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Kia Picanto 1.25 3 5-dr

Click to view picture gallery“Sometimes a sure thing just blows
  in out of the blue
or, in this case,
  from Kia. The latest Picanto is one
sure thing. And we can tell
  you now, even before you read the
  review, that if you
re on the lookout
  for a small car, look no further

IT MIGHT LOOK LIKE a city car but don't be deceived this all-new second-generation supermini Picanto is much, much more. And for just over 11K, it makes downsizing something you'll want to do.

You can have three- or five-doors on your new Picanto and choose between a 1.0 and 1.25-litre petrol-fuelled motor. While the three-cylinder 1.0-litre is the more sparing when it comes to drinking unleaded, there's not that much in it: 67.3mpg vs the four-cylinder's 60.1mpg. But the 1.25's extra power is well worth having, particularly if you want the convenience of two doors each side, even if you only make use of the back seat for shopping.

All Picantos are generously kitted-out making downsizing, whatever your reasons, a painless decision that lets you keep the features, refinement and safety associated with larger and more expensive cars without breaking the bank.

“Classy the Picanto
definitely is; head-
turning too, from the tip
of its ‘tiger nose’ grille
and distinctive bright
white daytime running
lights all the way back
along its strongly
sculpted flanks to its
pert, angular tail marked
out by arrowhead-shaped
LED back lights
While the inside is well-specced, the outside is smartly and progressively styled by designer Peter Schreyer (he of the original Audi TT) and his team who are turning out some seriously good-looking Kias.

Classy the Picanto definitely is; head-turning too, from the tip of its 'tiger nose' grille and distinctive bright white daytime running lights all the way back past its wide-set alloy wheels and strongly sculpted flanks to its pert, angular tail marked out by arrowhead-shaped LED back lights.

Access is hassle-free even in packed car parks and inside the Picanto you'll find a cabin that's as smart as the exterior is stylish — the wide airy cabin gives it an instant big-car feel. Fit and finish is good and the trim is pleasant to the touch. AirCon and hi-fi controls are all easily to hand on the centre stack, and made better by good-sized, easy-to-use buttons.

The steering wheel is not a run-of-the-mill three-spoker but sports just two — and it's fine to use, with a grippy leather rim and multifunction controls (including voice for the 'phone and sound system buttons). The door pockets and glovebox are big enough to be really useful, plus there's a front passenger seat undertray that's ideal for private stuff.

Equipment includes automatic AirCon, 2-stage heated seats, tinted glass, electrically-adjustable heated powerfold door mirrors with integrated LED side repeaters, four electric windows (with auto one-shot up/down for the driver), auto lights, LED daytime running lights, unique LED rear lamps, speed variable wipers, speed-sensing auto door locking, iPod cable, USB and AUX ports, Bluetooth connectivity with voice recognition and full iPod control, 6-speaker radio/CD with MP3 compatibility, trip computer (includes range to empty, external temperature, and average mpg), and power-steering.

The cloth-trimmed 'chairs' are supportive and keep you comfortable (particularly shoulder and upper back) and there's lots of headroom. From the driver's seat visibility is A1 all-round, the windows are big and deep, and a spot-on driving position is easily set thanks to height-adjustment of the seat and the seatbelt along with the rake-adjustable steering wheel. Dials are clear, efficient white on black.

“Given that the Picanto’s
footprint is a
compact 3.6 metres,
there’s also decent
passenger space in the
rear with inches of spare
headroom and handy
outer armrests —
and three will fit in a
row on the comfy
rear bench
Given that the Picanto's footprint is a compact 3.6 metres, there's surprisingly decent passenger space in the rear with inches of spare headroom and handy outer armrests.

Three headrests and three belts are provided and three will fit in a row on the comfy rear bench; a near-six-foot adult can sit happily behind another in the front.

The boot — all 200 litres of it — is reasonable for a supermini and you can always tumble the rear seat base forward and drop down the 60:40 split-fold seats to create 605 litres of cargo space, albeit with a two-level, but still perfectly usable, loadbay floor.

Loading is easy thanks to a rear hatch that as good as lifts itself. The rear parcel shelf-cum-luggage cover lifts and is easily removed and stored on the boot floor when not required. An 'instant mobility' tyre repair system is provided and lives under the floor.

For a small car the Picanto is big on safety: electronic stability control, ABS, electronic brake force distribution, emergency brake assist and a complete set of airbags (front, side and curtain) and a front passenger airbag cut-off switch. Even Hill Start Assist is included, holding the car briefly for you when releasing the brakes while moving off on a slope.

Under the Picanto's bonnet beats a revvy 1.25-litre engine that puts out 84bhp and 89lb ft of torque. Acceleration is eager, and the four-cylinder unit zips along, always feeling enjoyably lively. With an official combined figure of 60.1mpg, it's easy to see why there's no diesel option — who needs it? Just for the record, the 1.25's urban and extra-urban figures are, officially, 47.9 and 72.4mpg. Our test cars aren't pampered, so our week-long test average of 52.1mpg is sure to be easily bettered by most owners.

The five-speed manual gearbox's light 'n' easy gearchange action and the tight turning circle (parking is a breeze) makes the easy-to-place Picanto a better car for the cut-and-thrust of city traffic although it's equally at home bowling along motorways at the legal limit.

“With an official
combined figure of
60.1mpg, it’s easy to see
why there’s no diesel
option — who needs it?
Just for the record,
the petrol-drinking 1.25’s urban and extra-urban
figures are, officially,
47.9 and 72.4mpg
Matched to a small, lightweight body, the energetic 1.25 unit makes the puntable Picanto fun to drive in and around town as well as on the open road.

The brakes are strong (all discs; and the stopping distance from 62mph — 41 metres — is up there with the class best), the steering light and easy and road manners polished. There's decent grip, too, from the 175/50 15-inch tyres (wrapped around smart 10-spoke alloys) and travelling quickly it always feels composed.

The Achilles' heel of many small cars is motorway driving, a place where they often feel very much out of their environment. Not so the 1.25 Picanto — this is liveable small car for long journeys that flies along at the legal limit feeling completely at ease.

And the ride, too, is good. Our test Picanto was running on the largest wheels available — 15-inch alloys — but the suspension mopped up most of the blacktop's imperfections without fuss.

And that's not to say this Picanto can't be hustled — it can; press on, make best use of the gearbox and you'll enjoy some engaging driving. But best of all, in 1.25 guise it's a pleasantly smooth and polished mile-eater.

The 1.25 drives well and you're never really aware that you're in a small car. Get your order in quickly because this smart new Picanto is likely to be snapped up by savvy urbanites with a topical sense of style. And the fact that it's also great value, economical to run and comes with Kia's industry-leading seven-year/100,000-mile warranty is icing on the cake. — MotorBar

Picanto 1.25 3 5-Dr | 11,195
Maximum speed: 106mph | 0-60mph: 11 seconds | Overall test MPG: 52.1mpg
Power: 84bhp | Torque: 89lb ft | CO2 109g/km