CAPE TOWN, Western Cape – It's become quite clear that South Africans want crossovers in their driveways. Current entry-level offerings in this body shape, though, are limited to the (rapidly expanding) sub-four-metre segment, which include the likes of the Suzuki Vitara Brezza, Honda WR-V and Hyundai Venue. While there's certainly value to be found here, many of these models are approaching the R300 000 mark (or even heading beyond), which is simply too steep for some. In an attempt to make a crossover-type vehicle a little more accessible, Kia Motors South Africa has introduced an X-Line option for its A-segment hatchback, the Picanto.
The X-Line doesn’t merely add a more robust look to the Picanto, with its plastic cladding around the front, rear and sides, and its update grille and front bumper arrangement. To make it feel more like a crossover, the ride height has been raised by 15 mm as well. And, since the X-Line effectively replaces the Smart trim level as the Picanto’s flagship offering, the faux-crossover offers a plethora of standard features. These include LED head- and taillamps with auto-on functionality and a set of 15-inch alloy wheels.
The cabin of the X-Line is by no means budget, either. Here you’ll find various convenience and comfort features such as two-tone faux-leather upholstery for the seats, steering wheel and gear shifter; an armrest; and an 8,0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and a reverse camera display. For an additional R8 000, you can also specify a sunroof.
From the driver’s seat, the interior of the Picanto X-Line feels more upmarket than that of the Suzuki Ignis or Renault Sandero Stepway. While there's plenty of plastic, the level of perceived quality throughout the cabin is suitably high; impressively low levels of road noise further lift the experience. The engine, on the other hand, is easily audible from within the cabin, throughout the rev range.
Said engine resting under the bonnet is Kia’s familiar 1,25-litre four-pot MPI mill. This unchanged unit sends power to the front wheels via a four-speed self-shifter or a five-speed manual gearbox, with the latter the configuration we sampled on the day. The powertrain is, of course, tried and tested in the Picanto. With 61 kW of power on tap, it works well with the little hatchback’s low mass to offer a nippy and responsive driving experience. Coupled with a softly sprung suspension setup, fairly weighty steering feel and a smooth gear-shift action, the X-Line is a treat to pilot at low speeds ... just like the standard Picanto.
With a R237 995 price tag attached, the X-Line will have A-segment shoppers digging a little deeper into their pockets. While it’s undercut on price by the Ignis GLX, the Picanto X-Line does best the larger Sandero Stepway Plus and Figo Freestyle Trend derivatives, thus adding more competition into the mix of faux-crossover offerings in South Africa. Ultimately, though, the X-Line retains everything we like about the polished product that is the Picanto but adds a dash of crossover-inspired styling. Which, as we pointed out at the start, seems to be exactly what so many buyers want.
FAST FACTSModel: Kia Picanto 1,2 X-Line
Price: R237 995
Engine: 1,2-litre, four-cylinder, petrol
Power: 61 kW @ 6 000 r/min
Torque: 122 N.m @ 4 000 r/min
0-100 km/h: 11,45 seconds
Top Speed: 170 km/h
Fuel Consumption: 6,0 L/100 km
CO2: 166 g/km
Transmission: Five-speed manual
Maintenance Plan: Two-year/30 000 km service plan