The new-look, European-designed city runabout will take on the likes of the Holden Spark, the Suzuki Celerio and the Mazda 2 when it arrives, introducing a five-speed manual version for the first time that should trim about $1500 off the four-speed auto Picanto’s price.
As well as the option of changing gears yourself, this update to the Kia Picanto brings something the smallest car in Kia’s Australian line-up lacks when compared with the competition – a high level of smartphone connectivity.
To be built in Korea, the 2017 Kia Picanto will replace the model introduced to Australia in mid-2016 – the small hatchback launched last April was already six years old before the carmaker found the means to bring it here.
Although it is not longer than the car it replaces – those dimensions remain unchanged even though the wheelbase has grown by 15mm – the Picanto boasts a roomier interior than the car it replaces. The car will initially launch in Europe with either a 49kW 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine – if it comes here, it will be the least-powerful engine on sale in Australia – a 74kW turbocharged 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine (fitted to the five-speed manual alone), or a 62kW 1.2-litre four-cylinder engine.
In an interesting twist, if you order the 1.2-litre-engined car with incandescent daytime running lights, fuel economy for the 976kg hatchback is unofficially rated at 4.0 litres per 100 kilometres. Swap out the globes for LEDs, and fuel use falls to 3.9L/100km, indicating those bright white strips visible in the rear-view mirror aren’t just for show.
The Picanto also takes a big step forward in safety, adding automatic city braking to its suite of driver aids for the first time, although it is not yet known if this feature will be standard on all the cars sold in Australia. That adds to six airbags and electronic stability control and the option of a tyre pressure monitor.
Inside, the more tech-heavy Picanto adds a 7.0-inch touchscreen that appears to float from the centre of the dashboard. It includes satellite navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, and a reversing camera. On European models, a wireless phone charging pad and a USB slot at the base of the centre console are offered.
It should be better to drive around in, too. Kia says it has worked on making the Picanto’s interior much quieter, and has made the body more rigid to improve how the hatchback drives.
The new Picanto is expected to sell from about $14,000 in manual form when it arrives here.