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Kia Picanto is go

Micro economics: Kia's Picanto will arrive in Australia early next year after a protracted business case.

Picanto finally confirmed for Aussie debut after Kia's years-long business case

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Kia logo17 Aug 2015

By TIM NICHOLSON

KIA Motors Australia (KMAu) has officially confirmed that the tiny Picanto city car will join its line-up early next year, several years after it was initially mooted for the local market.

Describing the business case as having an “extended gestation”, KMAu said it expects the Picanto to go on sale in a single specification, a five-door variant, powered by a 1.2-litre four-cylinder petrol engine matched with a four-speed automatic transmission.

The model that is coming to Australia is the facelifted version of the 2011 second-gen Picanto, and it was revealed at the Geneva motor show in February this year. An all-new model is expected in about 18 months.

The car-maker says that “indicative” pricing is set at $14,990 plus on-road costs, which is $1000 less than the base three-door Rio S, but more expensive than five-door micro-car rivals including the Holden Barina Spark ($12,890), Mitsubishi Mirage hatch ($11,990-$12,990), and the Suzuki Celerio ($12,990 driveaway).

Kia is keeping specification details under wraps for now, but the Picanto is expected to include safety gear such as rear parking sensors, six airbags, electronic stability control and hill-start assist as well as comfort equipment including Bluetooth, auxiliary, iPod and USB connectivity, steering wheel audio controls, air-conditioning, LED tail-lights, alloy wheels and electric heated mirrors.

It includes a number of storage compartments and can accommodate 200 litres worth of cargo behind the 60/40 split-fold rear seats.

The 1.2-litre unit produces 64kW and 123Nm, and has official combined fuel use of 5.3 litres per 100 kilometres and CO2 emissions of 125g/km.

The powertrain is more powerful than a number of its competitors, including the 56kW/104Nm Micra, 57kW/100Nm Mirage, 50kW/90Nm Celerio, and the 63kW/113Nm Barina Spark. It is more fuel efficient than the Barina Spark (5.8L) and the Micra (6.5L) but not as frugal as the Celerio (4.8L) or the Mirage (4.6-4.9L).

There are smaller engines available in other markets, including a 1.0-litre three-cylinder unit, and it is also available as a three-door.

KMAu general manager of media and corporate communications Kevin Hepworth told GoAuto that the car-maker would not rule out introducing more variants if the Picanto does well in Australia.

“Nothing is ever shut off,” he said. “The first model is always the hardest one to get in. Let's wait and see how it goes.” Mr Hepworth said that KMAu chief operating officer Damien Meredith's “perseverance” helped the business case for Picanto ultimately succeed after a long time, as well as “strong support” from the company's Korean management.

“He (Damien) sees a place for it in the market and he has confidence in the fact the car can do what it needs to do to justify its place.

“Kia is in a better place than it was two years ago when it was first mooted. The time is right, you have got to take chances where you can.” While Kia is not discussing internal sales targets, Mr Hepworth said the car-maker is targeting “realistic” sales goals for the Korean-built city car.

“It's got the seven-year warranty behind it for a start. It's going to be well priced, well specced and the support network around it is very, very strong. All of that is peace of mind for a not expensive vehicle.” KMAu chief operating officer Damien Meredith said while the he acknowledges the micro car segment in Australia is small, he believes there is an opportunity for the Picanto Down Under.

“Picanto has been confirmed for Australia,” he said. “It has taken a while to put all the ducks in a row but now it is full steam ahead for what we see as a very exciting new entrant to the market.

“Realistically, it is likely that Picanto will be on sale in the first quarter of next year. It is not one of the larger segments of the Australian new car market but we definitely see an opportunity for a quality product like Picanto.” The micro car segment accounts for just 1.0 per cent of overall new-car sales in Australia and so far this year it is running 30.8 per cent behind the first seven months of 2014.

The top seller by some margin is the Mitsubishi Mirage sedan and hatch range with 2457 sales year to date – a 45 per cent dip over last year – followed by the three-door Fiat 500 range on 1544 (down 9.0 per cent) and the Suzuki Celerio which launched earlier this year on 783 sales.

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