2017 Kia Picanto Review

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2017 Kia Picanto S

Priced From $14,190Information

Overall Rating


4 out of 5 stars

Rating breakdown
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Safety, value & features

4 out of 5 stars

Comfort & space

3 out of 5 stars

Engine & gearbox

4 out of 5 stars

Ride & handling

4 out of 5 stars


4 out of 5 stars

Pros & Cons

  1. ProEquipment; ride; handling; styling; value; warranty.

  2. ConFour-speed auto; clutch feel in manual.

  3. The Pick: 2017 KIA Picanto S 5D Hatchback

What stands out?

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The new-generation Picanto is an eye-catching city car with a comfortable ride and great steering. Cruise control and a reversing camera are standard, and the tiniest Kia has a big touchscreen that does a lot with your smartphone.

What might bug me?

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In an auto Picanto, wishing you had a bit more zip on steep hills – and more than four ratios.

In a manual Picanto, how much care you need to take with the clutch on take-offs: it is hard to tell exactly when it will bite.

What body styles are there?

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Five-door, five-seat, hatchback only.

The Picanto drives its front wheels, and is classed as a micro car.

What features do all Picantos have?

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Full instrumentation – a speedometer, tachometer (which tells you how fast the engine is spinning), petrol gauge, and trip computer.

A sound system with an AM/FM radio, Bluetooth connectivity for phone and audio streaming, Aux and iPod compatible USB inputs, and four speakers.

A 7.0-inch touchscreen for controlling cabin functions, with support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. You can plug in a compatible smartphone, display apps (including mapping) on the touchscreen, and control them from there.

A USB port for charging mobile devices, and a 12-volt power outlet.

Cruise control, and buttons on the steering wheel from which you can operate the cruise, the audio system, and your phone.

Height adjustment for the steering wheel, driver’s seat and driver’s seatbelt. A driver's footrest. Fabric-covered seats with height-adjustable headrests on all seating positions.

Air-conditioning. Power-opening windows on all four doors (with driver's auto up-down), and power-adjusting exterior mirrors.

A reversing camera and rear parking sensors (which indicate how close your bumper is to obstacles).

Headlights that switch on automatically when it’s dark.

Steel wheels with plastic trim, and a space-saver spare wheel.

Hill-start assistance, which helps you take off from rest on uphill slopes by controlling the brakes automatically.

Electronic stability control, which helps you control the car if it skids. Every new car must have this feature.

Six airbags. (For details of where they are placed, please open the Safety section).

The Picanto is offered with a seven-year, unlimited distance warranty, and fixed-price servicing for that period.

Which engine uses least fuel, and why wouldn't I choose it?

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Only one engine is available with the Picanto, a 1.2-litre, twin-cam, four-cylinder petrol.

This is a very mildly revised version of the engine in the previous, second-generation, Picanto. On the official test it consumes 5.8 litres/100km with the auto gearbox (city and country cycles combined), and 5.0 litres/100km with the manual.

The engine remains smooth but punchy, taking advantage of the Picanto’s low (995kg) weight to provide a fine balance between performance and fuel economy.

In a real-world comparison conducted for the July 2016 issue of Wheels magazine, a previous-generation Picanto auto with this engine averaged 7.5 litres/100km, a litre less than an accompanying Holden Spark but 1.4 litres more than the other micro car reviewed, a Suzuki Celerio. You could expect similar real-world figures from the new car.

The Picanto comes with a five-speed manual transmission, or optionally a four-speed automatic. The auto gearbox is a very mild revision of the auto in the superseded car.

What key features do I get if I spend more?

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The Picanto comes standard with the five-speed manual gearbox. Spend more and you can have the four-speed auto – and it might not be much more, given Kia’s drive-away offers.

Your only other option is the exterior colour, though alloy wheels can also be added as a dealer-fit accessory. Otherwise, it’s an all or nothing proposition.

Does any upgrade have a down side?

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Auto Picantos use a bit more fuel than the manuals.

White paint is standard; any other colour is an extra-cost option.

How comfortable is the Picanto?

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For such a compact car, the Picanto has plenty of room inside. There’s enough space between the front seats to ensure drivers won’t be rubbing shoulders with their passengers. Headroom and leg room in the front is better than in some cars a size bigger.

Doors open wide to ease entry and exit. The front seats offer good support for backs and thighs, and you can adjust the driver’s seat for height. Outward vision is great, thanks to big windows.

The only downside ergonomically is the absence of reach adjustment for the steering column. It’s a good driving position, but some will wish they could tailor it more finely.

The infotainment system is easy to control from the Picanto’s 7.0-inch colour touchscreen, which is well-positioned high on the dashboard.

Cabin materials and finish are better than you might expect for the price.

Kia has worked to make the Picanto quieter than its predecessor, but at highway speeds on coarse asphalt the cabin is still a noisy place to spend time. There is a fair bit of tyre roar, and a buzz from the little engine – more so in the lower-geared automatic.

The new Picanto is about the same size externally, and so it remains very easy to drive around town. Its turning circle is tight, and its light steering is more direct than before – you don’t need to turn the wheel as much for sharp corners. A standard reversing camera and rear parking sensors will help you create parking spaces where others see none.

Comfortable suspension makes light work of urban obstacles such as manhole covers, potholes and speedhumps.

What about safety in a Kia Picanto?

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The Picanto comes with stability control, six airbags, a reversing camera and rear parking sensors, auto-on headlights, daytime running lights, and seatbelt reminders on all seats. It is a package that prioritises your control of the car, protection if you crash, visibility to others, and reducing the risk to others when you are reversing.

There are airbags directly in front of the driver and front passenger; one outside each front seat to protect at chest level from side impacts; and curtain airbags extending down each side of the car at head level to protect front and rear passengers from side impacts.

The Picanto has disc brakes on all four wheels (some city cars have inferior, but cheaper, drum brakes at the rear).

Autonomous emergency braking – which can operate the brakes automatically to prevent your crashing into a slowing car in front – is not available on the Picanto.

The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) has not rated the new Picanto.

I like driving - will I enjoy this car?

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Absolutely. The new Picanto is satisfying to drive and rides well on Aussie roads. Kia did a good job of developing the suspension for local conditions.

Cornering is assisted by brake torque vectoring, which automatically brakes gently the wheels on the inside of a turn (if you’re turning left, it’ll brake the left wheels).

When you steer the Picanto into a bend, it goes just where you hoped it would go. You feel confident that you are the boss. And at high speeds, the car feels stable and secure.

The only downside is the big steps between ratios in the Picanto’s four-speed automatic. For driving around town, the 1.2-litre engine is more than adequate with this transmission. However, when you ask the engine to deliver its maximum, it is often operating outside its sweet spot.

The five-speed manual is a better choice for keen drivers, although you need to get used to a spongy clutch pedal.

How is life in the rear seats?

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Surprisingly good. Even with two adults in the back seat, it doesn’t feel as cramped as you might imagine. Outward vision is good, and the backrest reclines you more than in the previous Picanto, with the aim of improving comfort over long trips.

This is a very narrow car, though, and so the centre position is only usable for allowing you to seat three small children across the rear bench.

The outboard rear seats are equipped with integrated ISOFIX child seat anchorages.

How is it for carrying stuff?

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The Picanto has a modest boot area that’s typical for something of its size. It is 55 litres bigger than its predecessor’s boot, however, accepting 255 litres of cargo.

The loading lip is well above average knee height so you’ll need to lift cargo high to clear it, but the boot opening is wide for a micro car. The 60-40 split rear seatbacks fold down to increase cargo capacity, but don’t fold flush with the boot floor.

Where does Kia make the Picanto?

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Every Kia Picanto is made in South Korea.

What might I miss that similar cars have?

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Possibly autonomous emergency braking. No other micro car has this, but it is standard in the bigger Mazda2, for example.

More ratios in the auto gearbox, or a CVT auto – which could give the little engine an easier time of things. The Suzuki Celerio, Holden Spark and Mitsubishi Mirage offer CVT autos, for example.

Otherwise, the Picanto is very well equipped. The previous Picanto did not have cruise control, a rear camera, a manual gearbox option or smartphone mirroring, but this car has all of those.

Among other micro cars you might consider are the Fiat 500 and the Suzuki Ignis micro SUV.

Are there plans to update the Picanto soon?

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Yes. This third-generation Picanto arrived only in May 2017, but an update is expected before the end of 2017 that will bring autonomous emergency braking and a performance-oriented Picanto GT.

I like this car, but I can't choose which version. Can you help?

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The Picanto S automatic is the better buy – especially when you factor in Kia’s drive-away price offer. You might wish for more than its four ratios in highway use or on steep hills, but it does the best job of negotiating city streets.

That said, if you like the idea of a manual you could be well placed to haggle.