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Kia Picanto Hatchback


Can almost 118,000 European new car buyers be wrong?That’s how many Europeans bought the new-to-New Zealand Kia Picanto last year.

The Picanto, of course, has attributes dear to the European buyer:
compact dimensions, a competitive price and excellent fuel economy.
Now, those aren’t attributes that have necessarily appealed to New Zealand
new car customers.

The trend here has been more to higher-spec, moderate economy, compact
rather than mini cars.

Fleets have tended to snaffle up the more basic compact models, what an old acquaintance in the new car business used to call the “district nurse models” in his company’s line-up.

Mini cars, with 1000cc or under motors, basic spec and a feeling of being built down to a price, tended to be bought by the elderly.

That’s not say the more basic variants or the compact hatch or the mini cars didn’t have merit, but they did show evidence of being built to a price and of being intended for buyers for whom high budget efficiency was the greatest consideration.

Which brings us to the mould-breaking Picanto, a car that may sell at budget prices, but one that boxes above its weight in terms of specification, refinement and performance.

It comes with plenty of what the British call “kit” – a good quality, six-speaker, Compact Disc, MP3, sound system, 14-inch alloy wheels, high-mounted rear spoiler; rear foglight., filtered air-conditioning; power windows front and rear, electrically-adjusted and heated exterior mirrors, keyless entry central door-locking, luggage boot lighting, and (a nice touch) a net in the luggage area to securely hold items like wine bottles.

Then there’s the safety equipment: dual front and side airbags, three-point seatbelts for all five occupants (though three in the back seat would be a squeeze), four-wheel disc brakes with four-channel ABS, and an ISOfix child seat mounting point.

That’s plenty in a car with a list price of $16,690 with five-speed manual gearbox or $18,490 with four-speed auto.

Roll into the equation the possibilty of fuel economy in the 4.9 litres/100km bracket (58mpg) and the Picanto’s pluses
look compelling.

But the car’s appeal is greater than that, it rides well, the cabin is tidily and well-finished and it has the solidity and feel of a bigger car.

The 1100cc motor (a capacity largely out of fashion nowadays) develops 48kW and 97Nm and provides nippy performance, though the test manual required second gear to surmount Auckland’s daunting Zoo Hill.

It cruises quietly and fuss-free at motorway speeds. Handling is good, predictable and forgiving, with particularly crisp turn-in to corners. It’s not as engaging to drive as Ford’s sublime Ka but it’s easy to live with, even for a Falcon/Commodore fan like me.

Interior room is good, the seats comfortable, boot space is around a full supermarket trundler’s worth, and can be expanded by folding the rear
seatbacks forward.

We’d rate the Picanto near the top of our small car wishlist, and that includes
cars a size bigger.

Kia NZ had sold around 185 at the time of writing and could sell more but for a supply shortage of manuals because of international demand for fuel-frugal cars.

Could we live with one day-in, day-out? You bet, Kia has added real spice and value to the mini car market with the Picanto. 

Auto Trader New Zealand