Kia’s baby Picanto hatch was last upgraded in June, 2020. It saw a refreshed, more
distinctive appearance and greater differentiation for higher grade models.

The so-called ‘tiger-nose’ grille remains sleek and sporty but with a sharper and
more assertive appearance.

Below the grille is a restyled lower air intake, magnifying the aggressive look of the
front end while the rear boasts a new bumper design with dual exhaust tips and a
wider, more aggressive posture.

New design 16-inch alloy wheels were also added.

Picanto GT can be identified by contrast body accents, twin exhausts, sports body kit
and a GT badge.

It is available in Clear White with the premium colours Titanium Silver, Aurora Black
and Signal Red, a $520 option.

The GT costs significantly more than it did when it was launched. Back then in 2019,
the GT was $17,990 driveaway and at that price why wouldn’t you buy one?

Fast forward almost four years and the price has climbed to $20,490, another $2500
more for the same car — and that’s before on-road costs. Quite frankly some of the
gloss has come off.

On top of this, we’re still trying to work out what exactly the buyer profile is for the
Picanto GT.

It’s unlikely to be women because the GT is not available with an automatic while
young blokes in our experience tend to give pocket hatches a wide berth in favour of
something more masculine.

For those who must have an auto, there’s the $17,440 look-alike GT-Line model, but
it has a less powerful 1.2-litre engine.

That leaves older buyers, most probably commuters, who want something with a bit
of spark that will keep them out of the slow lane – and that importantly doesn’t use
much fuel.

The Picanto GT ticks both these boxes, with its tiny, zippy turbocharged powerplant.
Comfort and convenience extend to manual air, leather look seats with red accents,
cruise control, auto lights (but not wipers), LED daytime running lights, reverse
parking sensors, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, driver seat height
adjustment and power windows front and rear with auto-up on driver’s window.

Service intervals are 12 months/10,000km and like all Kias, it comes with a 7-Year
Warranty, 7-Year Fixed Price Servicing and 7-Year Roadside Assist.

Infotainment consists of an 8.0-inch touchscreen, six-speaker audio, Bluetooth
connectivity, AM/FM radio, plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (both wireless),
together with 12 volt and USB charge ports in front of the console.

You can connect two phones at once, but alas it misses out on DAB+ digital radio
and wireless charging, as well as satellite navigation.

Not big fans of Android Auto but thought we’d give it another go. It took several
attempts to connect, dropped out 10km from destination and the phone was almost
flat by the time we arrived.

Back to the cable. Sheez!

And don’t forget you need an internet connection.

At 998cc, with three cylinders, turbocharging and direct injection, it produces 74kW
of power and 171Nm of torque, the latter from 1500 to 4000 rpm.

It’s paired with a five-speed manual transmission. There is no automatic, so don’t
bother asking.

Tested in 2017, Picanto gets four out of five stars for safety.

The previous model got five. It appears to have been marked down because it lacks
adaptive cruise control.

Safety encompasses six airbags, reversing camera, forward collision warning and an
auto emergency braking (AEB) system which operates at city and interurban speeds.

It’s also fitted with vehicle stability management, brake-based torque vectoring, ABS,
ESC and Hill Assist Control.

Five seatbelts are optimistic. The chances of fitting three adults across the back are
Buckley’s and none, exacerbated by limited legroom and a lack of rear air outlets.

Space in the front isn’t bad, with a manual-adjust driver’s seat, driver’s footrest, and
steering wheel that is rake and reach adjustable — but you’re likely to bump elbows
with your passenger.

While there’s plenty of storage in the centre console and even a tiny lidded console
box, trying to find room for two full-sized drink bottles is a challenge.

It’s key start and instrumentation comes in the form of two traditional analogue
gauges that flank a central 4.2-inch information panel where speed can be displayed

Red highlights, contrast stitching and alloy pedals combine to give the cabin a sporty

But the star attraction of this model is the tiny turbocharged engine. Apart from some
throttle flare the manual change is easy and fairly forgiving to use. The trick is not to
hurry gear changes. Slot home the gear, then take a breath before letting out the
clutch pedal and don’t lift off too soon.

You’ll find it works a lot better that way. Trying to rush the process will result in
missed gears and a surge when you let out the clutch, drawing enquiring looks from
your co-pilot.

The car cruises easily and has no trouble with hills, but you need to keep the revs up
to maintain turbo boost — without boost you haven’t got much of anything.

It’s a single-scroll turbocharger paired with an electric wastegate motor. This
improves turbocharger performance while scavenging clean air for the engine to re-
use for combustion. At the same time, it allows the wastegate to open to improve the
flow of spent exhaust gases.

It is an innovative system which allows higher low-end torque, more immediate
response at any throttle opening and improved fuel economy at high engine loads.

To go with the turbo power, the GT’s suspension has benefited from some fine
tuning by Kia’s local ride and handling team.

Lower profile 195/45 R16 rubber brings more grip and predictability when pushing
towards the limit (as if).

The spare by the way is a space (and weight) saver.

Ride quality can be harsh at times, but curiously not unpleasant. Perhaps this could
wear thin over time. Pushing hard on third rate the car remains surprisingly
composed and handles corners in a controlled fashion, with some wheel hop at

Note too GT scores rear disc brakes, something of a rarity in this segment.

Those fancy-looking tailpipes are not connected to the exhaust system by the way.
The rear diffuser hides a rather normal muffler with two small downturned outlets.

Rated at 5.2L/100km, we were getting 5.8L/100km after 540km.

Picanto GT is fun and obviously fills a need for some drivers.

Manual transmissions, even in sporty models, are becoming few and far between
these days.

Even for $2500 more the price is still attractive, but let’s not get carried away
because a Polo GTI it ain’t.

Looks: 7.5/10
Performance: 7/10
Safety: 7/10
Thirst: 8/10
Practicality: 7.5/10
Comfort: 7/10
Tech: 7.5/10
Value: 7.5/10
Overall: 7.4/10


Picanto S: $15,990 (manual), $17,590 (automatic)
Picanto GT-Line: $17,440 (manual), $19,040 (automatic)
Picanto GT Turbo: $20,490 (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 1.0-litre turbo five-door hatch)

Capacity: 1.0 litre
Configuration: Three cylinders in line, turbocharged
Maximum Power: 74 kW @ 4500 rpm
Maximum Torque: 172 Nm @ 1500-4000 rpm
Fuel Type: 91 RON petrol
Combined Fuel Cycle (ADR 81/02): 5.2 L/100km
CO2 Emissions: 122 g/km

DRIVELINE: Five-speed manual (no auto)

Length: 3595 mm
Wheelbase: 2400 mm
Width: 1595 mm
Height: 1485 mm
Turning Circle: 9.4 metres
Kerb Mass: 1012 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 35 litres

Front: 256 mm ventilated disc
Rear: 234 mm solid disc

Seven years / unlimited kilometres

About Chris Riley

Chris Riley has been a journalist for 40 years. He has spent half of his career as a writer, editor and production editor in newspapers, the rest of the time driving and writing about cars both in print and online. His love affair with cars began as a teenager with the purchase of an old VW Beetle, followed by another Beetle and a string of other cars on which he has wasted too much time and money. A self-confessed geek, he’s not afraid to ask the hard questions - at the risk of sounding silly.
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