2017 Kia Picanto quick review

By Tony O’Kane, 03 May 2017 Car Reviews

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2017 Kia Picanto quick review

Kia polishes the Picanto for its third generation, and in doing so proves that even bargain-hunters don’t need to compromise on features.

TELL ME ABOUT THIS CAR

This is the third-generation Kia Picanto, the Korean carmaker’s cheapest car. Retailing at $14,190 for the new-to-Australia five-speed manual or priced at an attractive $15,690 drive-away for the four-speed automatic, the Picanto is pitched at elderly drivers looking to downsize, or young drivers searching for an affordable first car.

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STRENGTHS

More spacious interior. By rethinking the Picanto’s mechanical layout and stretching the wheelbase, Kia has given the new-generation model more interior space without changing the car’s on-road ‘footprint’ - its overall width and length. Most of the gains translate into better front seat legroom and 55 litres more boot space, for a total of 255 litres.

Agile handling. Thanks to Kia Australia’s efforts to engineer an Aus-specific suspension tune (something the previous Picanto didn’t get), the 2017 Picanto holds onto the road well for something that rolls on eco-biased tyres with relatively low grip. A faster steering rack ratio for the 2017 model also helps.

Ride comfort. Not only does the new Picanto handle well, it boasts a comfortable ride too. It’ll iron out all but the most serious bumps in an unfussed manner and remains especially complaint and composed over undulating highways.

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Modern interior design. With the inside of a car being where many people spend a great chunk of their day, good cabin design is vital. The 2017 Picanto doesn’t disappoint, with interior styling that looks a lot more premium than that of the car it replaces.

High-set infotainment display. The Picanto’s ‘tombstone’ infotainment display isn’t just on-trend from a design point of view, but it also offers ergonomic benefits by putting key information closer to the driver’s line of sight. Measuring seven inches across and being a full-colour touchscreen, it’s easy and intuitive to use.

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Smartphone mirroring. The best way to make the most of that screen is to exploit the Picanto’s standard-issue smartphone mirroring capability, which allows high-featured apps on a compatible smartphone to be interacted with via the car’s touchscreen. Besides an array of phone, internet search and audio streaming options, it also allows satellite navigation info to be displayed on the screen

Healthy standard equipment levels. The Picanto may not be the cheapest car in its segment, but with standard-issue cruise control, reversing camera, smartphone mirroring, rear parking sensors, dusk-sensing headlamps, power windows all around (auto-down on the driver’s) and the aforementioned 7-inch screen, the Picanto packs plenty of gear for its price.

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Improved sound suppression. The 2017 Picanto’s cabin is quieter than before thanks to a range of measures designed to cut noise transmission, mostly taking the form of extra sound deadening material throughout the car.

WEAKNESSES

No AEB. Though available in the European market, Kia Australia has yet to equip the Picanto with autonomous emergency braking technology. That may come in a future model update, however.

Higher fuel consumption. An increase in kerb weight and frontal area coupled with zero mechanical changes to the engine and transmission means the 2017 Picanto burns more fuel than the outgoing model. Combined-cycle economy for the four-speed auto variant is a claimed 5.8L/100km, which is half a litre more than the old car.

Four-speed auto. It may be reasonably intelligent for a four-speeder and admirably resistant to hunting though the ratios, but the Picanto’s four-speed is fairly outdated by modern standards. With wide gaps between each gear, it also requires the engine to work harder than it should during every day driving, and if there were an extra two ratios on board we’ve no doubt driveability and fuel economy would benefit.

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Iffy clutch feel on manual. Opting for the manual may get you a more versatile spread of gear ratios - five of them in fact - but it also comes with a soggy-feeling clutch pedal that can be difficult to get used to.

With just 62kW of power and 122Nm of torque, the Picanto’s engine can feel a touch breathless, especially if you need to push hard with a full load of passengers or when faced with a steep hill. If you need to overtake on a single carriageway country road, plan your moves carefully.

Coarse chip road noise. The Picanto may have more sound-deadening insulation than before, but on coarse-chip highways it’s still beset by substantial tyre noise.

WHAT RIVALS SHOULD I CONSIDER

The Holden Spark is perhaps the closest rival to the Picanto, but at a similar price point it can’t quite match the Kia’s level of standard equipment. The Suzuki Celerio and Mitsubishi Mirage are other options in the sub-light hatch segment.