Kia Picanto long-term test: report 1

The Kia Picanto is a fantastic car for the city, but can it also double up as transport for a roving photographer? We're finding out...

Kia Picanto driving

The car Kia Picanto 1.0 DPi ISG 2 Run by Oli Kosbab, senior videographer

Why it’s here The Kia Picanto has long been one of our favourite city cars, but is it more than just a 'good value' proposition? And how does it cope when out of its comfort zone – load-lugging on long journeys?

Needs to Be cheap to run, comfortable in town and on the motorway, and practical enough to live with

Mileage 900 Price £12,495 Target Price £11,852 Price as tested £12,765 Official economy 58.9mpg Test economy 44.0mpg Options fitted Metallic paint (£270)

13 January 2021 – Hello to the Kia Picanto

My new car is a Kia Picanto – very different to my previous Ssangyong Musso, I know. I’m interested to see how much of a shock it will be going from a big pick-up down to a small car, and to test if the Picanto is more than just a city run around. 

And while you may think these two cars are worlds apart, they do have one thing in common: they’re both towards the cheap end of their classes. And in these difficult times when money is tight for many, down-sizing from a huge pick-up truck to a small car with a tiny 1.0-litre petrol engine makes good sense – on paper, at least.

So, with the Picanto being a lot smaller than my old Musso, let's address the elephant in the room: space. Yes, the Picanto can indeed carry a lot less in its boot than my Musso, but it's larger inside than city car rivals that include the Volkswagen Up and Hyundai i10. So, while it might be a stretch for me to get all of my video kit into, it offers more carrying capacity than some others in its class.

Kia Picanto boot

Still, most buyers in this class will be more interested in value than sheer carrying capacity, and my Picanto scores highly there. I’ve gone for '2' trim, which comes with 14in alloy wheels, air conditioning, heated door mirrors, radio and bluetooth – covering all the basics. However, if you’d like extras such as an Kia’s touchscreen infotainment system, Apple CarPlay & Android Auto, a reversing camera, LED lights, cruise control, then you will have to look at the higher trim levels. For now, I have my trusty phone to use as a sat-nav if needed.

The top of the range Picanto GT-Line S starts at £15,795 (£3300 more than this model) and adds heated seats, start/stop and a sportier look. But once you’re up at that price, you’re nearing the territory of bigger  cars like the Ford Fiesta or Volkswagen Polo. So, I reckon '2' trim represents the best value in the Picanto lineup.

Early impressions have been positive. The steering feels surprisingly direct and controlled when turning down a twisty B-road; that's not something I had expected on a little city car. Such cars are also often short on sound-deadening material for the sake of cutting costs and weight, though, and this is something I have noticed already. It’s a little noisy driving around town, particularly over bumps and potholes in the road, but it’s more at motorway speeds where the noise is most noticeable.

The engine revs out nicely but as you might expect, the Picanto’s dinky 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine is happiest in urban environs; overtaking on the motorway requires rather more of a run up than it did in the torquey Musso.

Kia Picanto interior

The Picanto's official fuel economy of 56.0 places it among the best in its class; so far I’ve seen an average of 44.0mpg, but I’m expecting this to increase after I’ve got a few more miles under my belt. But even 44.0mpg is a breath of fresh air for me after a thirsty pickup truck. So while the reduction in carrying ability might be a challenge to deal with, the savings I'll make on running costs will be most welcome.

So, does it look like good value already? You bet. Will I end up wishing I’d gone for a higher trim level, or maybe something with a bigger boot? I have the next few months to find out.

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