picanto as yet, due to the newness of the model worldwide.

The outgoing Picanto currently leads the micro-car class, with a 42.7 per cent share to the end of April, or 825 units. Second place is the Mitsubishi Mirage at 29.6 per cent share (573 units), followed by 14.4 per cent for the Holden Spark, which recorded just 278 registrations. The segment overall is up 2.1 per cent year-on-year.

2017 Kia Picanto pricing
S manual$14,190 plus ORCs
S auto$15,690 driveaway

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