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Driven: Kia warms overs Picanto with turbocharged GT

Kia Picanto sales success leads to warmed-over GT joining quickly expanding line-up

18 Jan 2019

KIA Motors Australia (KMAu) says that the unlikely success of the Picanto micro car and its higher-specification grades have led to the quick expansion of its range, which now includes the warmed-over GT.
Sales of the Picanto boomed last year, with 5394 examples sold – a 62.3 per cent increase over the 3323 deliveries made in 2017. KMAu expects to sell “close to 5000” in 2019.
As a result of this growth, the Picanto was again the best-selling micro car and commanded a 69.0 per cent share of its segment, outpacing the Mitsubishi Mirage (1032 units) and Fiat 500 (770), among others.
Speaking to journalists this week at the Picanto GT national media launch in Yering, Victoria, KMAu general manager of product planning Roland Rivero said the model has “defied the odds and continues to go from strength to strength” after its previous generation was only available with a single variant.
“With the third generation, we’ve been able to grow the model line-up with higher-priced, up-sell variants, in GT-Line and AO Edition, that have enriched the mix and actually taken up greater than 50 per cent of (sales),” he said.
“That success has essentially allowed us to add another exciting variant to the range.”
Priced from $17,990 driveaway, the five-speed manual-only GT flagship commands a $700 premium over the four-speed automatic-only GT-Line variant upon which it is based, with KMAu expecting it to account for about 10 per cent of Picanto sales.
The key difference between the pair is the 1007kg GT’s 1.0-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol engine that produces 74kW of power at 4500rpm and 172Nm of torque from 1500 to 4000rpm.
Comparatively, the 995kg GT-Line’s 1.2-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder unit develops 62kW at 6000rpm and 122Nm at 4000rpm. Both grades send drive to their front wheels.
Kia claims the GT’s fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions are 4.8 litres per 100 kilometres and 110 grams per kilometre respectively, with both assessed on the combined cycle test. For reference, the GT-Line manages 5.8L/100km and 134g/km.
When asked if an automatic transmission is on the cards for the GT, Mr Rivero said a seven-speed dual-clutch unit is available with its engine in the Rio light hatch, but it has not been developed for use in the Picanto.
“The European market, which is where the Picanto is mainly targeted at, had every desire of manual for that 1.0-litre turbo, as opposed to a dual-clutch,” he said. “We took what we could get, and we still think we made the best out of it.”
When asked if KMAu will offer the GT with the two-pedal set-up if it becomes available, Mr Rivero said history indicates further expansion of the Picanto line-up will be justifiable.
“Every time we’ve added a variant into Picanto, we’ve just noticed incremental growth,” he said. “If you’ve got a formula that’s doing that and it’s helping the overall brand at the same time, with the GT performance side, I don’t see why we wouldn’t.”
Standard equipment in the GT includes 16-inch alloy wheels wrapped in 195/45 tyres, front 256mm ventilated disc brakes, dusk-sensing halogen headlights, LED daytime running lights and tail-lights, a sports bodykit, dual exhaust tips, power-folding side mirrors with heating, chrome exterior trim and a space-saver spare wheel.
Inside, a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support, an auxiliary input, a four-speaker sound system, Bluetooth connectivity, a 2.6-inch multi-function display, one 12V power outlet, one USB port, manual air-conditioning, leather-accented seats with red accents and manual six-way adjustment for the driver, a leather-trimmed steering wheel and gear selector, and alloy sports pedals feature.
Advanced driver-assist systems extend to autonomous emergency braking, cruise control, a manual speed limiter, a reversing camera, rear parking sensors and hill-start assist, plus six airbags (dual front, side and rear).
The GT’s power steering is electric, while its 15mm-lower sports suspension set-up consists of MacPherson-strut front and torsion-beam rear axles.
Significantly, both have been tweaked by KMAu’s ride and handling team to better suit Australian conditions, with the former remapped for improved responsiveness and stability when under load, while the latter features a stiffer spring rate and a more aggressive tune for the shock absorbers.
Clear White paintwork is standard, but three optional premium hues – Titanium Silver, Aurora Black and Signal Red – are available.
Measuring in at 3595mm long, 1595mm wide and 1485mm tall with a 2400mm wheelbase, the GT provides 255L of cargo capacity with its 60/40 split-fold rear bench upright, or 1010L with it stowed.

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