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Kia Picanto: which one should you buy?

  • We take a closer look at Kia’s small city car
  • Find out which engine and trim we would buy
  • Low pricing and an impressive warranty on offer

Written by Debbie Wood Published: 11 March 2016 Updated: 11 March 2016

Despite being one of the oldest city cars you can currently buy, the Kia Picanto still holds its own in the small car segment against rivals like the Volkswagen Up, Skoda Citigo and Peugeot 108.

With prices starting a fraction over £8,000, budget-friendliness is one of the Picanto’s biggest appeals, plus let us not forget about that seven-year, 100,000-mile warranty which is available across all of the Korean manufacturer’s vehicles.

It may not be the most exciting city car on sale, or the last word in high-tech kit, but there’s a lot to like about the smallest member of Kia’s family and when it comes to low-cost city driving, it’s up there with the best.

But which version should you go for?

Here we take a closer look at all the engine and trim options available, plus pick which Picanto we would buy.

Three or five doors?

It costs just £200 extra to opt for a five-door model and in our opinion that’s money well spent. If you’re considering a family or have a couple of young children, the extra practicality the two rear doors bring will make a big difference day-to-day.

Some could argue that three-door models generally look sportier than their five-door equivalents, but we don’t think this applies to the Picanto as it looks boxy in both guises.

A choice of two petrol engines

Depending on which trim you go for, there’s a pair of petrol motors on offer; a three-cylinder 1-litre unit that offers 65bhp and 95Nm of torque, and comes paired with a five-speed manual only and a slightly more powerful four-cylinder 1.2-litre with 84bhp and 120Nm of torque again with the five-speed manual.

As you’ve probably guessed, performance is not the Picanto’s forte. The 1-litre engine is the slowest and will complete the 0-62mph sprint in a pain-staking 14.1 seconds, while the higher-powered engine with a five-speed manual can accelerate from standstill to 62mph in still-sluggish 11.5 seconds.

The 1.2-litre petrol is also available with the firm’s four-speed automatic gearbox and the same sprint will take 13.2 seconds, though. 

Ideal for city living, both engines return competitive running cost figures with the 1-litre achieving 62.8mpg combined and the 1.2-litre only a fraction lower at 61.4mpg. When paired with an auto gearbox, the latter only achieves 50.4mpg.

Although the four-speed automatic produces an easier driving experience, especially when stuck in city traffic, it’s pretty slow and jerky in its execution and we’d stick with the five-speed manual.

The 1-litre, although not equipped well to challenge motorways, enjoys being revved and feels nippy when travelling around at 30mph. It’s also the most characterful of the two engines.

The value for money sweet spot

Unlike engine choice which is quite restricted, you’ve got a grand total of seven trims to choose from.

The range starts with ‘1’ which, although sparsely equipped, betters many of the Picanto’s rivals in entry-level trim with 14-inch steel wheels, daytime running lights, tinted glass, electric windows, remote central locking and a USB port to connect your smartphone or iPod.

Next up is ‘1 Air’, which as the name suggests includes a more sophisticated air-con system. Kia abandons the numerical theme after this briefly with a new SR7 trim, which offers a good balance of kit. For around £1,000 extra over entry models, you get 14-inch alloys, privacy glass, automatic lights, upgraded interior fabrics, parking sensors and Bluetooth.

Introduced to the range in 2015 is a new Chilli trim which smartens up the Picanto with a twin exhaust tailpipe, 15-inch alloy wheels, aluminum pedals and gloss black interior touches. You also get a sat-nav, seven-inch touchscreen with reversing camera and a six-speaker audio system too.         

The remaining 2,3 and 4 trims open up luxuries like heated door mirrors, cruise control, automatic air-con and keyless start. You can also opt for the higher-powered 1.2-litre engine in these trims as well as the new Chilli Picanto.

Kia doesn’t really do options except metallic paint and maybe wheel upgrades, so if kit like sat-nav and cruise control is important to you, you’ll need to pick a higher trim to get it.

Which one would we buy?

The Kia Picanto is an ideal choice for those on a budget. True it doesn’t quite exhibit the same creative flair or up-market quality as its rivals, but as a city runabout it ticks many boxes. For the best balance of value and practicality, we would choose the Picanto in five-door guise, fitted with the 1-litre petrol under the bonnet in SR7 spec.

Click here to read our full review of the Kia Picanto

To view the latest Kia Picanto cars for sale click here

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