The big pic!

One characteristic that Kia is keen to carry over from the previous Picanto is that car’s perky feel.

Although the old Picanto was never quick, it handled reasonably crisply and the steering was geared such that it felt almost criminally good fun to punt around city streets, even if your speed never exceeded 30mph.

Okay, so the 1.0 and 1.1-litre engines were almost impossible to tell apart but it was a car that put a smile on your face. The latest Picanto offers a bit more variation between its pair of powerplants, with entry level buyers seeing 69bhp from their 1.0-litre engine while those opting for the 1.2-litre engine have 85bhp at their disposal.

The good news for those looking for a grin behind the wheel is that much of the old Picanto’s suspension architecture has been carried over, albeit evolved subtly. The front suspension has been 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 system, which is standard on all models fitted with Electronic Stability Control, is backed up with standard ABS anti-lock, electronic brake force distribution and emergency ‘brake assist’ systems. Stopping distances from 100 km/h (62 mph) are among the class best at 41.0 metres.

t’s hard to believe Kia today is the same company that launched the original Picanto. It’s now one of the most progressive car manufacturers in terms of design and much of the credit for this goes to Peter Schreyer, the man who designed the original TT and now works as Chief Design Officer. Under his direction, Kia is turning out some seriously handsome cars and the Picanto is no exception. It features the now trademark ‘tiger nose’ front grille, but it also exhibits deeply scalloped flanks with the door handles sitting atop a sharp, longitudinal crease. Available for the first time in both three and five door body styles, the Picanto offers a different look for each body style, the three-door car featuring a more aggressive frontal treatment. Both look a little under-wheeled, but that tends to be the nature of city cars in general. Go for the 15-inch alloy wheels and it looks much better balanced.

It’s not uncommon to assess a vehicle and wonder why it has been launched. Some manufacturers get their product design cycles out of phase with economic conditions. Then there are those that arrive plum square with the right product at the right time and the Picanto is most definitely one of the latter.

It doesn’t do anything that’s particularly fresh or radical but its blend of affordability coupled with solid engineering, impressive build quality, generous equipment and clean styling build upon its tiny ongoing running costs to form a convincing buying proposition. Back that up with a great warranty and the Kia Picanto emerges as one of the very best city cars we’ve seen in quite some time.