Kia Picanto hatchback performance
There are two engine choices and both are relatively small petrols. The 1.0 is the cheaper option and makes sense if you spend most of your time in and around town. However, with a weedy 66bhp, unsurprisingly it needs to be worked very hard elsewhere; motorway slip road dashes and country road overtakes require patience and a heavy right foot.
By city car standards, even the 1.25 is pretty poky. That said, while it may not have the pace to match the fastest versions of a Volkswagen Up, it gets the Picanto up to 70mph without too much effort. Plus, it revs more keenly than the 1.0 and its extra pull from low revs is useful for overtaking. It’s unquestionably the engine to go for.
We’d suggest you stick with the five-speed manual gearbox, which makes better use of the engine’s performance than the optional four-speed automatic.
Kia Picanto hatchback ride
The Picanto is well damped but it is on the firm side, so it doesn't ride as smoothly as an Up or a Hyundai i10; it jostles you around more over scraggy town roads and fidgets lightly on pimpled sections of motorway. But don’t let that put you off; it’s not terrible by any stretch, especially if you avoid the relatively large 16in alloy wheels fitted to X-Line and GT-Line models. And while that firmness means the Picanto follows imperfections in the road, because it’s nicely damped it doesn’t bounce around uncontrollably over larger undulations, as some city cars do.
Besides, the ride settles when you venture out onto faster roads, at which point the Picanto becomes a relatively comfortable little thing.
Kia Picanto hatchback handling
Get onto a winding country lane and the Picanto feels more at home than many of its rivals, including the i10 and Up. It darts into bends with surprisingly little body lean, hangs on willingly and its steering is hard to fault for accuracy, even though you don't get a great deal of feedback through your fingertips.
Importantly, the Picanto has light steering at low speeds combined with a relatively tight turning circle, so it's a doddle to thread through traffic and park in tight spaces.
Kia Picanto hatchback refinement
The fact that you need to work the Picanto’s small engines quite hard to get the best from them inevitably creates a bit of noise inside but, don’t worry, it’s nowhere near bad enough that you’ll be reaching for ear plugs. The four-cylinder 1.25 unit is boomier at really high revs than the cheaper three-cylinder 1.0, but the latter sends more vibrations through the pedals and steering wheel.
City cars generally prove a bit noisier at speed than plusher cars, so chatting with your passengers in the Picanto while on the motorway will involve raising your voice a tad. Still, there’s less wind and road noise to contend with than in an Up.
On the upside (no pun intended and all that), the brakes are easy to meter, so driving smoothly isn’t an issue. The manual gearbox has a nice shift action and the clutch is positive, too. The alternative four-speed auto ’box, meanwhile, is occasionally jerky.