Kia fashions Picanto into a City slicker

editorial image

Every now and then, Kia launches a new edition of its Originals series and, this time round, it’s the Picanto City.

Bluetooth, iPod connection, metallic paint and tiny 14-inch alloy wheels are part of a very good deal.

Kia says its Originals models stem from the idea of a fashion collection, being frequently updated with distinct styles and personalities.

Well, I’m looking at the Picanto City and I’m not really thinking Victoria Beckham or Marc Jacobs.

I’m thinking about how much money I’m going to save because, when all’s said and done, Kia buyers are still looking for top value. Fortunately, they’ll find it here.

You might well know that the Picanto is offered with a choice of 1.0-litre and 1.2-litre engines.

If you’re really up to speed, you’ll also know that the 1.0-litre is the better city car.

Therefore, if you’re launching a Picanto variant called the City, it makes all kinds of sense to have it powered by that characterful little three-cylinder motor.

Yes, there is only 69bhp under your right foot and it’ll take a leisurely 13.9 seconds to get to 60mph, but does that really matter? The 1.0-litre engine can step the Picanto off the line to 20mph or so quite briskly — and that’s really all you need in town.

The handling is better than ever before in this second-generation Picanto – and its predecessor wasn’t bad.

This design gets a revised version of the Mk 1’s suspension system, with the front end tuned for better straight-line stability and Kia reckons it has not only improved the ride with softer springs but made the handling a little keener with a much stiffer rear axle that helps quell understeer.

The Picanto’s all-disc braking set-up, which is standard on the City, is backed up with standard ABS anti-lock, electronic brake force distribution and emergency brake assist systems.

There’s also electronic stability control on hand to bail you out if you exceed the grip of the Picanto’s tiny tyres. Despite its almost comical rubberwear, the Picanto records some very good stopping distances from the 62mph benchmark. Its distance of 41.0 metres is amongst the best in the citycar class.

The City, offered only in three-door form, features a signature red grille, 14-inch alloy wheels, chrome door handles, heated door mirrors and front fog lights.

Metallic paint is a standard feature and the model is offered in Blaze Red or Bright Silver.

The cabin is cleanly styled and again it’s clear that Kia is forging its own personality and brand identity on its cars. The “three cylinder” instrument panel design, featuring deep-set dials, is spread across the Kia range, while the centre console brings the air conditioning and stereo controls within easy reach with big, easy to operate buttons.

Metallic finishes lift the feel of the fascia and while some of the plastics are a little hard to the touch, the overall effect is an interior that punches well above its price point.

There’s a £1,600 premium to pay to buy the City version of this 1.0-litre three-door Picanto rather than the standard Air model.

That takes the total asking figure to well over £10,000, a price that some might see as being a little self-consciously large in a market now offering super-budget brands.

I’m thinking of Dacia, for example, whose much bigger Sandero hatch can be bought in top-spec form for a good deal less.

The Picanto, though, feels a class or two ahead of the Sandero and, if that’s what Kia has been aiming for in these past few years, then mission has truly been accomplished. This is no longer the bottom tier of car ownership. The Picanto has been promoted.