Kia Picanto Review
"Tiny but mighty"
Kia Picanto review - front view, white, 2020

Kia Picanto review: quite possibly the best city car on sale

  • Published 4 May 2020
  • 6 minute read
  • By Gavin Braithwaite-Smith

Introduction

The Kia Picanto looks like a pouting face emoji, but it has nothing to be angry about. Not only is it arguably the best car in the Kia range, it’s also one of the best city cars you can buy. It really is that good.

We demand a lot from the modern city car. It must be small enough for congested streets, yet large enough for four adults and their luggage. It must be safe, packed with the latest tech, yet affordable enough to rival a mobile phone contract.

A city car with attitudeKia Picanto review - front view, driving, white, 2020 Available to lease Lease Now

It also needs to be good looking, great to drive and capable of impressing your mates. The Kia Picanto is all of these things and more, which is why it should be on your city car shortlist. It might be small, but it’s also mighty. Other cliches are available.

Leasing deals start from around £140 a month, which makes this one of the most affordable cars on the high street. What’s more, although you’re unlikely to require the full seven-year warranty, it demonstrates Kia’s faith in its product.

Read on to discover why the Kia Picanto will leave you grinning like a smiling face emoji.


Looks, tech and design

There are no fewer than nine trim levels available, which is about four too many, but at least you get some choice. If you decide what you really want from your city car, it will be easier to narrow the search to a couple of options.

You can rule out the entry-level Kia Picanto ‘1’. Bereft of body coloured door handles and alloy wheels, it has the look of a cheap rental car you might collect at Malaga airport. You don’t even get air-conditioning, electric rear windows or seat height adjustment. Insert pensive face emoji.

All the right detailsKia Picanto review - side view, white, 2020 Available to lease Lease Now

Things start to improve with the Picanto ‘2’, which adds the missing alloy wheels, air-conditioning, and electric rear windows, plus adds steering wheel-mounted controls and Bluetooth to the mix. Given that it costs just £10 a month to upgrade, I think it’s worth the additional outlay.

Better still, try one of the higher trim levels. Larger alloy wheels and faux leather upholstery will make the ownership experience a touch more pleasurable, while the upgraded headlights and 7.0-inch touchscreen display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are must-have features in 2020.

The flagship Picanto GT-Line S is like a big car dressed in a small suit. For less than £15,000 cash, you get automatic air-con, a wireless mobile phone charger, cruise control, rear parking sensors, an electric sunroof, and heating for the front seats and steering wheel. Another cliche alert: it’s all the city car you could ever need.

A pair of X-Line models complete the range. Designed to mimic a crossover, the Picanto X-Line has raised ride height, plastic body armour and silver skid plates. I’d say it’s a city car for the urban jungle, but this would send the cliche-o-meter over the edge.

There’s no doubt the GT-Line and X-Line models present the Picanto in its best light, but it remains a good-looking car across the range.

Interior quality is a strong pointKia Picanto review - interior, 2020 Available to lease Lease Now

All versions are five-door, which will please your mates more than you, but at least you won’t have to tilt the front seat forward to access the rear. Headroom is a little restricted for the tallest rear seat passengers, but the Picanto will seat four adults with ease.

In the back, the Picanto boasts a class-leading 255-litre boot, which extends to 1,010 litres with the rear seats folded down.

Quality wise, if you haven’t travelled in a Kia for a while, prepare to be impressed. Not only does the Picanto boast a high-class cabin, it’s also well packaged, with an upmarket feel on the higher trim levels.

The 3.8-inch display on the ‘1’ and ‘2’ models is a bit uninspiring, but the 7.0-inch version is clear and concise. I also like the physical buttons on either side of the screen, which makes it easier to operate on the move.

Just one piece of advice: it’s a bit grim in the back seat, as though all the attention has been focused on the front. I’ve sat in bus shelters that are more exciting than the Picanto’s rear bench.

Or try: Our Fiat 500 review


Driving

If you enjoy driving, opt for the Kia Picanto GT-Line with the 1.0-litre turbocharged engine. The three-cylinder engine delivers a rorty soundtrack as you make your way to 62mph in 9.8 seconds.

The steering is nicely weighted and it corners like a housefly in a broom cupboard. Honestly, it’s like a fun-size Ford Fiesta ST with a seven-year warranty and a group 10 insurance rating.

A properly fun little car to driveKia Picanto review - rear view, driving, white, 2020Available to leaseLease Now

In all cases, the Picanto is great fun to chuck around in the city, but it also feels mature and comfortable over long distances. It’s a grippy little thing, which will encourage you to corner faster than you might do in other city cars.

The non-turbocharged 1.0-litre engine and the 1.25-litre engine need to be worked hard to get the best from them, which can make the Picanto feel coarse and noisy when you’re really on it. Because there’s no sixth gear, it can also seem a tad loud at motorway speeds. A four-speed automatic is available on the 1.25, but this is best avoided.

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Cost and economy

Do you want some good news? Some really good news? The Kia Picanto GT-Line S with the turbocharged engine is available for around £190 a month. When you consider the level of equipment and amount of enjoyment on offer, this is one of the leasing deals of 2020.

Sure, you can save £50 a month by opting for an entry-level Picanto, but take a moment to consider the next four years of your life. Do you really want to slum it in a Picanto that’s devoid of charm and toys? Of course you don’t, which is why you need the turbocharged version in your life.

The great news keeps on coming, because the 1.0 turbo is more economical than the 1.25, and in the real world likely to be no less efficient than the non-turbocharged 1.0. Officially, the 1.0 turbo and the 1.25 will return around 50mpg, while the non-turbo 1.0 reckons on up to 55mpg.

 

As cheap as cheips - but doesn't look itKia Picanto review - interior, side view, 2020Available to lease Lease Now

If you’re a new driver or hoping to run a car on a tight budget, the Picanto ‘1’ slots into insurance group four, so it should be the cheapest to insure. Other cars fall into groups five to eight, with the exception of the GT-Line and X-Line models powered by the 1.0 turbo engine, which hit group 10. That’s still 40 groups below the most expensive level in the UK.

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Verdict

The Kia Picanto represents all that is great about the modern city car. Sticking my neck out, I’d say that building a safe, reliable, stylish and well-equipped small car for between £10,000 and £15,000 is more of an achievement than building a six-figure hypercar with an unlimited budget.

Just a few years ago, the Picanto was a car you’d buy when you couldn’t afford something better. Today, it’s arguably the best city car all-rounder on sale, especially with the likes of the Skoda Citigo and Seat Mii venturing down electric avenue.

This is a car you can buy with your head and your heart. Insert smiley with hearts emoji and sensible face emoji. Is there a sensible face emoji? If not, Kia should make one – and release it with a seven-year warranty.

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