2011 Kia Picanto Review

Kia’s all new 2011 Picanto was launched at a press event in Auckland yesterday and Car and SUV was given a first drive in this much-improved micro machine.

With a tagline of “Clever Around Town” the new Kia Picanto is designed for city/suburban use and comes with eco credentials, more standard equipment and sharper driving dynamics.

The Picanto’s price tag is also very tempting with the base model available from $18,590. So what do you get for the money?

The Picanto is being sold in NZ in two trim specifications LX and the higher grade EX. The entry model is the LX with a manual transmission, this features a clever ISG (Idle Stop & Go) technology which switches off the engine when idling and instantly re-starts as the clutch is depressed. It’s an impressive feature to offer in a sub $20k vehicle and while it takes some getting used to, it functions well. With this tech and a small 1.2-litre petrol engine the manual Picanto returns a thrifty fuel economy figure of 4.3L/100km. This makes it the most economical petrol dedicated car in the NZ market – so running costs are extremely low. The automatic LX and EX model Picantos return a fuel economy of 5.3l/100km and 5.6l/100km respectively.

In terms of exterior styling the new Picanto is a sharp-looker, it’s suitably cute but with a broad, sure-footed stance. Design features include a rising character line, corporate Kia ‘tiger-nose’ grille and uniquely shaped, vertical tailights. There’s a subtle hatch spoiler, front fog lights and daytime running lamps (with LED strips on the EX variant). Standard wheel fitment is 8-spoke 14-inch alloys on the LX and sporty 15-inch multi-spoke alloys on the EX.

Dimensionally it’s a very small car but the Picanto has seen a size increase of 60mm to 3.6 metres in length and a 15mm increase to its wheelbase. Luggage capacity has also grown to 200-litres in total capacity and there has been no change to the Picanto’s height or width compared to its predecessor.

In the cabin the Picanto sports a dark cloth interior with a height adjustable driver’s chair. It’s well bolstered and comfortable but could prove too narrow for those with broader backs during longer journeys. In the back seat leg room is limited but no more than you’d expect in an A-segment car and with correct front seat adjustment two adults could ride in relative comfort. The Picanto’s four-door body shape makes it easy to get in and out of the rear seat.

Instrumentation is large and easy-to-read and the controls are laid out with the stereo and climate controls separated, but all switchgear is close at hand. The Picanto’s leather-trimmed steering wheel is a particular highlight in a two-spoke design and featuring various control buttons. Other standard equipment includes cupholders, passenger under seat storage tray, air-conditioning, CD stereo with Ipod and USB connectivity, electric windows all-round, trip computer and Bluetooth hands free. The top-spec EX Picanto gets extra fruit like a 6-speaker stereo system, reverse parking sensors and electric folding side mirrors with LED indicators. Overall, it’s a very livable cabin, the materials used aren’t particularly hard or plasticky and everything feels well screwed together. It’s very small but the available space is used smartly with helpful touches like seat back pockets, bottle-holding door bins and a 60:40 split rear seat.

Under the bonnet the Picanto’s new engine is larger than before. It’s a 4-cylinder 1248cc powerplant from Kia’s Kappa family of motors. Power output is rated at 64kW with 123Nm of torque. The LX base-model features a 5-Speed manual box while there’s a four-stage auto for both LX and EX variants. The Picanto is no pocket rocket, but has enough pep to keep up with traffic, it’s best suited for around town blasts but once up to speed its well settled. Off the line the lightweight 850kg Picanto takes 11 seconds to reach 100km/h with the manual transmission, in auto form that stretches out to 12.9 seconds. It needs to be worked hard to get any real performance but as a city car the powertrain is certainly capable.

Handling is very good for an A-segment car, the MacPherson front struts and rear coupled torsion beam axle set up makes for a nicely refined ride. The Picanto doesn’t feel particularly narrow and stays flat during cornering, but only too a point, so amateur rallying antics aren’t advised. Kia has put a lot of effort into improving the noise levels in the Picanto and the results are noticable. Little wind or engine noise enters the cabin, making it one of the smoother and quieter vehicles in its class.

When it comes to safety the 2011 Picanto is well equipped for the money with some kit you wouldn’t expect to see in a cost-conscious vehicle. There’s an Electronic Stability Control system that works in with the electronic steering for greater stability when the car is cornering and braking on wet roads. There’s also a Vehicle Stability Management system that incorporates traction control, ABS braking, Brake Assist and Electronic Braking Distribution. This system also has Hill-start Assist Control to prevent the car rolling back for two seconds after the driver takes their foot off the brake pedal. The two LX models feature a six airbag package while the EX gets an additional seventh, knee bolster airbag.

All up, the 2011 Picanto is much improved over its predecessor. It drives well, is highly economical and has a dynamically styled, modern look. The range of equipment included in the various models is impressive and Kia’s ability to pack in some of the latest tech like stop/start fuel saving into a sub $20k car, deserves to be applauded. The Picanto’s diminutive size won’t suit the needs of some buyers but that’s no reflection on the value for money proposition this car offers. If you’re looking for a city runabout and you’re on limited funds then the 2011 Picanto makes a sensible option.

Pricing, which includes Kia’s 5-year/100,000km warranty programme and 24-hour Roadside assistance:

Picanto LX manual – $18,590
Picanto LX auto – $18,990
Picanto EX auto – $20,990

To find out more about the 2011 Kia Picanto - click here to visit the Kia NZ website.

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