Kia Picanto long-term test review
The Kia Picanto is a fantastic car for the city, but can it also double up as transport for a roving videographer? We've been finding out...
The car Kia Picanto 1.0 DPi ISG 2 Run by Oli Kosbab, senior videographer
Why it’s here The Kia Picanto is one of our favourite city cars, but is it more than just a good-value proposition? And how does it cope when it goes out of its comfort zone to lug loads on long journeys?
Needs to Be cheap to run, comfortable in town and on a motorway, and practical enough to live with
Mileage 1403 Price £12,495 Target Price £11,852 Price as tested £12,765 Test economy 45.0mpg Official economy 54.3mpg Dealer price now £12,765 Private price now £7519 Trade-in price now £8458 Expenses £169 fuel
20 May 2021 – Small but mighty
Jumping down from a huge fuel-guzzling pick-up like the SsangYong Musso into a dinky little Kia Picanto was initially a shock to the system – like having to shop at my local corner shop instead of Waitrose – but that doesn't mean it was a bad move.
The Musso wasn’t exactly plush, but its enormous footprint meant it was really practical and very easy to live with. I also loved its rugged styling, and was initially not quite so taken by the diminutive look of the Picanto – despite its fetching baby-blue paint scheme. Could a cutesy small car keep up with my hectic, high-mileage life as a load-lugging videographer?
Well, first things first, it didn’t take me long to realise that I should have considered a higher spec than the one I chose. The '2' trim I selected had all my basic needs covered, but the equipment highlights are air-con, 14in alloys and electric windows, which is quite meagre for a new car.
While I saved money initially by going for a cheaper model, I think if I were to get a Picanto again, I'd rather save up a bit more and go for a higher-rung version. I'd probably choose at least X-line or GT-Line to get an upgraded stereo, touchscreen infotainment system, reversing camera, cruise control and 16in alloys.
I would also have liked the option of a three-door model – for looks, not practicality – but the three-door body was shelved for this latest generation of the car, which is a shame.
While the Picanto might not turn many heads, the only thing that’s easier to park is a bike. Indeed, you won't be shocked to hear that this is a car that excelled in the city. It was laughably easy to slot into a parking space and manoeuvre round tight roads.
Unfortunately for the Picanto, it did spend a lot of its time with me out of its comfort zone. I ended up pummelling it through quite a lot of motorway miles. The raucous wind noise was occasionally irritating, but a glance at the trip computer to see a 46mpg return on the fuel economy soon had me smiling again.
Before the car arrived, I glanced at the spec sheet and saw that the 1.0-litre three-cylinder naturally aspirated engine delivered a 0-60mph time of 14.1sec. At that point, I fancied my chances against it in a race on foot. I like the feel of racy cars with sparkling acceleration so I was fearing the worst about long journeys with the Picanto.
In reality, though, I found the thrummy little engine was more than up to the task of keeping up with motorway traffic. Admittedly, overtaking needed a good old run up, but the pace (or lack of it) never really irritated me – especially because of the impressive fuel economy.
So, what about practicality, which was the main cause of my anxiety before the car turned up? Well, the Picanto is very small compared with most other cars on the road, but it’s comfortable enough for three or four people and will fit a good few bags of Waitrose goodies in the boot.
Crucially, if I didn't go mad stocking up on organic chutneys, I could fit all my camera equipment in too. Just about, anyway. I had to flatten the rear seats and pile some gear on the front passenger seat, but it made it.
For £12,765 all-in, or less with our Target Price discounts, I do think the Picanto is really good value for money for a new car. In return for your cash you get something that is ideal for town driving and can even muster up the strength for regular motorway journeys.
It's also extremely reliable, as our Reliability Surveys have shown over the years, and I am pleased to report that I had zero mechanical issues with the car at all during my time with it. And let’s take a moment, once again, to praise the industry-leading seven-year or 100,000-mile warranty every Picanto gets.
All in all, I’ve come to appreciate that when it comes to cheap, reliable city car motoring, the Picanto is a fine choice. It's not big, but it sure is mighty.
For all the latest reviews, advice and new car deals, sign up to the What Car? newsletter here