After a successful toe-in-the-water test on the last of the previous generation Picantos, Kia Australia has just launched the new third generation of its smallest model downunder.

The biggest feature of new Picanto is its bold styling. There is nothing harder in the automotive business than making a boxy car with good interior space attractive. Kia’s designers in the company’s styling studios in South Korea and Europe, the two biggest markets for the model, have done an excellent job.

Though it carries a family resemblance to the just superseded Picanto the shape is bold, with a strong dose of cheekiness.

The front the gen-three Picanto has been extended not only by connecting the headlights to the grille, but also making the lights so large they almost reach the windshield.

The tail is probably the best area. Though it carries the theme of the old Picanto it has plenty of character of the sort that makes it to be easily distinguished from hundreds of metres back. Love it.

Inside there’s a bright and bouncy look and seats that can carry four adults if the taller ones in front are willing to give up a couple of notches of legroom. Three young-uns plus mum and dad really don’t need a car bigger than this.


A longer wheelbase provides extra space and a larger boot, the latter up by more than 25 per cent – from 250 litres to 255. With the rear seatbacks folded, they go almost flat, interior volume is a very handy 1010 litres, which is up from 871 litres. That’s impressive.

Power is provided by an uprated version of the four-cylinder 1.25-litre engine in the superseded Picanto. It produces 62 kW of power and 122 Nm of torque, the latter at 4000 revs. Not big figures, but this is small car. More about performance in the Driving segment of this report.

The previous Picanto was only offered with four-speed automatic transmission as the local importer felt that the great majority of drivers wanted that. However there’s been a change in policy and a five-speed manual is now on the price list.

Which brings us to a peculiar stage of the marketing process. Picanto auto has a recommended price of $15,690 driveaway. The manual is listed at $14,190 – to which on-road charges have to be added. Typically the pre-delivery costs are likely to bring the manual Picanto to much the same price as the automatic! Kia Australia says potential buyers should try to haggle the driveaway price of the manual to a lower level. We will leave you to it…


Our initial road testing was carried out from Brisbane airport north along the M1 for while, then up into the interesting scenic roads that through Maleny, Montville and Nambour to finish up for the technical presentations and an overnight stop in Noosa. The next morning we drove back to Brisbane airport on the boring but sensible motorways.

Thus it is was a typical weekend or holiday drive. We didn’t get to sample a Picanto in its natural home areas of the suburbs. That will come later when we borrow a car for our full week’s road test.

Entry to all seats is easy as Picanto sits quite high, around the same as larger hatches. It doesn’t come to quite the slide-in seat height of small SUVs, but is close to it.

Picanto doesn’t have a lot of performance and the shortage of gear ratios was a bit of a pain at times in the hilly areas we traversed. Torque peaks at an apparently high 4000 revs, but the engine has plenty of pull before then.

The manual gearbox and clutch are light in its actions and the auto can be shifted from Drive to Third by a simple sideways movement.

Handling is very good, partly because a serious amount of suspension and steering modification was made in Australian by local engineers. The little Picanto turns nicely into bends and provides good feedback through the wheel and the seat of the pants.

Ride comfort remains good even on bumpy backroads. However, there’s more tyre noise than we like, particularly on coarse-chip surfaces. This could be prove a problem so, if you’re considering a Kia Picanto and are likely to be on back roads it would be wise to add those road conditions to your private test drive.

Kia Picanto gives you a lot of stylish fun for a very moderate price and this new gen-three version seems sure to build on the already successful sales of the model it replaces. And don’t forget Kia’s impressive seven-year warranty.

Definitely one to add to your short list.

About Ewan Kennedy

Ewan Kennedy, a long-time car enthusiast, was Technical Research Librarian with the NRMA from 1970 until 1985. He worked part-time as a freelance motoring journalist from 1977 until 1985, when he took a full-time position as Technical Editor with Modern Motor magazine. Late in 1987 he left to set up a full-time business as a freelance motoring journalist. Ewan is an associate member of the Society of Automotive Engineers - International. An economy driving expert, he set the Guinness World Record for the greatest distance travelled in a standard road vehicle on a single fuel fill. He lists his hobbies as stage acting, travelling, boating and reading.
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