WANT to feel inadequate? Drive a Kia Picanto into a carpark filled with a supercharged Tickford Mustang, a duo of Porsches, a Golf R wagon and a Renaultsport Clio 182 with the intent of joining the cohort on a spirited run through some of Melbourne’s best driving roads.
It was like I’d walked into a skirmish armed with a pea-shooter, while my opponents were packing more firepower than a Southern Texan militia.
I might be getting a little ahead of myself here. I should explain why the Picanto S and I were surrounded by such a formidable armada.
It was painfully early on a Sunday morning, and I’d forced myself out of bed and some caffeine down my gullet in order to take part in a Drive against Depression ‘Treasure Hunt’ outing.
Drive against Depression is a wonderful charity intended to bring a community together around cars and driving, and using that opportunity to raise much-needed awareness surrounding mental health. While I was enamoured to the cause, I must admit there was a dual purpose to my attendance.
It was time to put the Picanto’s dynamic abilities on trial. It had become a secret point of shame that with the Picanto’s departure rapidly approaching, I was yet to have a proper back-road blat in my plucky little manual hatch.
There was some friendly banter over being relegated to a mere Kia Picanto for the weekend by my driving compatriots as we mingled before the event’s start. But given that Porsche wasn’t offering me a GT2 RS for the weekend, this event was going to be an exercise in making the most of 62kW.
Spoiler alert: the little Kia hatch is a riot.
This shouldn’t be a surprise to enthusiasts with a lack of badge prejudice. The tempting recipe of locally tuned suspension, rev-happy 1.2-litre atmo engine, five-speed manual gearbox, and sub-tonne kerb weight proved predictably enjoyable.
I found myself behind the Tickford Mustang tracking up Chum Creek Road – a nuclear warhead to my wrist rocket – and yet I kept the blown Ford in my sights. The Picanto is supremely chuckable, pitching into corners eagerly, nestling onto the outside front wheel, even cocking a rear at times.
Gear selection was important to keep the engine singing above 4000rpm, but the reward is unexpected spunk. As I’ve previously mentioned, the Picanto’s steering changes weight depending on speed, and while it isn’t completely numb, with some feedback from the tarmac sent back through the wheel, it doesn’t telegraph clearly enough when the front tyres start to lose grip.
Yet what a joyful day to spend on brilliant roads, for a great cause, in fine company, shifting gears via a clutch and a delightfully light shifter, maintaining momentum through bends, and driving the tyres off my baby Kia.
If you dismiss the Picanto’s ability to put a smile on your dial simply because of its engine size or its badge, that says more about you than it does the car.
Read part four of our 2017 Kia Picanto S long-term review here!