Kia Picanto 2 1.0

Kia Picanto, front action
Kia Picanto, 2017, front
Kia Picanto, front static
Kia Picanto, 2017, side
Kia Picanto, 2017, rear
Kia Picanto, side action
Kia Picanto, rear action
Kia Picanto, 2017, interior
Kia Picanto, 2017, boot

DRIVING down the motorway I glanced down to see the speedometer was nudging towards 80mph so I throttled back.

Nothing too unusual about that perhaps, but at the time I was driving a new Kia Picanto, a small car with an even smaller engine.

And it says a lot about a car which has just 998cc under the bonnet that you can be cruising in it at such a speed without even realising.

For the cabin was quiet, the diminutive engine was just ticking over and the car felt as planted on the highway as any of the Picanto's bigger brothers would have been.

The new, third generation Picanto has changed very little visually - although there are subtle differences - but it has definitely come of age in terms of refinement, handling, quietness and quality.

The Picanto has always been an ideal city car but the new one is even better thanks to its superb manoeuvrability, small turning circle - helped by motor-driven power steering - and super smooth five-speed gearbox.

And while it might be the Korean car maker's smallest vehicle, extending the wheelbase and slightly increasing the height has created a more spacious interior so that four people can travel in comfort.

Most city cars with small engines tend to have noise levels which demand you raise your voice to be heard but Kia has gone all out to reduce noise in the cabin by adding more foam, insulation packs and body strips so the Picanto is a refined little mover.

Okay so you can hear the slightly throaty growl from the three-cylinder engine but it's more sporty than noisy.

The handling too has an element of sportiness to it because this really is a city car in which you can zip through bends and around corners without any worries about it loosing its grip and as such it adds a bit of fun to driving it.

An element of this is down to the 32 per cent increase in torsional stiffness in the car thanks to the doubling of the amount of high strength steel used in the construction, a factor which also makes the car safer.

And on the subject of safety all models now get torque vectoring, a feature which detects when the car is drifting off course and gently applies the brakes on the appropriate rear wheel to bring it back on line.

The new range is available in five trim levels with two GT versions heading the table.

This car, however, was the more budget priced 2 grade, just one up from the entry level model and expected to be the best seller.

But despite its lowly ranking in the line-up it boasted a nice array of equipment including air conditioning, electric windows front and rear, Bluetooth, a four-speaker sound system, heated door mirrors, alloy wheels and leather trimmed steering wheel and gear shift.

Visual changes include a shorter front overhang, a longer rear overhang and a lower waistline, although as I said they are very subtle and you have to look close to spot them.

What you won't see in future, however, is a three-door Picanto as the new generation will feature five-door models only, due to the changes in people's buying preferences.

FAST FACTS

Kia Picanto 2 1.0

Price: £10,750

Mechanical: 66bhp, 998cc, 3cyl petrol engine driving front wheels via 5-speed manual gearbox

Max Speed: 100mph

0-62mph: 13.8 seconds

Combined MPG: 64.2

Insurance Group: 5

C02 emissions: 101g/km

Bik rating: 19%

Warranty: 7yrs/100,000 miles

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