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The first two generations captured the hearts of local buyers. Will the new Picanto repeat this feat?

Where do you draw the line between a totally new vehicle and a substantial facelift? The Picanto, Kia’s latest addition to the South African market, is a case in point. Kia calls it a new-generation model and, certainly from a design point of view, it is exactly that with a nose, tail and every single body panel different to its predecessor. With a larger tiger-nose grille, angular front bumper and sharper headlamp design, Kia design guru Peter Schreyer has given the Picanto a more aggressive appearance. That said, changes to the rear lamp and bumper design deviate less from those of the previous model.

Under the skin, though, the changes are minor. The Picanto shares its platform and engine line-up with the outgoing model. Therefore, at first glance, all the new car appears to offer is a fresh exterior/interior design and an improved specification level. Well, not quite. For one thing, 44% of the new Picanto’s body is now composed of Advanced High Strength Steel (AHSS) that, promises Kia, makes it far more rigid. With a static torsional stiffness increase of 32%, it is safer, too. Then there are the changes to its dimensions. Despite being based on the previous car’s platform, Kia has fettled the measurements and, while it may be the same length as the previous car, the wheelbase and rear overhang have increased by 15 mm and 10 mm respectively, while the front overhang has been shortened by 25 mm. It’s also 5 mm taller, with ground clearance decreased by 11 mm. Inside, the dashboard has been raised by 15 mm to offer more kneeroom.

Our measurements indicate that these alterations reflect an increased amount of interior space, with front headroom up by a whopping 81 mm, while the boot benefits from an extra 32 litres. These figures are not class-leading, but they’re certainly not far off. This top-of-the-range Smart model is also impressively specced, and in the cabin you’ll find such luxuries as a new seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system with MirrorLink functionalities and a rear-view camera display (unfortunately, only on the Smart variant), a leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, gear knob and armrest, and aluminium pedals. It boasts projector headlamps, as well as LED daytime-running lights and taillamps, plus a set of 15-inch alloy wheels; all features relatively rare in an A-segment hatch. You do, however, pay for them and this Picanto has a near-R200 000 price-tag, which is a R12 000 increase over the 1,2 EX. A two-year/30 000 km service plan costs R3 952,59, but a class-leading warranty is standard.

No doubt Kia is catering for the buying-down trend currently cascading through all vehicle segments and has specced this model to catch those who might have previously been looking at a more basic B-segment option. These additions do go a long way to making the Picanto feel upmarket and refined, but at this price point, the Kia is fighting with the likes of the Volkswagen Up! and Fiat 500 0,9 TwinAir, contenders that also offer impressive refinement with an upmarket presence. As mentioned in our three-way comparative test against the Suzuki Celerio 1,0 GA and Hyundai i10 1,1 Motion, a major concern we had with the previous Picanto was its lack of safety features for the base models, particularly the omission of ABS. The new car goes some way to remedying this and, whereas the base Start model still has no ABS and only a single airbag, the rest of the range does adopt this crucial safety braking system.

Still missing, however, are segment essentials such as traction and electronic stability control, all features we think are important in modern traffic conditions and should be available at this price point on a new vehicle. This is something that has affected the Picanto’s Euro NCAP results and the standard model was rewarded three stars. In other international markets, the Picanto can be fitted with a safety pack that includes active emergency braking and ESC with torque vectoring. This model was tested separately by Euro NCAP and earned a four-star rating.

As mentioned before, the Picanto carries over its powertrain from the previous generation and, like the recently launched, new-generation Rio’s powerplant, the Picanto’s naturally aspirated 1,2-litre four-cylinder Kappa engine loses some power (4 kW) but gains torque (2 N.m). Despite Kia claiming the new Picanto is 23 kg lighter, our test model shows it to be 25 kg heavier than the 1,2 EX model we tested in our December 2011 issue.

But it’s a minor difference that has no effect on performance. In fact, this test unit was quicker than that 1,2 EX, registering a 0-100 km/h time of 11,45 seconds. Not only does this better the previous model we tested by 1,33 seconds, it’s also 0,55 seconds faster than Kia’s claim. This new Picanto also posted notably improved in-gear acceleration figures. This could be attributed to the fact that the final drive is shorter than before, and that goes some way to explaining the 11,68-second improvement from 120 to 140 km/h in top gear. Fitted with ABS and larger front brake discs, the Picanto delivered a commendable braking performance, with an average 100-0 km/h time of 2,95 seconds – and this is despite being fitted with fuel-saving, less grippy Kumho EcoWing tyres.

Adding a little extra dynamism to the Picanto’s handling is the revised, electrically assisted steering, which now is more direct, together with front and rear anti-roll bars that have been stiffened by 2 and 5%, respectively. On the road, the Picanto feels sharper and more responsive than before, especially at lower speeds. The steering system, gear shifter and pedals are fluid in their actions, adding a certain fun factor to this A-segment hatch, although those tyres do start protesting early. They’re also quite rowdy at highway speeds. The upside of these tyres, though, is that, along with the recalibrated engine, the Picanto improved on its consumption figure on our fuel route, registering 5,3 L/100 km (very close to the Volkswagen Up!’s figure of 5,1 L/100 km). That bests our fuel-index figure of 6,0 L/100 km.
CAPE TOWN – Over the past few years, there has been a hive of activity in the local A-segment, with both fresh and refreshed contenders joining the jocund jostle for position … and a few stalwarts bowing out, too.

In addition, a handful of somewhat larger offerings (such as the ubiquitous Volkswagen Polo Vivo, popular Toyota Etios and big-on-value Renault Sandero) have muscled in on the traditional city car's pricing territory, offering more space for similar money, while a couple of crossover variants have also been added to the mix (think cut-price Renault Kwid and charming Suzuki Ignis).

This, then, is Kia's answer to the increasingly stiff and varied competition: the restyled, third-generation Picanto. And the Korean automaker appears to be taking direct aim at the Volkswagen Up! right off the bat, challenging the sophisticated little German for maturity and refinement as it seeks to return to the sales summit of the segment.

Has it grown?

It may not be any larger than its forebear, but with its axles shuffled slightly further apart, the latest version of Kia's smallest offering boasts a smidgen more cabin space and as many as 50 additional litres of luggage capacity (Kia claims a class-leading total of 255 litres, or more than 1 000 with the 60:40 split rear seats folded down). Perhaps more important than a few extra millimetres of wheelbase, though, is the marked improvement in the quality of materials used inside.

While we were afforded access to only the range-topping, kit-filled Smart derivative (read about standard specifications and pricing of the rest of the range here) – besides a short but useful run in the outgoing model – first impressions suggest the fit-and-finish is vastly improved over the already solid second-generation Picanto (which debuted as long ago as 2011), with most surfaces in the new model eminently more pleasing to both the touch and the eye. A further highlight, in addition to the comfortable, dual-tone leather front seats, is the seven-inch colour touchscreen display (supporting Apple CarPlay and Android Auto) – again, exclusive to flagship Smart variants – that sits proud of the facia.

This newfound big-car feel extends to the ride, with the latest Picanto delivering both improved road holding and a dash more comfort. While the torsion beam setup has been retained (albeit in a slightly modified form) at the rear, stiffer anti-roll bars and a quicker steering rack help provide the city car with sharper reflexes. On-road refinement, too, is greatly improved (although tyre roar over coarse tarmac is difficult to ignore), with engine noise becoming intrusive only once the tachometer needles heads well into the second half of its available travel.

Engine line-up unchanged

So, what's under the bonnet? Well, the naturally aspirated engine line-up has been carried over from the outgoing range, although the Seoul-based automaker has executed a few tweaks in the name of efficiency. The entry-level 1,0-litre three-cylinder mill now makes 49 kW and 96 N.m (the previous version was worth 51 kW and 94 N.m), while the 1,2-litre four-pot sends 62 kW (down from 65 kW) and 122 N.m (up from 120 N.m) to the front wheels.

Why no 1,0-litre turbo-triple, which has already been announced for other some other markets? Well, Kia's local distributor told us that it was "pushing hard" to bring this 74 kW/172 N.m unit to South Africa at a later stage, but admitted that it would have to come in at somewhat of a premium (and render the forced-induction Picanto far pricier than all of its direct rivals).

Still, the free-breathing 1,2-litre – which out-punches virtually all of its A-segment rivals – has little trouble hauling the sub-1 000 kg Picanto around (and is certainly a better bet than the 1,0-litre should you often venture outside of the city), while the five-speed manual and light clutch-action lend themselves to fuss-free shifting. An ageing four-speed torque converter is also available should you prefer not to use your left foot.

More choice...

The local range has expanded from seven to 11 variants thanks to the addition of a fourth trim level, but Kia Motors SA has managed to keep the pricing bookends largely unchanged. The base model – which now comes standard with an audio system – costs R5 000 more than before (at R134 995), while the R195 995 range-topper can no longer be specified in automatic form (had a self-shifting 1,2-litre Smart derivative been included, we're told, it would have been positioned untenably close to the R215 000-mark).

As many as five of the seven variants in the outgoing range lacked ABS, and Kia Motors SA has thankfully rectified this shortfall in safety – for the most part, anyway. Now, only the three base Start-badged derivatives (each with just a driver's airbag) do without what we believe is an essential safety feature, while the eight other models add a passenger airbag to the mix. Bluetooth, meanwhile, is now standard across the range, but a service plan is unfortunately still a cost extra. That said, the Picanto does pip its rivals in terms of its unlimited kilometre warranty, which stretches as long as five years.

The Smart derivative we drove is impressively equipped, featuring standard items such as LED daytime running lights, LED tail-lamps, LED indicators, electrically folding (heated) side-mirrors, aluminium pedals, rear parking sensors, a reversing camera, 15-inch alloys as well as the infotainment system and leather upholstery mentioned above.


Prospective buyers in this segment are positively spoilt for choice. Sure, the market is due for yet more change – what with the Hyundai i10 soon to be discontinued locally (leaving the Grand i10 to do duty as the Korean automaker’s entry-level model) and the Spark set to exit the stage along with the rest of Chevrolet's wares at the end of 2017 – but the Picanto still faces plenty of competition, both from within the A-segment and outside it.

So, what exactly does Kia Motors SA hope to achieve with its new Picanto? Well, the local distributor has lofty ambitions indeed, boldly aiming to double its monthly sales total to 650 units, which would put the city car at the very top of the A-segment once again.

An achievable target? First impressions suggest it is. You see, the very best contenders in the city car segment offer either a measured maturity (think VW Up!) or outright value (like the well-equipped yet aggressively priced Suzuki Celerio). And the third-generation Picanto has found a pleasing middle ground thanks to an even wider spread of derivatives than before and a notable improvement in comfort, build quality and overall refinement.

2020 Kia Picanto 1.2 Smart for sale

Ref No: 1367563

Full Manufacturer Specifications

Standard - standard Optional - optional
  • Cloth upholstery: partial
  • Leather bolster spartial leather: Standard
  • Leather upholstery: partial cloth + leather
  • Seats quantity: 5
  • Split rear seat: Standard
  • Folding rear seat: Standard
  • Air conditioning: Standard
  • Cup bottle holders: Standard
  • Antilock braking system (ABS): Standard
  • Electronic brake distribution (EBD): Standard
  • Driver airbag: Standard
  • Front passenger airbag: Standard
  • Airbag quantity: 2
  • ISOFIX child seat mountings: outer rear
  • Alloy wheelsrims: Standard
  • Power steering: Standard
  • Multifunction steering wheel controls: Standard
  • On board computer multi information display: Standard
  • Bluetooth connectivity: Standard
  • Voice control: Standard
  • Aux in auxiliary input: Standard
  • USB port: Standard
  • Central locking: remote
  • Remote central locking: Standard
  • Electric windows: front + rear
  • Electric adjust mirrors: Standard
  • Heated exterior mirrors: Standard
  • Sun roof: Standard
  • Daytime driving running lights: LED
  • Light sensor auto on off lights: Standard
  • Frontfog lamps lights: Standard
  • Highlevel 3rd brakelight: Standard
  • Park distance control PDC: rear + rear camera
  • Camera for park distance control: rear
  • Metallic pearl escent paint: Optional
  • Fuel Type: petrol
  • Fuel range average: 700 km
  • Driven wheels: front
  • Driven wheels quantity: 2
  • Gearratios quantity: 5
  • Gearshift: manual
  • Transmission type: manual
  • Front tyres: 185/55 R15
  • Reartyres: 185/55 R15
  • Length: 3595 mm
  • Width excl mirrors incl mirrors: 1595 mm
  • Height: 1495 mm
  • Wheel base: 2400 mm
  • Ground clearance minimum maximum: 151 mm
  • Load volume / capacity: 255-1010 L
  • Load volume / capacity: 1010 L
  • Unladen/tare/kerb weight: 961 kg
  • Gross weight (GVM): 1370 kg
  • Fuel tank capacity (incl reserve): 35l
  • Fuel consumption urban: 6.5 l/100km
  • Fuel consumption extra urban: 4.1 l/100km
  • Fuel consumption average: 5.0 l/100km
  • CO2 emissions average: 116g/km
  • Power maximum: 61 kW
  • Power maximum total: 61 kW
  • Power peak revs: 6000 r/min
  • Power to weight ratio: 63.5 kW/ton
  • Torque maximum: 122 Nm
  • Torque peak revs: 4000 r/min
  • Torque maximum total: 122 Nm
  • Torque to weight ratio: 127 Nm/ton
  • Acceleration 0-100 kmh: n/as
  • Maximum top speed: 170 km/h
  • Engine position/ location: front
  • Engine capacity: 1248 cc
  • Engine size: 1.2l
  • enginedetailshort: 1.2
  • Engine + detail: 1.2
  • Cylinder layout: inline
  • Cylinders: 4
  • Cylinder layout + quantity: i4
  • Cam: dohc
  • Valves per cylinder: 4
  • Valves quantity: 16
  • Variable camvalve timing: Standard
  • Warranty time (years): 5
  • Warranty distance (km): unlimited km
  • Service plan: Standard
  • Service plan time (years): 2
  • Service plan time (distance): 30000 km
  • Roadside assistance time: 5
  • Service interval (distance): 15000 km
  • Service interval (time): 1
  • Brand: Kia
  • Status: c
  • Segment: passenger car
  • MMcode: 32105380
  • MMVariant: PICANTO 1.2 SMART
  • MMintrodat: 2017-06-01
  • Introdate: 2020-01-24
  • DuoportarecordID: KiaPica3h37

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