first drive

2018 Kia Picanto 1.0 T-GDi - price, specs and release date

You know we love the Kia Picanto already, because it’s our 2018 City Car of the Year. So, does more power make it perfect?...

2018 Kia Picanto 1.0 T-GDi cornering
Author Avatar
John Howell
16 Oct 2018 22:00

Priced from £13,320 | Release date Early 2019

If you cling to the notion that city cars are like the new-car parallel of workhouses, you’re missing a trick. In times gone by, agreed, maybe languishing behind the wheel of an urban runabout felt like a penance, as it produced nothing but wheeziness and noise, while you sat, pensively, fearing that a head-on with a fat wasp could cause it to dissipate around you. But now? Look, when the facts change, you have to change your mind, and today’s city cars are so much safer and, quite frankly, can be a joy to drive.

Right now, the pick of the bunch is the Kia Picanto. It’s our current city car of choice, by dint of beating some serious competition, such as the Hyundai i10 and Volkswagen Up. But it isn’t perfect. While its 1.25-litre, naturally aspirated four-cylinder petrol engine has been our pick of the range, a bit more poke wouldn’t go amiss to help keep it on terms with the quicker versions of the Up.

All of which brings us to this, the new Picanto 1.0 T-GDi. Yes, with its 1.0-litre capacity and three cylinders, it sounds like a retrograde step, but that’s ignoring its turbocharger, which adds power and torque – much of the latter being in the mid-range, potentially to the benefit of real-world flexibility.

Yet with a starting price of £13,320, is it the elixir that’s about to qualify the Picanto as perfect, or potent but pricey?

2018 Kia Picanto 1.0 T-GDi rear cornering

2018 Kia Picanto 1.0 T-GDi on the road

Read the spec sheet and you’ll discover peak power of 99bhp and peak torque of 171lb ft, starting from 1500rpm – all heady increases over the 1.25 motor, we should add. But that’s just a bunch of numbers, and what you wish to know is what’s it like to drive. ‘Rather impressive’ sums it up aptly.

It certainly feels quicker than the 0-62mph time of 9.8sec would suggest. Although there’s a definite pause for a second or so while the turbocharger spools up, it pulls willingly from 1500rpm, getting stronger and stronger as the revs continue to build.

It’s not the quietest of three-cylinder engines, with a distinctive thrum that gets more intrusive the harder you work it. But while it’s a tad louder than the Up’s equivalent motor, this is not necessarily a problem for two reasons: the extra flexibility means you rarely need to extend it, and it’s not actually an unpleasant noise. Far from it, in fact; it’s quiet invigorating and sporty, assuming you like that sort of thing.

The rest of the Picanto’s talents remain intact, which is to say that, while you need to accept a slightly firmer ride than you have to in the Up, it’s far from uncomfortable, and the upshot is you are compensated with tidy body control and neat and precise steering, all of which match with the engine’s sporty tones.

It’s a noisy car at motorway speeds, though, thanks mainly to the road noise, but that’s the case for most city cars. And the gearbox isn’t quite as slick as the Up’s, but it isn't exactly recalcitrant and a chore to use, either.

2018 Kia Picanto 1.0 T-GDi dash

2018 Kia Picanto 1.0 T-GDi interior

As with all Picantos, you'll find a decent amount of space up front, even if you're tall, and a relatively comfortable driving position that means long journeys won’t begin or end with a groan.

The interior is well made, feeling robust to the touch, if not exactly plush, while the top-spec GT-Line S trim of our test car comes well equipped. A selection of the toys available include – and this is a city car, remember – 16in alloys wheels, power-folding door mirrors, privacy glass, keyless start and go, a heated steering wheel and heated front seats.

You also get an infotainment system that’s not only one of the easiest to use in the class but also extremely feature-laden, with sat-nav and smartphone mirroring for Apple and Android devices all standard.

To read in absolute detail about the Picanto's interior, head over to our full review here.

Next: 2018 Kia Picanto 1.0 T-GDi verdict >

Related cars