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Road Test: Kia Picanto a fun and funky city car that’s great value for money

Our motoring writer found himself making extra trips to the shops just so he could zip around Dundee in the Picanto.

Jack McKewon beside a yellow Kia Picanto at the top of a Dundee hill, with the River Tay in the background.
The Kia Picanto is a capable city car. Image: Jack McKeown.

I’ve been this newspaper’s motoring correspondent for 18 years and the most common question people ask is: what’s my favourite car?

The truth is, I don’t have one. One of the many joys of this job is getting to try out a different vehicle each week.

I’ve driven more than 1,500 different cars since I first picked up my motoring writer’s quill in early 2006 and I’ve found something to like in almost every one of them.

The Kia’s little 66bhp engine made it to the top of the Law. Image: Jack McKeown.

So, while people might think I’d grumble when the Range Rover Sport I had for a week was replaced by the tiny Kia Picanto, they’d be wrong.

Or mostly wrong, at least – it’s always a treat to have a Range Rover.

City car

It didn’t take me long to warm to the Picanto, though. Kia’s little city car was launched more than 20 years ago.

The current model is the third generation and features the smart styling that is the hallmark of Peter Schreyer, the design guru Kia poached from Audi.

Prices for the Kia Picanto start at around £12,700. There’s a choice of two petrol engines and five trim levels.

Avoid 1 spec models – they’re more poorly equipped than a student flat – but 2 and 3 models offer most of the kit you’d want.

The Picanto on a road that crosses a dam.
The Picanto’s a fun little car. Image: Kia.
a rear view of the Picanto
The Kia Picanto is a good looking little car. Image: Kia.

X-Line models have more rugged styling – although don’t expect them to perform off-road – and the GT-Line version I drove gets some sporty styling touches.

While you can buy a Picanto for less than £13,000, spending £15,000 will get you a 3 spec model with heated seats, climate control, smartphone mirroring and other nice features.

You can opt for an automatic gearbox but I’d recommend going for the manual, which is faster and nicer to drive.

Under the bonnet is a 1.0 litre engine available with either 66bhp or as a turbocharged version with a healthier 99bhp.

What’s Kia Picanto like to drive?

I drove the lower-powered version. Around town it’s absolutely fine. I zipped through the streets of Dundee and Perth very happily.

The car may not be fast but it is responsive and you can dart out of junctions easily.

With a 0-62mph time of 14.1 seconds, you’re not going to win any drag races in it.

The turbocharged version improves that time to a smidge under 10 seconds and is the one to go for if you’re likely to have passengers regularly, as it’ll handle the extra weight better.

The Kia Picanto on a country road
It’s great around town and reasonably good on country roads. Image: Kia.

The Kia Picanto really is a terrific city car. I found myself making extra trips to the shops just to zip around Dundee in it.

It was absolutely fine for jaunts to Glenrothes and Arbroath.

It took a while to get to 60mph, right enough, but at that speed you can hold a conversation without having to raise your voice too much.

It’s not the car I would choose if I had a daily commute to Glasgow, but that’s not what it’s meant for.

Inside the cabin

There’s plenty of room up front. I’m 6’5” and I didn’t find it hard to sort out a comfortable driving position.

You couldn’t have squeezed anyone in behind me, though.

With a more average-sized driver, you could easily fit children in the back, or small adults at a push.

At 255 litres, the boot isn’t bad for a city car. You can easily fit half a dozen large shopping bags in there or a couple of large holdalls.

Fold the rear seats and there’s a healthy 1,010 litres of capacity.

The Kia Picanto dashboard, which has an easy-to-use layout
The dash has an easy-to-use layout. Image: Jack McKeown.
The boot
The boot’s big enough for half a dozen shopping bags. Image: Kia.

The Picanto is ideal for everyone from first time car-buyers to retired people who no longer need a big car, or even couples with small children.

It’s terrific fun around town, perfectly fine on country roads, and tolerable enough for occasional long journeys.

All Kias come with a seven-year, 100,000 mile warranty and the Picanto is no exception.

That’s a lot of peace of mind for a relatively low purchase price.

Fewer and fewer cars like this exist. There isn’t much profit margin in them.

Cars get bigger and more expensive year after year.

I’m really pleased Kia still makes the Picanto. I like it a lot and I hope they continue to make it for a long time to come.

Kia Picanto facts:

Price: £15,600

0-62mph: 14.1 seconds

Top speed: 100mph

Economy: 55.4mpg

CO2 emissions: 115g/km