- Grunty and characterful three-cylinder engine
- Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
- Excellent seven-year warranty
- Short service intervals with expensive servicing
- Overseas versions get more standard kit
- Lack of steering reach adjustment
As discovered with our Kia Picanto GT-Line review, the light car has seen a demise in recent years with manufacturers not justifying them for our vast country thanks to sales going straight to SUVs. We saw the Holden Barina, Honda Jazz, and Nissan Micra all leave the Australian market. There are only a few models left, with the MG 3 dominating the segment due to its low starting price. Thankfully for choice’s sake, Kia still offer the Picanto locally. We decided to see if the 2021 Kia Picanto GT – with its sporty flair – should be the king of the micro car segment or whether the MG 3 should continue to remain supreme.
For the 2020 model year, Kia updated the Picanto by adding some new styling cues and tech to make the car more competitive in its segment. The 2021 Kia Picanto GT is the sporty model in the range with more power, a manual transmission and a sportier suspension tune. The Picanto GT is unique in the light segment in offering a sportier variant, and we were very much looking forward to driving it here at DiscoverAuto.
Price & Specs: 9/10
The Kia Picanto range starts off with the base ‘S’ model which comes in at $17,990 drive away as a manual – the auto is $1,000 more at $18,990 drive away. $1,500 more steps up to the mid-spec GT-Line, which looks like the GT and shares most of its equipment though it uses the S’ 1.25L petrol engine. At the top of the range, the 2021 Kia Picanto GT is priced at $21,490 drive away, which is almost into the segment above with cars such as the Skoda Fabia, Mazda2 and Volkswagen Polo.
Standard kit on the 2021 Kia Picanto GT includes 16-inch alloy wheels, a six speaker sound system, an 8.0-inch touchscreen with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, air conditioning, cruise control with a speed limiter, automatic projector halogen headlights with LED daytime running lights and front indicators, LED tail lights, halogen front and rear fog lights, a leatherette steering wheel and gear knob, faux leather upholstery, heated and power-folding mirrors, aluminium pedals, a trip computer and intermittent windscreen wipers.
Standard safety features on the 2021 Kia Picanto GT include autonomous emergency braking (AEB), hill hold assist and rear parking sensors with a reversing camera. While it has AEB – unlike an MG 3 that’s so favoured by parents for their teen’s first car – the Picanto’s lack of active safety kit is disappointing as NZ-spec models are available with cyclist and pedestrian detection for the AEB system, as well as lane keep assist with lane follow assist, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.
We would also like to see the addition of climate control, heated seats, more USB ports, a wireless phone charger a reach adjustable steering column and keyless entry to the 2021 Kia Picanto GT. There are only four colours available on the 2021 Kia Picanto GT with the only standard colour being our test car’s ‘Clear White’. ‘Aurora Black’, ‘Astro Grey’ and ‘Signal Red’ all come at a $520 premium.
Performance & Economy: 8/10
The standard Kia Picanto comes with a 1.25-litre four-cylinder engine that produces 62kW of power and 122Nm of torque but stepping up to the 2021 Kia Picanto GT adds a more modern 1.0-litre turbocharged three-cylinder engine that produces 74kW of power and 172Nm of torque. Power is sent to the front wheels through a five-speed manual transmission. It is the sole transmission option for the Picanto GT – no automatic option is available.
The engine produces a throaty note and is quite fun to rev out. Due to the weight of the Picanto GT (or lack there of – it has a tare mass of just 1,012kg) it is quite spritely. Shifting through the close ratio manual transmission is a rewarding experience – when driving casually it is a soft throw and isn’t hard to operate at all, though we wish it had a sixth gear. When accelerating, the engine makes an addictive little thrum that gives it an eager nature.
One criticism we have with the Picanto GT is that the brakes are very touchy – they seem to grab right from the top of the pedal, meaning if you get in after driving another vehicle you may embarrass yourself. The clutch in the Picanto is quite forgiving and easy to master though, unlike some other Hyundai Kia products.
The claimed average fuel consumption figure for the 2021 Kia Picanto GT is 5.2L/100km and in our time in the Picanto, we achieved 6.5L/100km with mostly urban driving. The Picanto GT will happily run on 91RON regular unleaded.
Ride & Handling: 9/10
Despite using the ‘GT’ badge, the Australian-tuned sports suspension in the 2021 Kia Picanto GT isn’t as firm as you may think. Typically cars with a short wheelbase don’t ride fantastically but the Picanto GT is an exception. The ride is much like Goldilocks’ porridge – it’s not too soft and not too firm, but just right in a variety of driving. It’s not the quietest car in the world to drive though, as the road noise is pretty high at highway speeds.
One word to describe the handling of the 2021 Kia Picanto GT is superb. The benefit to the small wheelbase is that it makes the little Kia agile. We would even argue that due to the lack of weight, the sporty engine and the nimbleness of the Picanto that on public roads it is even more fun to drive than the Hyundai i30 N. The steering is direct and communicative, meaning that even at legal speeds, you are able to throw the 2021 Kia Picanto GT into corners with confidence. It’s a fun and addictive car to drive – qualities you definitely want from a warm hatch.
Interior & Practicality: 8/10
For a tiny hatchback, the 2021 Kia Picanto GT is surprisingly roomy and practical. There is a decent amount of shoulder room in the front and while seating three abreast in the rear is squishy, the Picanto could easily accomodate two adults back there in relative comfort.
The Picanto has a very intuitive interior. The manual climate controls are simple, the gauges are easy to read and the trip computer easy to navigate. Other than that there isn’t too much to learn about the interior other than it is full of hard plastics (what do you really expect from a light car though?) and that the sports seats are comfortable and supportive.
The 8.0-inch colour touchscreen is easy to operate and the wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto easy to set up and use. Despite the recent issues with Hyundai Kia’s wireless smartphone mirroring tech, we didn’t have any in our test car – hopefully they have been fixed. The other functions of the screen are typical Kia and are easy to use and the screen quality is quite good for the segment – better than the Toyota Yaris and Mazda2, for example.
There is only one USB-A input and one 12-volt socket in the cabin and that’s it – considering that it’s aimed at youths, we think more than one USB port is necessary. Overseas, the Picanto can be had with keyless entry, climate control, heated front seats, a heated steering wheel and even a wireless charger. Some of these features wouldn’t go amiss in the Australian models too, especially seeing as the GT is a top-spec model.
The 2021 Kia Picanto GT has a 255-litre boot, which is not huge – the slightly larger MG 3 does have a larger boot (307L). But that’s not to say the Picanto’s boot is impractical – it’s larger than a Mazda2 – as it is deep and when the rear seats are folded, it opens up to 1,081L of cargo space.
Service & Warranty: 8.5/10
The 2021 Kia Picanto GT comes with the brand’s seven-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, which is the same warranty offered by the MG 3 but both are not the class leaders as the Mitsubishi Mirage comes with a 10-year/200,000km warranty. The Kia also comes with 12-months of roadside assistance but this is extended by a further 12-months at every scheduled service for up to seven years. The Mirage has the same system but only up to four years.
The Picanto comes with seven years of capped price servicing, which is outclassed by the 10 year equivalent of the Mirage. The Kia Picanto has service intervals of 12-months or 10,000km, which is the same as the Mazda 2 and MG 3 although the Mitsubishi Mirage, Skoda Fabia and Volkswagen Polo all come with 12-month/15,000km service intervals. Servicing the 2021 Kia Picanto GT over the span of five-years/50,000km costs $1,920, the MG 3 is $1,909.21.
2021 Kia Picanto GT DiscoverAuto Rating: 8.5/10
One comment we hear from particularly older readers here at DiscoverAuto is that newer cars have lost character compared with cars from the past. While we can see some truth to that, we think that there are shining examples of modern cars displaying lots of character and the 2021 Kia Picanto GT is one of them. First of all: just look at it – it’s angry, cute and modern. Then there’s the great value equation, thrummy turbo engine, fun handling balance and – despite its tiny size – reasonable practicality to boot (pun intended).
The Picanto GT also represents something of the past in that the cheap, basic and fun car just doesn’t exist any longer and we’re very thankful that Kia still offers one. Of course, it’s not perfect – overseas versions get more kit, it’s markedly more expensive than it was just a few years ago and it’s not cheap to service – but in terms of fun, it’s a true 10 out of 10.