Review: Kia Picanto

For trouble-free urban commuting

11 Jan 16 Tim Barnes-Clay

Pros

  • Comfortable ride

  • Seven year warranty

  • Low running costs

Cons

  • Steering is vague

  • Small boot

  • Not very equipped

Our expert rating

The Kia Picanto has been around since 2004. It has steadily gained in popularity, thanks to better looks and more dynamic advertising campaigns from its South Korean producer. The Picanto is the baby of the Kia range as it’s aimed squarely at the small city car market.

Performance

With the Picanto there are two petrol engines. Performance is limited as this is a car designed for the school run or excursions to out of town shopping malls.

It will handle motorways, but it’s far happier tootling around and makes an excellent first-time car, or works well as a second car alongside the family’s main motor.

The 1.0 is fine but the 1.25 litre gives an extra bit of flexibility and makes overtaking easier.

The Picanto comes with a slick five speed gearbox, and with its light steering, makes manoeuvrability in town straightforward. When new, there is a four speed automatic option available on the 1.25 model, so if you are focussed on a clutchless drive, then there will be some Picantos knocking about used car lots.

The tax bands are low on Picantos and you can squeeze just shy of 70mpg out of the 1.0 variant. Go for the higher powered 1.25 version and the car still returns between 50mpg – 65mpg.

Kia Picanto engine

Ride and handling

The Picanto is nimble and stable. Aim the Kia into a corner and it will handle without any noticeable lean. Grip is good, too and the steering feels just right in and out of urban environments, making parking or U-turns a piece of cake.

Visibility is also respectable, and in terms of comfort, the car will soak up most fissures in the road without crashing and banging everywhere. The Kia obtained a four-star rating from Euro NCAP in 2011, so this car’s safety is just short of first-rate.

The model pre-2011 only managed three stars. So, try to buy a version that isn’t more than five years old. Equipment includes six airbags, ISOFIX child seat points and electronic stability control.

Kia Picanto interior

Interior space

The Kia comes with three or five doors and, from 2011 onwards, leg and headroom is impressive. Pre this era, the car was shorter, therefore more restrictive for passengers’ legs. The Picanto is technically a four-up car, but three adults will be better off in it.

The rear seat will take two grown-ups, but at a squeeze, so kids are far better off back there. Otherwise, seating is relaxed and comfy. The car is quiet and not much wind or road noise intrudes. The cabin materials feel hard wearing, so it can suit family use.

The boot is another strong point. It’s tolerably spacious at 200 litres, and the tailgate is wide, making loading shopping or school bags easy. As mentioned earlier, the Picanto makes an ideal first-car, too, so any student using the Kia will be able to stuff quite a bit in the boot when heading home for the holidays. If more needs to be packed in, then the seats can be folded.

The Picanto comes with three trim levels 1, 2 and 3. Even on the basic 1 version you get decent kit, including electric windows and hill start assist. Entertainment-wise, the car comes with a CD/radio set up with MP3 jack and even an alarm. If you want more, then the 2 comes with rear electric windows and Bluetooth.

The 3 just adds luxuries such as heated seats. In many ways, the 1 will suffice and will be cheaper to buy.

Kia Picanto from the rear

What to know before you buy

The diminutive Kia Picanto is a pretty resilient little motor. Just watch out for any scrapes, scuffs or parking dents from continual town use.

The wing mirrors and wheel trims, as well as door panels, tend to get minor damage over a period of time from supermarket car parks or from tight manoeuvres in city streets.

The mechanicals are dependable and Kias excellent seven year warranty (limited to 100,000 miles) is transferable owner to owner. Any issues that crop up will be covered by the remaining time left.

Kia Picanto alternatives

Alternative cars

The South Korean produced car’s main opponents are the Ford KA and the Fiat 500. The Ford is the one that holds the most perceived cachet. It’s also the one that you will find on used car forecourts everywhere.

The KA doesn’t have a long warranty like the Kia – and nor does the Fiat. However, the Ford is more refined and happier at motorway speeds. It also has a bigger boot - 224 litres as opposed to the Picanto’s 200 litres, The Fiat is not as muted as the Kia or the Ford, and it’s not as comfortable on long trips.

Its load area is stingy at only 185 litres, too. However, it does carry an iconic, fashionable, status that people adore.

Overall verdict

The Kia Picanto is a wholesome small car with enough space, comfort and stability to make urban commuting trouble-free. It’s a shame the car doesn’t have a five star safety rating, but at four stars, the 2011 Picanto is far from unsafe.

Its excellent seven year warranty gives peace of mind to anyone, and its low running costs also add to its appeal as a used buy.

Expert rating

Performance

Reliability

Space & comfort

Running costs

Value for money

Overall