By Patrick James on 2017-04-29 - The author has been a motoring writer for more than 16 years. Formerly motoring editor at the Coventry Telegraph, he now produces motoring copy, on new car launches and road tests on a freelance basis.
Little Picanto big
THE phrase 'good things come in small packages' has never been truer than with the current crop of city cars.
They need to be good because with the sector shrinking to make way for the all-conquering crossover models, capturing what is left is critical.
That is not to say the city car market is insignificant. Far from it and firms like Kia, with its baby Picanto, have shown what you can do by shoehorning high quality into a modest sized package.
The Picanto has always been a good seller and now the latest version, the fourth in the line if the you count the original city car Pride, is better than ever.
It is almost the complete city car with good looks, reasonable price, decent kit levels, economical engines and unusually high levels of refinement.
This is hoped to attract a more youthful buyers as well as satisfying existing customers. Oh, and let's not forget Kia's industry-leading seven year warranty.
The latest Picanto does not look radically different from its predecessor, but is virtually a new car, with stronger body shell underpinned by lightweight materials. It is also a rewarding drive.
It looks better, has more space in the boot and despite having virtually the same dimensions has made clever use of the space thanks to a longer wheelbase.
A shorter overhang at the front and slightly longer one at the rear gives the extra boot space, up from 200 litres to a class-leading 250 litres with the rear seats in place - and more than 1,000 litres when folded - and better passenger space.
Exclusively five-door, It looks good as well, with a sharper, more angular styling, lower belt line and new light shapes and slimmer grille.
The range-topping GT-Line S does have the look of a hot hatch, with even more aggressive grille and twin exhausts, if not the performance.
Kia says city car buyers demand quality, despite the modest size of the car and they get it with the Picanto.
There are nine versions of the based on two engines, two transmissions and five trim lines - badged ‘1', ‘2', ‘3', ‘GT-Line' and ‘GT-Line S'.
With prices starting at £9,450, you do get a decent level of kit for the money with electric windows, remote locking, tinted windows, a radio with AUX and USB ports, adjustable steering column, automatic headlights, stability control, hill start , 60:40 split folding rear seats and six airbags.
Go for the range topper at a much heftier £13,950 and you get the bells and whistles like touchscreen with sat nav, connectivity and infotainment, together with faux leather trim to the seats, sunroof and reversing camera, alloy wheels, sports front and rear bumpers and side sills, electric folding mirrors with LED indicators, satin chrome interior door handles, privacy glass on the rear windows and tailgate to name a few.
There are two engines at launch, neither new, but both tweaked to cut CO2 emissions and potentially deliver better mpg.
There is a 66bhp three cylinder petrol and a 1.25 litres developing 83bhp, with a turbocharged version of the one litre available later in the year. Emissions are 101g/km and 106g/km respectively with official mpg claimed at 64.2 and 61.4mpg.
Both current engines are fine on flat road, but the smaller engine can run out of steam even on relatively shallow inclines with much changing of gear the five speed gearbox.
The bigger unit copes much better and both are refined units. So much so they can barely be heard in the cabin except under hard acceleration.
In fact there is a lack of noise throughout, with wind and tyre noise all but absent except on the worst of roads.
Kia has made big efforts here to reduce noise and vibration and harshness with soundproofing measures. You really do feel you are in a much more expensive car.
Measures include greater use of foam, insulation pads and body strips, plus new engine mounts and revised, quieter heating and ventilation units.
That is not the only good thing on the road. The strengthened body and tweaked suspension means the car handles really well, feeling both agile and well-planted on corners, a fact discovered on some tortuously twisting roads, while the steering feels responsive.
City car buyers do not want budget Spartan motoring, wanting more for their money.
Kia seems happy to provide with this super city car - and don't forget the warranty.
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