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Used test: Hyundai i10 vs Kia Picanto
Buy either of these two top-notch city cars at just a year old and you could bag yourself a bargain, but which one makes more sense?...
Hyundai i10 1.2 MPi 84 Premium
List price when new £14,995
Price today £12,500*
Available from 2020-present
The remarkably grown-up feel of the i10 makes it one of our very favourite city cars.
Kia Picanto 1.25 83 3
List price when new £13,500
Price today £11,000*
Available from 2017-present
The Picanto is cheaper to buy than the i10, but is that enough to give it a victory here?
*Price today is based on a 2020 model with average mileage and full service history, correct at time of writing
So you want all the virtues of a small or family car – the driving manners, the refinement, the practicality and the modern safety technology – but you want that wrapped up in something more compact and cheaper to buy and to run? You want a city car, then, and don't worry, these days the best of them are easily up to any of the tasks you might throw in their direction.
Take the Hyundai i10. Throughout its three generations, it's impressed us so much with its all-round competence that it's carried off many of the category and class wins in our annual Used Car of the Year Awards. Likewise, the diminutive Kia Picanto, ably backed by the manufacturer's splendid and transferable seven-years-from-new warranty, has always been one of our favourites, often jostling for top-spot with the i10. Indeed both cars actually share a lot of their underpinnings, with Hyundai claiming that the slightly pricier i10 offers buyers more in the way of comfort and space.
Here, we're testing nearly new examples of both of these cars against each other. The advantage of this is that by buying either of them at roughly a year old you'll by-pass that heavy first-year depreciation and save yourself a decent sum. We're testing them in their larger-engined and higher-spec versions, but which one should you be choosing for carving through the city streets?
Performance, ride, handling, refinement
Both engines are pretty similar in size, but the tiny size advantage (around 50cc) of the Picanto's now off-sale 1.25-litre engine gives it slightly perkier performance. Compared with the i10, it feels more peppy when you rev it hard through each of its five manual gears (the i10 also has a five-speed manual gearbox) and it pulls far more effectively when you put your foot down at low revs.
That’s not only useful for nipping around town but it also makes all the difference when trying to compete in the fast lane of a motorway. The i10 is usable in those scenarios, too, but you’re working its engine and gearbox harder, which makes it more taxing to drive.
The Picanto’s engine is slightly noisier at motorway speeds, however. At 70mph, the extra engine drone and wind and road noise also exceed the levels of its relatively peaceful rival.
Each car’s gearbox is a joy to use, although the i10’s is slightly slicker and its brakes aren’t quite as aggressively sharp in traffic. On which subject, if you’re braking hard from 70mph in the wet, we found the Picanto takes a staggering 12 metres longer to stop. Why such a difference? It’s because the Picanto’s tyres don’t generate as much grip as the i10’s in the wet.
Both cars are stable and predictable through corners, although the Picanto is more agile. Still, the i10’s extra grip is certainly confidence-inspiring and, by a whisker, the weight and feel of its steering is sweeter for country roads. They both work brilliantly in town, feeling light and nimble, and ultra-tight turning circles make them very easy cars in which to do U-turns.
Because it’s a little softer, the i10 feels impressively supple and is more forgiving. It pads gently over bumps, and at higher speeds it settles into a relatively relaxed stride. The Picanto isn’t bad by wider class standards, but it kicks you harder over potholes and jiggles you about more on motorways.
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