TG's favourite Japanese design guru unleashes new concept for the road...
You are here
The Top Gear car review:Kia Picanto
For:Surprisingly grown up, affordable five-door, recent facelift adds polish
Against:Doesn't drive as sharply as it looks
1.25 2 EcoDynamics 5dr
Sharply styled, thoroughly decent city car. Kia’s on a roll
You can almost hear that miserabilist who rings up Down the Line, Charlie Higson and Paul Whitehouse’s superb po-faced mock phone-in show. “Kia...
What we say:
Make no mistake, with the latest Picanto proving to be genuinely accomplished, Kia means business
What is it?
The Picanto is Kia’s alternative to the mechanically similar Hyundai i10. They’ve made it look different, referencing the stylish Cee’d in the process, although the latest i10 provides a stern challenge. Unlike Hyundai, Kia offers a slighty sportier-looking three-door: it even has a red-framed grille, like you get on a VW Golf GTI.
Overall, it’s a well-made, well-equipped, practical and affordable little thing that’s cheap to run and ought to put the wind up more expensive European cars. Kia has fought hard to overcome the brand prejudices that have held it back on the world stage. It’s now unquestionably succeeded in that regard, and the Picanto is worthy of close inspection as a result. Maybe even more so following a mild facelift last year. Changes were mild, but nicely round off what was already a nice car.
There are two engines to choose from in the Picanto, and neither is going to bother your blood pressure. The entry-level 68bhp 1.0-litre three-pot is usurped by an almost-as-modest 1.25-litre four-cylinder unit with 84bhp to play with. Both are fizzy, adequate options that fulfi l the brief around town and can even stretch to a bit of motorway work, largely because the cabin is impressively insulated. Steering is light, which is all you can ask for in a car with this urban bent, and the ride, much like the i10’s, is manageable if not enjoyable. There’s nothing here to get excited about, to be honest, but equally little to worry about. It’s a reassuring sort of average.
On the inside
The Picanto’s cabin looks pretty remarkable for a car of this price in this lowly market segment. Kia’s bold new styling cues are all very much in evidence, with simple, intelligently designed primary controls and tasteful metallic inserts in ‘2’ trim level. The ergonomic steering wheel and highly contemporary instruments and switchgear make the Picanto feel strangely grown-up all of a sudden, as does the sense that everything is very solidly stuck together. There’s also an unlikely amount of space both front and rear, much more so than some of the Picanto’s more popular foils such as the Fiat 500, and you have the option of choosing five doors here, not just three.
Kia does its seven-year warranty thing here, so whatever happens – and there’s no reason to assume anything will – you’ll be pretty well covered (so long as you haven’t done more than 100k miles). The most basic models lack the kit and trim that make the Picanto feel special, so be prepared to pay a smidgen extra at the outset – you’ll still get a lot of car for comparatively little initial outlay. Depreciation is going to hit a Picanto harder than it would a more desirable brand like Fiat or Mini, but the minimal running costs should balance that out.