picanto - Kia Picanto GT front quarter - Kia Picanto GT: Splash with dollop of dash

What is it?

Pert and perky, the Kia Picanto gets an injection of extra fun factor.

This comes in the shape of a three cylinder, petrol fed, turbocharged 1.0-litre engine and 5-speed manual.

It’s frugal and needs to be, wit a tanks that holds just 35 litres. But a combined drive cycle figure of 4.8L/100km makes for a comfortable range.

Power and torque don’t read great, at least on paper — but 74kW and 172Nm drive a car that weighs a breath over a tonne.

picanto - Kia Picanto GT rear quarter - Kia Picanto GT: Splash with dollop of dash

What’s it cost?

$17,990 driveaway.

It’s a bargain price for a car with sporting pretensions.

There are just four colours available, including the Aurora Black of the test car.

Red stripes on the sills join a restyled front and rear, with door handles in contrasting silver — to spice up the look.

The nose has a different appearance thanks to chin air intakes and red inserts on either side.

There are LED driving lights in the headlight cluster and a pair of normal driving lights in between.

The rear sees the neon light style brake lights and a sports style diffuser fitted along with a twin tipped exhaust.

New alloys are 16 inches in diameter. Nexen brings their N Plus Blue rubber and they’re 195/45 in profile.

Inside it’s familiar Picanto territory.

The seats get red stripes, but only in the front. That’s a slightly odd decision.

And, being leather clad, you might asume they are heated and vented — but they’re not.

There is a little brightwork on the wheel, a horizontal strip across the dash, and piano black for the centre console stack.

Switchgear is typical Kia. That means it’s easy to use and cleanly laid out.

At night the dusk activated headlights shine bright and the switch backlighting is an easy on the eyes red.

The dash-mounted touchscreen is at the lower end of the scale in layout and features though, with no DAB audio or satnav.

To counter that, the now ubiquitous Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard. Bluetooth streaming is also standard.

Safety levels are okay, but not what we’d call great. Auto Emergency Braking is fitted but that’s about it.

There’s no Blind Spot Alert, no Rear Cross Traffic Alert, and no Lane Keep Assist.

Six airbags, rear parking sensors and a rear view camera cap off the package.

The centre console has two cup holders and the front doors have a pair of bottle holders.

The load area is big enough, at 255 litres, for an average weekly shop IF more structurally sound bags are used. Otherwise the rear seats fold to offer 1055 litres. There are hooks for a cargo net anda hook for hanging a suit too.

Warranty is standard Kia: 7 years, unlimited klicks, with services capped for the 15,000km or annual checkup cycle.

Roadside assist is free for the first 12 months and, if you continue to get your car serviced by Kia it remains free the next six years too.

picanto - Kia Picanto GT front seats - Kia Picanto GT: Splash with dollop of dash

What’s it go like?

It’s surprisingly quick in one respect.

You’d think 74kW and 172Nm wouldn’t be enough for a small, five-door hatch with sporty aspirations. But driven with one or two adults aboard, there’s plenty of pep, verve, and genuine smile-making performance.

But to extract the best from the engine, the clutch and gear selector need some practised hands.

The clutch pedal is light, with what feels like no pressure to get it down. This conspires with a vague and rubbery selector gate to smear the Picanto’s GT nameplate.

The gate is soft, with no real definition between the 1st/2nd and 3rd/4th selections. The soft clutch pedal simply doesn’t make it clear where it needs to be to engage the cogs — so more often than not the result is a slurring, slipping, engagement, rather than the crisp bite a more refined setup offers.

Once the peculiarities are sorted, the GT becomes what it promises — a fun filled machine with an insane ability to induce silly grins. There’s plenty of pull from the tiny engine that can. And, when the clutch and gear selector work together, the GT can be launched hard from a standstill.

It’s very flexible under way as well. A simple flex of the ankle sees the Picanto GT pick up forward momentum, easily and without stress. Everything it does is accompanied by a throaty burble from the three cylinders. 

There is plenty of sideways grip from the Nexens. A low centre gravity and squared off track/wheelbase for the 3595mm long hatch mean that long sweepers can be enjoyed at a higher level. Tight corners on downhill runs allow the lightweight machine to be planted firmly on the tarmac and punted harder than something bigger and heavier.

The suspension is unforgiving though. It’s a short travel setup and little compliance means small potholes become bigger. The rear can be unsettled easily too, with a skip here and there on highway expansion joints.

picanto - Kia Picanto GT dash - Kia Picanto GT: Splash with dollop of dash

What we like?

  • Bang for the buck factor
  • Welcoming warble from the three cylinders
  • Economy around town is good enough

picanto - Kia Picanto GT rear seats - Kia Picanto GT: Splash with dollop of dash

What we don’t like?

  • Lack of refinement in the clutch and gear selector mechanisms
  • No DAB and average speakers
  • Lack of suppleness in the suspension
  • Missing some key safety systems

picanto - Kia Picanto GT engine - Kia Picanto GT: Splash with dollop of dash

The bottom line?

Lack of safety gadgets and waffly clutch/gear gate aside, it’s the sheer driveability of the Picanto GT that puts the icing on a pretty good cake.

The three cylinder turbo is the engine the pert little thing has been waiting for and injects plenty of fun into an already enjoyable car. 

picanto - Kia Picanto GT cargo - Kia Picanto GT: Splash with dollop of dash

CHECKOUT: Kia Picanto GT: fun factor fitted

CHECKOUT: Kia’s pint-sized Picanto packs a punch

 

Kia Picanto GT, priced from $17,990 driveaway
  • 7/10
    Looks - 7/10
  • 7/10
    Performance - 7/10
  • 6/10
    Safety - 6/10
  • 8/10
    Thirst - 8/10
  • 6.5/10
    Practicality - 6.5/10
  • 7/10
    Comfort - 7/10
  • 6.5/10
    Tech - 6.5/10
  • 9/10
    Value - 9/10
7.1/10

Conole

Dave Conole hails from Perth where he co-hosted a car show on one of the city's major community radio stations. Although he's had formal training in stage, TV, and film, it's his face for radio that gave him his start in the automotive field, both reviewing and motorsport commentary. After moving to Sydney in 2004, Dave has worked for some of Australia's biggest media groups and is the anchor commentator at Sydney Motorsport Park. This has lead to anchoring major events such as the Top Gear Festival (and, no, he didn't get punched by Jeremy).