Kia Picanto Sport 2008 Review

Kia Picanto Sport 2008 Review

Kia Picanto Sport 2008 fq

I am fairly astounded at the level of kit available on this Kia Picanto Sport. For a smidge under $19,000 there are features that not ten years ago would have only been found on top-of-the-line Mercs and Beemers. In fact, even the hideous 1996 Rolls-Royce Silver Spur I suffered in order to bring the plebeians an insight to how the moneyed live didn’t have reversing sensors, ESP (electronic stability program), or electronic brakeforce distribution like the Picanto does, let alone heated wing mirrors! In fact the Rolls didn’t even have an immobiliser, which the Kia comes with as standard.

The Kia even handles better than the Rolls-Royce. Yes, I’d take the Picanto over the Rolls any day because driving the Rolls (while fun in a sort of ‘lording over the peasants’ type of way) ultimately was like manoeuvring a girder in a bouncy castle.

The Picanto is barely longer than a toaster, and the car’s designers have pushed the wheels as far into the corners as possible to make as much interior space as they can. Consequently five medium-sized slices of toast (with short legs) can travel in the Picanto, but you’d better make sure they are not too heavy because the 48kW engine (yes, just 48kW) struggles up hills even with just the driver in. 48kW in a normal sized car is barely enough to part the air so fortunately the Kia’s featherweight 936kg means that on the flat and around town it’s fairly sprightly, while returning a planet-caressing 5.2l/100km and only 126g/km of CO2. So, with a 35-litre fuel tank you could get the best part of 700km between petrol stations.

A 1.1-litre four cylinder engine peeps up from the tiny bonnet aperture from where it puts the 99Nm of torque through a five-speed manual gearbox. There is a four-speed automatic version available, though it’s not as fuel efficient. Power of this type does tend to require a binary operation of the throttle — either fully on or not at all — and the inefficiencies of an automatic gearbox obviously make this worse.

The Picanto is also more than capable of comfortably cruising a motorway speeds, though some of the bodywork whistled in our test car. I had a fairly surreal experience between Market Road and Greenlane on the motorway taking the Picanto back to Kia. I was following a red Picanto while overtaking a car transporter with eight Picantos. That’s 10 Picantos sharing 30 metres. I haven’t seen a Picanto on the road since.

The Picanto felt safe on the road. 175/50R15 tyres are more than adequate for a car this light, and it cornered like a bobsled. I had a chance to push the Kia on a coned slalom course at the Advanced Driver Training Centre at Ardmore Aerodrome — its manoeuvrability, electronic stability programme and tight turning circle were a huge advantage in negotiating the course. And it even has disc brakes all around (vented ones at the front, no less!)

Electronic stability control attempts to prevent understeer and oversteer, but should you still not be able to avoid a prang, four airbags will deploy.

The Sport version gains a small rear spoiler, black bezel headlights, and a sportier interior over the lesser specification models. Having said that, all models come as standard with a leather steering wheel, alloy wheels, air conditioning, power windows and a sports-style instrument cluster.

This car will appeal to opposite ends of the age spectrum. Definitely the older generation will adore it for its practical aspects — easy to drive, easy to get in and out of (because the seat position is high), frugal, 5-year 100,000km warranty, etc. And, I suspect it will also appeal to young city-dwelling females who want a new car with iPod connector, reversing sensors and a swag of hot and spicy colour options like citrus yellow, samba green and orange/mica. Manufacturers like Kia are continually raising the specification bar with cars like the Picanto.

Price: From $18,990

What we like

  • Frugal
  • Handles and brakes well
  • Unbelievable level of kit for the price — electric windows, ESP, ABS, EBD, reverse warning sensors, etc

Things we don’t like

  • Rear view mirror is in the wrong place — can’t see behind very well
  • It has the power of 20 toasters
  • Some of the bodywork whistles at motorway speeds

Words and photos Darren Cottingham


Engine type: 1.1L 4 cylinder petrol

Displacement (cc): 1086 cc

Compression ratio: 10:3

Max. power: 48 kW @ 5500 rpm

Max. torque: 99 Nm @ 2800 rpm

Fuel economy (combined cycle) 5.2L / 100 km

Co2 emissions (g/km) 126


Gear box: 5-speed Manual


Front suspension MacPherson Strut

Rear suspension Torsion Beam


Tyres: 175/50 R15

Braking system: Ventilated front discs, solid rear discs

Alloy wheels: 15″

Space saver spare wheel


Steering system: Power assisted rack & pinion

Minimum turning radius kerb to kerb (m): 4.7



ABS brakes with EBD

Electronic Stability Programme (ESP)

Dual front airbags

Dual side airbags

Passenger airbag on/off switch

Child safety rear door locks

Vehicle immobiliser

Front seatbelt pretensioners / load limiters

High mounted stop lamp

Reverse warning sensors


Body coloured electric outside mirrors

Wing mirror mounted indicators

Heated rear mirrors

Rear seatbelt pockets

Front & rear fog lamps

Front & rear mudguards

Side skirts

Rear spoiler

Front spoiler

Black bezel head lights


Stereo Radio/CD/MP3 with 6 speakers

Auxiliary audio input and cable for iPod

Sports interior

Leather steering wheel and gear knob

Power windows

Remote central locking

Air conditioning

60:40 split folding rear seats

Front & rear height adjustable head rests

Luggage net


Overall length: 3535 mm

Overall width: 1595 mm

Overall height: 1480 mm

Wheelbase: 2370 mm

Min. ground clearance: 145 mm

Kerb weight min. / max:. 936 / 1030kg

Luggage capacity (seat up / seat folding): 157 / 882 litres

Fuel tank capacity: 35 litres

Towing capacity – unbraked (kg): 400

Towing capacity – braked (kg):700

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