- Two engines – prices pretty much unchanged
- Great ride, especially with the larger wheels
- Really, it’s luxury at a lower price
ONCE UPON A TIME, and not so long ago, did you know that Kia – at one time regarded rudely as ‘that little car from Korea’- was No.1 in the JP Power with the fewest new-car faults, beating all the established brands from Mercedes-Benz and BMW down to Land Rover?
Or that after design guru Peter Schreyer left Audi (where he designed the awesome Audi R8) and took his skills to the Hyundai/Kia operation the effect was a huge rise in sales until Kia, in 2016, commanded a huge 25% of the small-car market segment, globally?
Then Renault and VW got their acts together to separately create the Renault Kwid and VW Up! entry-level models and the race was on again. That required extra effort from Seoul and the result is the 2017 Kia Picanto which Carman’s Corner drove on its South African launch in the Western Cape (July 11 2017).
It’s essentially the same platform and has exactly the same overall dimensions as the model it replaces but the wheels have been pushed further cornerwise to increase the wheelbase and consequently cabin and boot space.
Prices are close to the vehicles the replace, ranging from R135 000 to R196 000 (full list at bottom of feature).
Boldly, Kia SA’s marketing director David Schiff claimed during the launch presentation of his new baby: “Really, the latest Kia Picanto is the only choice in the A segment. It brings cutting-edge design with very high specification levels.”
Its main rival in South Africa, Chevrolet’s Spark, is leaving leaving the country with the impending disappearance of Opel-sourced product so Sieff is targeting 650 unit sales a month – adding to the more than 1.4-million Picanto sales since its introduction as a funny, but sweet, little thing back in 2004.
CHOICE OF TWO ENGINES
The 2017 model is a major makeover with gadgets you wouldn’t expect to see on a small car. The emphasis is on ride comfort, up-to-the-minute technology that includes a 19cm pop-up information screen and a redesign of the whole facia and its instrument clusters powered by a choice of two engines, a three-cylinder one-litre and 1.25-litre four-cylinder capable of, respectively, 49kW/95Nm/14.3sec to 100 and 61kW/122Nm/12.0sec to 100.
Lower-specced units have a large, ‘floating’ interface at the centre of the facia with a 9.5cm monochrome TFT LCD audio system, with clear buttons to control the system’s functions. Auxiliary and USB ports are at the base of the centre console.
High-spec models have a rear parking camera with direction guide lines; the eternal mirrors have power adjustment and a sunroof is available as another option.
The engines are the same as in the previous model and kept, Sieff, says, “simply because they have proved so reliable”.
Depending on model, there’s a choice of five-speed manual or four-speed auto, but whichever, Kia can provide a choice of 11 vibrant and cheerful body colours. And Bluetooth is standard across the range – but note that anti-lock brakes are not included with entry units.
If you were presented with only the facia assembly in a photograph you’d think it was from a much more expensive vehicle, so here it is:
Carrying stuff has also been improved, thanks to the longer wheelbase. Sieff says the boot, complete with split-level trays, is the biggest among the Picanto’s competitors at 250 litres but accommodates more than 1010 litres with the rear seats folded.
The Cape Town launch was over the provinces clean and un-potholed rural back roads and freeways. The car’s shell is lighter (by 12kg) than the previous model and, more important, is way more torsionally rigid thank to the introduction of thinner but higher-grade steel. It shows in the ride…
IT’S OH SO QUIET…
Kia explains: “Refinement has been dramatically improved in the new Picanto, with a range of modifications designed to further isolate the cabin from vibration, road noise and the engine. The car has one of the quietest cabins of any A-segment model, at idle and at a steady cruise.”
The steering is accurate and (we were riding on 15″ wheels) the ride just as good (dare I say perhaps even better?) as that of automobiles from price ranges astronomically higher. The seats (see image) are superb with plenty of side and, more important, shoulder support: Cape Town to Jozi, one hit, no problem.
High-specification models of the all-new Picanto also feature new projection headlights with diode-lit indicators and daytime running lights.
Black cloth-upholstered seats are standard, high-specification includes two-tone black and grey leather upholstery, as in the adjacent image.
The Picanto’s new seats, the automaker says, are also more comfortable for longer journeys, featuring the same seat-base materials and construction found in larger Kia models such as the Optima. The angle of the rear-seat backrest is more reclined – from 25 to 27 degrees – “for a more relaxed posture”, and slightly more prominent side bolsters on the rear bench improve comfort and support.
A new, sliding, central armrest (high spec again) is the first in its segment, Kia says, and at the base of the centre console is an open double-shelf tray to store mobile devices and other small items. Retractable twin cup-holders can fold to yield more storage space.
A touch of “wow, that’s fancy!” has been added with the introduction of an optional new vanity mirror that features bright LED lights and a strip of mood lighting.
FINALLY, THE MODEL RANGE
Picanto Start models, Kia says, have manual aircon, tilt-adjustable steering, a radio with RDS and MP3 capability, aux and USB sockets Bluetooth and two speakers..
Street units add power windows, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, remote central locking and driver’s seat height adjustment.
Picanto Style models front projector fog lights, running lights, auto headlights, rear wiper and pockets behind the front seats.
Top-of-the-range Smart models also have bi-function projector headlights, diode-lit daytime running lights and rear combination lights, power mirrors/indicators, naked aluminium pedals, two-tone cloth/leather upholstery, a leather-upholstered steering wheel and gear-shifter, 19cm colour infotainment system, Bluetooth with voice recognition and rear parking camera.
…EXCEPT FOR THE PICANTO PRICE LIST
Picanto 1.0 Start – R134 995
Picanto 1.0 Street – R149 995
Picanto 1.0 Style – R159 995
Picanto 1.0 Style a/t – R172 995
Picanto 1.0 Smart – R179 995
Picanto 1.2 Start – R150 995
Picanto 1.2 Start a/t – R163 995
Picanto 1.2 Street – R165 995
Picanto 1.2 Style – R175 995
Picanto 1.2 Style a/t – R188 995
Picanto 1.2 Smart – R195 995
Kia offers a five-year unlimited-distance warranty – the best in the auto market in South Africa, we believe. A two-year or 45 000km service plan is a available for about R3800 on top of the retail price.
WATCH What Car’s initial preview video of the 2017 Kia Picanto