Cars - Kia

Road tests and reviews of the latest Kia models available in South Africa

2016 KIA Picanto

2016 KIA Picanto

By Franky Johnson

It’s been four years since KIA’s second-generation Picanto made its debut at Geneva, but thanks to Peter Schreyer’s award-winning design, the Picanto remains a firm favourite across the globe. Fresh from it’s debut at the 85th Salon International de l’Automobile in Geneva at the beginning of March this year, the enhanced KIA Picanto has arrived in South Africa.

The Picanto was born from a simple idea: an affordable car should make no compromises on styling, features or technology. Indeed, all the characteristics that made the second-generation KIA Picanto a remarkable car in 2011 still apply today, proof that ‘small’ and ‘affordable’ is still an awesome combination.

Picanto combines sporty, elegant styling with a high quality interior, frugal and efficient engines and exceptional levels of standard equipment into a package that, four years later, remains at the forefront of style. Thanks to a small number of selected enhancements, Picanto can now also add a more premium look and feel to its arsenal, which underlines its notable value proposition.

A success from the get-go

The first generation KIA Picanto made its international debut at the 2003 Frankfurt Motor Show, and went on sale across the globe in 2004, when it also made its debut in South Africa. It received a mid-life enhancement in 2008, by which time it had already built up a very strong and loyal following on local soil.

The second generation model, debuting in 2011 at the Geneva Motor Show, was a revolution in design, comfort and packaging, and took the world by storm upon its launch in 2012. Following in the footsteps op Peter Schreyer’s equally lauded KIA Soul and KIA Sportage, the Picanto represented a breath of fresh air in the A-segment, and rewrote the rules for small cars.

Under the creative direction of Peter Schreyer and his global team of designers, KIA is undoubtedly one of the most awarded car brands in the world. Of Schreyer’s designs, it is the Picanto that has garnered the most accolades over the past four years, starting with a prestigious Red Dot design award in the Product Design category. Marking KIA’s fifth Red Dot award in less than three years, the Picanto triumphed over more than 11 000 other entries from more than 60 countries. Mere months later, KIA scooped up an equally covetable iF product design award for the three-door Picanto* (the company’s fourth in three years).

But it’s not just about awesome styling. Thanks to its low tailpipe emissions and the advanced manufacturing processes used in the production of the KIA Picanto (as well as the KIA Rio and Optima), TÜV Nord, an independent technical inspection organisation, certified all three models according to the ISO 14040 Life Cycle Assessment (LCA).

In South Africa, the Picanto took top honours in the People’s Wheels Awards for three years in a row (2011, 2012 and 2013), has won numerous ‘Best Buy’ awards from multiple major publications, and was elected a finalist in the 2012 WesBank / SAGMJ Car of the Year competition, widely considered the most prestigious competition on the South African motoring calendar, in which it came second.

Look Sharp

While the two-model Picanto line-up remains unchanged, enhancements to the exterior endow it with a sharper, more prominent face thanks to a restyled front bumper and a revised ‘tiger nose’ grille.

The new bumper features a flatter, more square design. The large, central air intake is now a single unit compared to the previous model (which featured a smaller kidney grille separated from the lower air intake), flanked by two larger, more square fog lamp housings recessed into the corners of the bumper. The lamps, positioned centrally within the housing, now function as DRLs (daytime running lights) and not as switchable fog lamps: when the vehicle is switched on, the lamps automatically illuminate. When the headlamps as switched on, the daytime running lights go off.

The lower edge of the bumper also creates the impression of incorporating a front spoiler, which in combination with the flatter and more elongated chrome ‘tiger nose’ grille, contributes to the Picanto’s sportier visage.

The Picanto’s strongly-sculpted, dynamic side profile and uncluttered rear styling remains largely unchanged, bar for a slightly revised rear bumper that now incorporates a matte black lower edge that rises up at the sides to house revised rear fog lamps. The 1.0 LX ships with 14-inch steel wheels with full wheel covers, while the 1.2 EX features sporty 15-inch alloys.

The Picanto is now available with a choice of 10 exterior colours, including Clear White, Bright Silver, Milky Beige, Titanium Silver, Midnight Black, Honey Bee, Signal Red, Alice Blue, Cherry Pink and Dazzling Blue, which is new to the range.

Minor tweaks to interior

Inside, the Picanto is very subtly tweaked to emphasise the already upmarket space, with changes limited to a more modern fascia surrounding the Picanto’s audio system. Standard features available on both models include manual air-conditioning, retractable dual cup holders and sun visors with vanity mirrors, as well as AUX/iPod/USB connections for the radio / CD player with MP3 compatibility (the EX also sports steering wheel mounted controls and hands-free Bluetooth®). The Picanto’s radio system now also features RDS.

Apart from a greater percentage of high-strength steel used in the construction of the Picanto’s bodyshell, greater rigidity is achieved through ring-shaped reinforcing loops within the B- and C-pillars, and across the floor pan and roof, plus additional bracing at the front between the cowl and suspension towers.

The 1.0 LX and 1.2 EX boasts driver and passenger airbags. ABS anti-lock braking is standard on the 1.2 EX, as is an ESS (Emergency Stop Signal) system. Sensors detect when the driver is braking suddenly and hard, and then flash the brake lights three times to alert motorists behind you that the car is slowing rapidly. All models ship as standard with ISOFIX child seat anchors.

Power to the people

The KIA Picanto’s engine line-up remains unchanged, with two of KIA Motor Corporation’s efficient Kappa engines powering the Picanto. A three-cylinder, 998 cc unit producing 51 kW and 94 Nm of torque features in the 1.0 LX, with slight modifications to ensure it meets strict Euro 6 emissions standards. A four-cylinder, 1248 cc engine is utilized in the range-topping 1.2 EX, producing 65 kW and 120 Nm of torque.

Both engines feature DOHC, dual CVVT (continuously variable valve timing), a cast alumninium block, off-set crankshaft, maintenance-free long-life timing chain and low friction ‘beehive’ valve springs. This combination of technologies have resulted in significantly reduced exhaust emissions, while allowing the Picanto range fuel excellent economy. Both engines are mated to a five-speed manual transmission, but a four-speed automatic transmission is available as an option.

Pricing and Warranty

In manual guise, the Picanto 1.0 LX retails for R136 995, and the range-topping 1.2 EX for R149 995. Automatic transmission is available on both derivatives for an additional R12 000. All derivatives ship as standard with a five-year/ 150 000km warranty. A two-year/ 45 000km optional service plan is also available.

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