Kia Picanto Hatchback full 9 point review
Picanto buyers can choose from two petrol engines: a three-cylinder 1.0-litre unit and a four-cylinder 1.25 litre. You need to thrash the 1.0 mercilessly to pick up speed, and even then it feels painfully slow. The 1.25 is much better, providing lively acceleration – although you need to use plenty of revs to get it.
Ride & Handling
The car's size and tight turning circle are a real boon in town. Unfortunately, the Picanto also has grabby brakes and a vague, short-travel clutch, so even the smoothest driver can be made to look like a learner in stop-start traffic. Pick up the pace and the Picanto still struggles, because although body control is decent enough through corners, there's a shortage of grip and numb steering that doesn't self-centre properly. A knobbly ride completes the unhappy picture.
The fact that you have to work the 1.0-litre engine so hard inevitably means it makes a real racket, and this three-cylinder engine also transmits a lot of vibration through the car when it's idling. It does settle down at a steady cruise, leaving wind noise as the only problem; trouble is, there's plenty of it. The 1.25 is a significantly smoother engine, but it's still noisy when you work it hard.
Buying & Owning
The Picanto can be one of the cheapest city cars on the market, but only if you go for the feeble 1.0 engine. The more desirable 1.25 comes only with more expensive trim levels that pitch the Picanto against more accomplished rivals. Insurance bills will be small, while 1.0-litre and 1.25 Ecodynamics models are exempt from road tax thanks to their low emissions. However, the fact you need to work the 1.0 so hard means its real-world fuel economy is disappointing.
Quality & Reliability
All the switchgear is nicely damped and, although the dashboard plastics are hard, they're nicely textured so they look surprisingly smart. Step up from the most basic trim and you get an even smarter interior. This generation of Picanto was too new to appear in the latest JD Power survey, although it should be dependable; the previous-generation model did feature and proved more reliable than every other city car in the survey.
Safety & Security
Every Picanto comes with stability control and six airbags. It scored a solid 86% for adult protection in Euro NCAP crash tests, and did very well for child protection, with an 83% score. An engine immobiliser is standard across the range, with an alarm on higher-specification cars. However, the Picanto scored a woeful one-out-of-five for resisting being broken into in its Thatcham security test.
Behind The Wheel
The steering wheel adjusts only for height (not reach), but you should still be able to find a comfortable driving position because the supportive seat has a wide range of height adjustment and slides back far enough to accommodate all but the longest legs. The air-con system is controlled by large, clear dials and the stereo is simple to use, while all-round visibility is decent, making tight parking manoeuvres easy.
Space & Practicality
Kia seems to have focused on the front of the cabin, which provides the driver and passenger with plenty of space. Rear head- and legroom are decent enough in both the three- and five-door versions, but the rear bench is flat and provides very little support. The boot capacity is 200 litres in every model, so while a family's weekly shopping may prove too much, a couple of weekend bags will fit easily.
All Picantos come with electric front windows, but you need to step up to the 1 Air trim level to get air-conditioning; this is the trim we recommend. In the five-door range, 2 spec adds steering wheel-mounted stereo controls, electric rear windows, Bluetooth and an MP3 socket, while 3-trimmed cars have climate control. In the three-door range the top-spec cars get metallic paint, alloy wheels, LED daytime running lights and Bluetooth connectivity.