SOME 13 years ago when the diminutive Kia Picanto first broke cover, it had the city car market pretty much to itself.
The European makers couldn't quite envisage its gadget-crazed buyers rushing to queue for a basic set of wheels little bigger than a skateboard.
That, of course was pre-recession. Well, post 2008 micro-cars and city cars were in demand and big names like Renault, the VW Group and Toyota jumped on the bandwagon.
But the baby Kia had already established itself as a well-priced, reliable and sturdily built runabout.
Now the third generation Picanto has joined the fray...a much more crowded sector, with greater expectations and more sophistication.
With its bang up-to-date ‘tiger' nose - a Kia hallmark - the new Picanto is stronger, more roomy and has an air of refinement that didn't feature in earlier models.
Its chunky upright styling is of-the-moment and pleasing to the eye, as well as being a practical method of making the most use of the cabin dimensions.
The version I drove, the Picanto 2 1.0-litre is powered by a three-cylinder engine that boasts a modest 66bhp. Not exactly enough to cause reworks under the bonnet but sufficient to allow the five-door to easily keep up with the traffic and to eventually reach a maximum of 100mph.
The three-pot engine emits a pleasant and distant throb that remains smooth most of the way through the rev band.
Push it hard and the engine note becomes a little harsh above 4,000rpm but there's rarely any need to punish the eager little unit in this way.
Space in the cabin is more generous than the last version and better than most rivals. There's ample width to allow good elbow room up front and the high setting of the dash means plenty of knee and legroom up front.
The facia is attractively designed with easy to read dials and there are cup holders and a place for a water bottle, making it a practical, family friendly environment.
Rear seat passengers sit fairly upright allowing decent chance to stretch their legs and the seats themselves are much more comfortable than the previous model. Boot space at 255 litres is about average but the rear seats can be folded flat expanding the cargo area to more than 1,000 litres, among the best in class.
Priced at £10,750, the Picanto 2 is one the better equipped city cars.
Included in the spec are tinted glass, leather trimmed steering wheel, electrically adjustable and heated door mirrors, four speaker audio system, tyre pressure monitoring indicator and air con.
It's not uncommon for small cars which carry little weight to have a choppy or somewhat bouncy ride. But the Picanto is settled and compliant over all but the most scarred road surfaces which helps make it a relaxing hatch for longer distances.
The power steering is pleasantly weighted although there's feedback to the driver.
The five-speed manual gearbox is light with an easy precise action. The larger 1.2-litre engine has the option of an automatic gearbox.