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Driven: Kia Picanto lobs at $15K driveaway

Top Pic: The Kia Picanto has been on sale in other markets for about five years and a replacement is expected next year.

New Picanto expected to take Kia to sales leadership in micro segment

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Kia logo19 Apr 2016

KIA Motors Australia (KMAu) is expecting sales leadership in the micro segment with its new Picanto, which is targeting used-car and automatic-biased buyers with a single-specification variant priced from $14,990 driveaway.

The South Korean car-maker is confident the five-door Picanto will achieve 300 sales per month comprising 80 per cent of private purchases and 20 per cent fleet, with the vast majority of overall sales going to young buyers and a large slab to retirees.

Mitsubishi’s top-selling Mirage has tallied on average 186 sales per month during the first quarter of 2016 for a total of 559 units, just edging out the Nissan Micra on 528, in a segment totalling 1895 units and down 31.3 per cent year to date.

KMAu chief operating officer Damien Meredith said the new city-friendly addition to the company’s line-up would appeal to people who might not have considered a new car, and expressed confidence in expected sales numbers, despite Picanto sitting in a declining segment.

“We’re pretty confident we’ll do 300 per month,” he said at the national media launch in Canberra this week.

“I think what you’ll find is that Picanto will take a lot from used (car market).”

Kia’s rival to the freshly launched Holden Spark, Suzuki’s Celerio and, of course, Mirage and Micra, is the only model not available with a manual gearbox, instead making do with a four-speed automatic transmission.

However, Mr Meredith says demand is highest for automatic transmission in a segment that represents less than one per cent of the new-car market.

Of the decision not to introduce a manual, Mr Meredith said it meant there would be less complexity in the line-up.

“You start bringing manual and auto in seven colours and in a big country like Australia it’s hard to control the inventory, and when you’ve got a car that’s low-cost, low-margin, you’ve got to make sure you’re very tight on all those other aspects to make sure that it least breaks even for the organisation,” he said.

Asked whether a four-speed automatic – rather than a gearbox with more ratios – will affect sales of the Picanto, he responded: “Not at all … I think (overall) it’s a compelling proposition.”

Nor does Mr Meredith expect sales of the Picanto to affect the Rio light hatchback, which has averaged 647 sales per month so far this year.

“If there is any Rio cannibalisation it will be very marginal,” he said.

Mr Meredith said he believes that a low entry price, five-star ANCAP safety rating, seven-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty with capped-price servicing and 24-hour roadside assistance programs deliver peace of mind for parents of young drivers.

This South Korean-built, second-generation Picanto has been on sale overseas for five years, and Mr Meredith confirmed that a third-generation model will be available late next year.

However, he added that the major reason for introducing the current model late in its lifecycle is because it gives the company a chance to build the Picanto name in Australia.

“I personally have wanted to get the car in as quickly as possible and (Kia) gave us the opportunity to go now or go 15 months later,” he said.

“It has been a long battle to get it (and) we thought it would be a good opportunity to get the car into the market and on the map.”

The Picanto has been delayed due to supply constraints and pricing issues.

Tight timing has also meant the Picanto will be the only Kia model in Australia without a dedicated local suspension tune, but the company is happy with the standard European-spec suspension offering.

The standard four-speed automatic is matched with a 1.25-litre four-cylinder petrol engine producing 63kW of power at 6000rpm and 120Nm of torque at 4000rpm, with a combined-cycle fuel consumption figure of 5.6 litres per 100km in the 885kg five-door hatchback.

This fuel consumption is higher than key rivals including the 1.4-litre Spark that consumes 5.2-5.5L/100km depending on the transmission choice, or the 57kW three-cylinder Mirage that sips between 4.6-4.9L/100km. It is, however, more frugal than the Nissan Micra that drinks 5.9-6.5L/100km.

Kia has not provided 0-100km/h times or other performance data.

The Picanto’s suspension set-up is MacPherson struts up front and a coupled torsion beam axle at the rear, which Kia says helps with ride and handling quality as well as luggage space.

The cargo area can take 200 litres with all seats in place, but that grows to 605 litres with the rear seats folded.

The tiny Kia uses a “motor-driven power steering” system, and the car-maker claims best-in-class noise, vibration and harshness levels thanks to large hydraulic engine and transmission mountings, a triple-layer sound-deadening panel on the front bulkhead and dual door-sealing strips as well as sound blockers in the door mirror mounts.

Standard equipment to go along with the nationwide fixed driveaway price includes 14-inch steel wheels, halogen daytime running lights, air-conditioning, multi-function trip computer, power mirrors and windows with driver up/down, and four-speaker stereo with USB/iPod connectivity and Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, as well as steering wheel-mounted audio controls.

The sole Si grade also features a six-way adjustable driver’s seat, 60/40 split-fold rear seats, keyless entry, remote central locking, cloth seats and a temporary spare wheel.

Safety features for the Picanto includes rear parking sensors, electronic stability control (ESC), hill-start assist, an emergency stop signal and six airbags. However, a rearview camera and cruise control are not available.

The Picanto will be offered in a choice of seven colours: Dazzling Blue, Midnight Black, Honey Bee, Signal Red, Bright Silver, Titanium Silver and Clear White, with all but the latter costing $520 extra.

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