Kia Picanto Review
The Kia Picanto looks great, costs peanuts to run and has a generous boot, but other city cars are better at carrying rear passengers and less strained on motorways.
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The Kia Picanto is a small, economical city car that’s affordable to buy and cheap to run. However, compared with more modern – and arguably more stylish – alternatives such as the VW Up, it feels a bit like an iPod in a world of smartphones with Spotify.
The Kia Picanto’s no-frills approach continues when you step inside. It’s perfectly spacious in the front and its smart – if slightly gloomy – dashboard is laid out sensibly so everything’s easy to use.
From 3-spec models and up you get a 7-inch infotainment screen that’s bigger and more colourful than that fitted to the VW Up. The Kia’s menus are simple enough to navigate and the system isn’t sluggish, plus you get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto so you can use your smartphone’s apps on the Kia’s big screen.
All models get five doors as standard – unlike some even dinkier alternatives – so access to the back seats is good, although anyone approaching six-foot tall will feel cramped. The same goes for the Kia Picanto’s boot, which is big enough for a few bags of shopping but not much else.
The Kia Picanto is a quirky-looking thing that’s great around town. It’s just a shame that it doesn’t fill you with confidence on the motorway.
If you want a massive interior, though, you’re better off looking elsewhere. The Picanto is built to zip through city streets and it does that really rather well – slipping through gaps in traffic that bigger cars can’t and breezing through width restrictions like they’re not there. Parking couldn’t be simpler because all four corners of the car are easy to judge when you’re slipping into tight spaces.
You can choose from three petrol engines – a non-turbo 1.0-litre with 67hp, one with a turbo with 100hp or a 1.25-litre model with 85hp. The first is cheapest to buy and marginally cheaper to run than the non-turbo 1.0, but the best bet is the 1.25-litre model that sounds gleefully snorty and isn’t painfully slow. It also makes the thirstier and more expensive turbo 1.0-litre seem unnecessary.
However, whichever engine is fitted, the Kia never feels that at home on faster roads. Gusts of wind turn its slab-sided body into a big sail, pushing and pulling the car down the road. Jiggly suspension doesn’t help you and your passengers relax and nor does the pronounced amount of wind and road noise that makes its way into the cabin.
So, there are better city cars for venturing out on the motorway and carrying rear passengers, but if you do neither regularly then you’ll enjoy lots of standard equipment and the peace of mind that long warranty brings.
Read on for our in-depth interior, practicality and driving review sections or head over to our Kia Picanto deals page to see how much you can save on your next new car.
Common Kia Picanto questions
What insurance group is a Kia Picanto?
Insurance groups run from 1, being the cheapest, to 50, the most expensive. Because the Kia Picanto is small and cheap, it’s not expensive to insure, although some models are cheaper than others. The cheapest is the non-turbo 1.0-litre 1 model which is in group 4, while the most expensive is turbo 1.0-litre engine in GT-Line, GT-Line S, X-Line and X-Line S trims which all sit in group 10.
What is a Kia Picanto car?
The Kia Picanto is a small city car with five doors. It comes with three different small petrol engines and various trim levels.
Does the Kia Picanto come in automatic?
Yes, the Kia Picanto is available with an automatic gearbox. However, it’s only available with the 1.25-litre petrol engine and unlike the manual, only has four (not five) gears. It’s also not particularly pleasant to drive.
What is the engine size of a Kia Picanto?
There are three engine sizes available with the Kia Picanto – a non-turbo 1.0-litre petrol with 67hp, a turbocharged 1.0-litre petrol with 100hp or a 1.25-litre non-turbo with 85hp.
Make sure you check out our Kia Picanto deals pages.
It feels tactless to complain about a lack of space in such a small car, but despite having the benefit of five doors and a decent boot, the Kia Picanto isn’t exactly roomy in the back.
It's a shame that some of the most handy features, like the adjustable boot floor, only come as standard on the sporty GT Line S models
Getting a comfortable driving position in the front of the Picanto isn’t as easy as it should be. Basic ‘1’ versions don’t even have a height-adjustable driver’s seat – although, you do get one as standard in all other models – and no Picanto comes with a steering wheel that adjusts for both height and reach.
Consequently, if you’re tall, driving the Picanto becomes a compromise between having enough room to stretch your legs and having the seat far enough forwards to comfortably reach the steering wheel. The resulting balance between the two can be a little uncomfortable on a long drive.
The back seats will be tight for your adult passengers, which is to be expected for this size of car, but it’s worth noting that a Volkswagen Up offers a little bit more room and feels less claustrophobic. That said, the Kia Picanto does at least get wind-down windows instead of the Up’s pop-out items.
As it is, if there’s someone six-foot tall in the front of the Picanto, someone of a similar size in the back will have to splay their knees round the seat ahead to have any hope of fitting.
It’s worth noting that entry-level Kia Picantos with a non-turbocharged 1.0-litre engine come with only two rear seats while all other versions get three as standard. That said, its narrow cabin means you can forget about carrying three adults side-by-side in the back of the Picanto.
Despite this, access to the back seat is pretty good because the Kia Picanto comes with five doors as standard. They’re a big help when it comes to fitting a child seat – getting the base into the back is easy, but hooking it up to the Isofix points requires wild stabbing as you hunt for the anchor points hidden deep in the seat upholstery.
Unfortunately for the Kia Picanto, storage space is a bit meagre. The glovebox is a case in point – you’ll be lucky to squeeze even a small bottle of water in there because most of its space is taken up by the huge user manual.
The large door pockets do make up for this somewhat. They’ll each swallow a 1.5-litre bottle of water, although they need to be big because the rear doors have no pockets at all. In addition to this you get a tray for your phone (with wireless charging in GT Line S models), a couple of flick-out cupholders that feel a little flimsy and a small storage area under the front centre armrest that’s only big enough for a wallet.
You’ll get no prizes for guessing that the Kia Picanto is not a natural load-lugger, but its 255-litre boot is usefully bigger than the one you’ll find in the Peugeot 108 (196 litres) and marginally roomier than those in the Volkswagen Up (251 litres) and Hyundai i10 (252 litres).
Still, it’s still only suitable for few bags of shopping if you keep the rear seats up. Handily, GT Line S models come with an adjustable boot floor that means you can slide a suitcase into the boot without having to lift it over the load lip.
All models come with rear seats that fold and split 60:40, so you can carry a passenger in the back next to some flat-pack furniture poking through from the boot. Again, GT Line S and X-line S models are easier to load because their adjustable boot floor means there’s no step in the floor to lift items over.
The Kia Picanto’s small, thin body makes it easy to drive in town and the 1.25-litre petrol engine is nippy, but things quickly unravel when you get on the motorway.
Avoid the sluggish automatic gearbox if you want to get the best of the Kia Picanto
You can have your Picanto with a choice of three small petrol engines that are cheap to run and ideally suited to pottering around town.
Your best bet is the 85hp 1.25-litre model. It gets from 0-62mph in less than 12 seconds, which is quick enough to keep up with town traffic. It has to be worked hard to get the best from it, however, and at motorway speeds its sporty exhaust note rebrands itself as an annoying drone and the engine starts to feel pretty weak. Driven sensibly, though, Kia reckons you should be able to get fuel economy of around 55mpg.
The less powerful non-turbo 1.0-litre model with 67hp is only very slightly more economical, but with the 0-60mph taking a sleepy 14 seconds, you will notice a sizeable drop-off in performance.
It has three cylinders to the larger engine’s four, so it’s noisier and sends stronger vibrations through the cabin and pedals. Even in town, it feels pretty sedate so it’s best avoided unless you’re looking to save every penny possible.
The final option is a turbocharged 1.0-litre with 100hp – the quickest of the range, but also the most expensive to buy and run.
You can make the Picanto even worse by fitting the automatic gearbox that’s only available on 1.25-litre petrol models. It only has four gears, so makes the Picanto pretty slow (though not quite as slow as the 1.0-litre model) and gives it the worst fuel economy in the range. Besides, the standard manual gearbox is smooth and easy enough to use – even in heavy traffic.
The Picanto is a solid choice if you live and drive in the city. That’s mostly thanks to its small size, which lets you slip through gaps in traffic that other cars can’t get through and into parking spaces that would make the drivers of even averaged-sized cars (such as the VW Golf) weep.
GT Line and ‘3’ models come with a reversing camera that makes it easy to get into some seriously tight spaces and the Picanto’s light controls mean low-speed manoeuvres don’t turn into a punishing workout.
As the speeds rise, though, the Picanto becomes less convincing. The soft suspension means it leans noticeably in tight corners on country roads and the light steering feels too remote to give you confidence and you need to make lots of minor adjustments to stay in the centre of your lane on motorways.
The final nail in the coffin of the Picanto’s long-distance cruising aspirations is a cabin that suffers from too much road and wind noise to be comfortable. In fact, if you need a city car that can handle the motorway, you’ll be better off with the quieter and smoother VW Up.
The Kia Picanto claws back some points when it comes to safety, however, because ‘3’ models and up all come with automatic emergency braking to help prevent avoidable collisions.
The Kia Picanto’s interior has a smart design and gets five doors for easy access to the back seats, but some alternatives feel slightly posher and come with more personalisation options.