Kia Picanto is the smallest car in the high-flying Korean brand’s range. It has been on sale here since 2016 and currently, with more than 80 per cent of total sales, it dominates the – admittedly very small – micro car market segment.

Small city cars have historically been poor sellers in Australia with its sprawling suburbs and cheap fuel which is a shame as these small and affordable economy cars are really all that many urban dwellers need.

The primary buyer profile for Picanto will be late-teen / early 20s females, with a smattering of baby boomers taking up the slack.

Those at the young end of the age scale typically have a three-point check list – cute styling, affordability and the latest in infotainment technology. The previous model ticked the first two boxes but missed out on the third, a problem which has now been fixed with this latest upgrade.

New Picanto is currently offered in two variants, S and GT-Line both powered by a 1.2-litre naturally-aspirated petrol engine and either manual or automatic transmission. A third model the GT is expected to be added towards the end of 2020. We don’t have specific details at this stage but the outgoing GT was a 1.0-litre turbo-petrol. We’ll pass on full specs and prices when it arrives.

Styling of Picanto (love that name, it sounds like it should mean something in Italian … but doesn’t) is fresh and contemporary. To our eyes the GT-Line variant that’s the subject of this test is just about the cutest car on Australian roads. Given the number of admiring looks it got plenty of others share that view.

Although it’s built in South Korea there is the European influence that is characteristic of all new Kia models penned by design chief Peter Schreyer.

An upgrade in June 2020 brought a new grille, projector headlights, new foglights, re-designed alloy wheels and rear bumper.

Picanto’s tallish body means there is ample headroom both front and rear for average-size occupants although its length limits boot space to just 255 litres. This is can be expanded to 1010 litres by folding the 60:40 second-row seat backs.

Although there are three rear seat belts shoulder space is limited, especially with three adult passengers abreast. Headrests are adjustable vertically, rare in this grade of vehicle.

There’s excellent and functional storage spaces including two adjustable cup holders and an alcove for a smartphone at the base of the front console with a USB port.

The 1.2-litre four-cylinder engine in the Picanto S and GT-Line generates 62 kilowatts of power and 122 Newton metres of torque at 4000 rpm.

Both models come with the choice of five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmissions.

Standard safety equipment included six airbags; enhanced ABS brakes with emergency stop signal; autonomous emergency braking; hill start assist; vehicle stability management; torque vectoring; reverse parking sensors; rear view camera; dust-sensing headlights; rear fog lights; daytime running lights; and two ISOFIX child seat anchor points.

GT-Line adds halogen projection headlights; with both the daytime running lights and rear fog lights upgraded to LED.

Advanced features such as blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and lane-keep assist aren’t available but, for a first car for new drivers that’s not necessarily a bad thing in that they will learn to get into good observational driving habits straight away.

Parents buying Picanto as a first car for their children will be reassured by it achieving a five-star ANCAP rating.

New for the 2020 Picanto is an excellent 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen which, in such a small car, dominates the dashboard. It’s easy to reach and operate with minimal distraction from the road ahead.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, both now with wireless connectivity, are now available.

Our test car was the automatic GT-Line Picanto in Astro Grey with red trim making it a real eye-catcher.

The tallish body provided excellent headroom and interior space that belied its small exterior. The front seats were comfortable and supportive but the absence of telescopic steering wheel adjustment meant pushing the driver’s seat back to compensate.

Performance from the 1.2-litre 62 kW / 122 Nm engine naturally-aspirated is pretty good with its limited outputs offset by a kerb weight of around 1000 kg.

Having only four forward ratios in the automatic can be a drawback in some country driving, but is generally fine around town.

Sharp and agile in its urban natural habitat the little Kia had no trouble keeping pace with traffic over the undulating terrain of the M1 Pacific Motorway to the north of Sydney. Only in steeper hills in the semi-rural segment of our test route did it struggle.

With SUVs and utes now the focus of most of our road tests it was a real treat to be able to zip in and out of even the tightest of parking spots with ease both by the Picanto’s size but also its excellent all-round visibility.

Fuel consumption is listed at 5.8 litres per 100 kilometres on the combined cycle. We averaged 6.8 L/100 km on our real-life test with fuel stops increased due to the 35-litre fuel tank.

Kia Picanto is a very attractive five-door city hatch car that’s loaded with standard equipment and comes in at a starting price of just $14,690 plus on-road costs with manual transmission.

It’s pleasant to drive, works well around town and isn’t too out of place in the country. Its low driveaway price is certainly appealing with its value equation topped up by Kia’s industry-leading seven-year, unlimited kilometre standard warranty.

City car punters have clearly already made up their minds on the merits of Picanto with four out five buyers in the segment heading for Kia dealerships.

If you’re looking for a sportier performance the upgraded turbo Picanto GT isn’t too far off.


Picanto S 1.2-litre petrol: $14,690 (manual), $16,290 (automatic)
Picanto GT-Line 1.2-litre petrol: $16,140 (manual), $17,740 (automatic)
Picanto GT 1.0-litre turbo-petrol: $18,990 (manual)
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Kia dealer for drive-away prices.

SPECIFICATIONS (Kia Picanto GT-Line 1.2-litre five-door hatch)

Capacity: 1.248 litres
Configuration: Four cylinders in line
Maximum Power: 62 kW @ 6000 rpm
Maximum Torque: 122 Nm @ 4000 rpm
Fuel Type: Petrol 91RON
Combined Fuel Cycle (ADR 81/02): 5.8 L/100km
CO2 Emissions: 134 g/km

Four-speed automatic

Length: 3595 mm
Wheelbase: 2400 mm
Width: 1595 mm
Height: 1485 mm
Turning Circle: 9.6 metres
Kerb Mass: 993 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 35 litres

Front: Ventilated disc
Rear: Solid disc

Seven years / unlimited km

About Alistair Kennedy

Alistair Kennedy is Automotive News Service and Marque Publishing's business manager and the company's jack-of-all-trades. An accountant by profession, he designs the Marque range of motoring book titles, operates the company's motoring bookshop on the NSW Central Coast and the associated web site, as well as its huge digital and hard copy database. Whenever we can escape from the office he does so to cover new vehicle releases and contributes news stories. Alistair's other interests include cricket and family history on which he has written three books.
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