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
You can have your Picanto with a choice of two small petrol engines that are cheap to run and help keep the Kia’s price low.
Your best bet is the bigger 1.25-litre model. It gets from 0-62mph in 12 seconds, which is quick enough to keep up with town traffic. It has to be worked hard to get the best from it, but it sounds surprisingly sporty so this isn’t really a bad thing. On the motorway, though, the pleasing engine note rebrands itself as an annoying drone and the engine starts to feel pretty weak. Driven sensibly, though, Kia reckons you should be able get fuel economy of 61.4mpg.
Avoid the sluggish automatic gearbox if you want to get the best of the Picanto
The less powerful 1.0-litre model’s 64.3mpg barely improves on that. But, with 0-62mph taking a sleepy 14.2 seconds, you will notice a sizeable drop-off in performance – it doesn’t feel that quick in town, let alone on the motorway. It has three cylinders to the larger engine’s four, so it’s noisier and sends vibrations through the cabin and pedals.
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.
The Picanto is 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. On country roads the soft suspension means it feels like it could tip over and the suspension can be bumpy.
But it feels even worse on the motorway where the light and direct steering – that made negotiating packed streets a breeze – feels too remote to give you confidence and you need to make lots of minor adjustments to stay in lane, especially in high winds that tend to bully the Kia around. The bouncy suspension pogos the car and its occupants at the whiff of a bump, and 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.
Sadly, it isn’t so easy to make a direct comparison in terms of safety because the Picanto has yet to be evaluated for crashworthiness by Euro NCAP. That said, 3, GT Line and GT Line S models all come with automatic emergency braking that should make them some of the safest cars of their size.