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Used test: Kia Picanto vs Volkswagen Up

Bought used, you can put either the Kia Picanto or the Volkswagen Up on your driveway for just £7000, but which one should you choose? We've got the answer...

Kia Picanto vs VW Up

The Contenders

Kia Picanto 1.25 3

  • List price when new £12,650
  • Price today £7500*
  • Available from 2017-present

The suave Picanto is well equipped in 3 trim and comes with a classy infotainment touchscreen.

Volkswagen Up 1.0 TSI 90 Beats

  • List price when new £11,905
  • Price today £7500*
  • Available from 2012-present

This is the funky Beats edition of the popular Up, which packs a punchy stereo and a powerful engine.

*Price today is based on a 2017 model with average mileage and full service history, correct at time of writing

Those after a car that will be used more often than not in town or for short, local journeys and that is both affordable to buy and cheap to run should be heading straight for the city car class. These diminutive tots are agile, surprisingly practical, a doddle to drive and park and easy on the pocket too.  

Here, we've lined up two of our all-time favourites, the Kia Picanto and the Volkswagen Up. As a further bonus, buy either one of these as we're testing them here, at around four years old, and you can pick up a great car for a temptingly low price. 

Kia Picanto

So, just how capable can a used version of either of these two be, not just in town but also out on the open road, and which one should you have on your driveway? Let's find out. 

What are they like to drive? 

Neither of our engine options here is now available to buy new: Kia dropped the 1.25-litre Picanto in 2019 and Volkswagen likewise the 1.0 90 version of the Up, so buying them used is the only way to go. 

The Up in this trim will easily outsprint any of its peers, including the Picanto. And because the tiny 1.0-litre petrol engine is turbocharged in this range-topping TSI model, you don’t even need to rev it hard to keep pace with some of the bigger boys.

Swift progress in the Picanto isn’t so effortless. Venture onto the outside lane of the motorway or encounter a moderate incline on a faster A-road and you’ll find yourself changing down a gear or two and using the lower reaches of the accelerator. Do that, though, and the Picanto isn’t actually that much slower than the Up.

Because you need to work the Picanto’s naturally aspirated 1.2-litre engine hard to get the best from it, this inevitably means it can be quite vocal. However, the fact that it has an extra cylinder than its rival (four versus three) means it’s actually smoother; you feel fewer vibrations filtering up through the pedals and steering wheel. In fact, the Picanto is the quieter companion at a steady 70mph, although chatting with your passenger will still require raising your voice. Whisper-quiet limousines these cars most certainly are not.

Volkswagen Up

You won’t grumble about heavy steering or wide turning circles in either of these cars, but venture onto a winding B-road and it’s the Picanto that feels more at home. It darts into corners with surprisingly little body lean and hangs onto the road willingly, and its steering is hard to fault for accuracy. By contrast, the Up sways about when asked to change direction and its steering wheel kicks back in your hand when you approach the limit of grip. On the plus side, its steering does provide you with a slightly better sense of what the front wheels are doing.

The Up’s softer suspension gives it a more comfortable ride, too, no matter what speed you’re doing. That said, wider experience tells us that shopping around to find a car fitted with 16in or 17in wheels (from the standard 15s) will have you wincing over sharp-edged bumps. And the Picanto isn’t at all fractious; it just jostles you around a bit more over minor road imperfections.

Next: What are they like inside? >>

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