- Cheap, but cheerful and substantial feel on the road
- Class leading warranty
- 4-star ANCAP safety rating
- Middling fuel economy
- Optional 4-speed auto is very 2005
The 2021 Kia Picanto is the Korean brand’s smallest offering down under and proves that great things can come in small sizes. Australia saw a significant downturn in micro car sales in 2019, with the segment shrinking considerably. Thanks to relatively low petrol prices and this country’s love of bigger cars, tiny cars such as the Mitsubishi Mirage have never sold in such low numbers.
Unfazed by this, Kia has updated its Picanto range for 2021, including a turbo GT model for the first time in Australia. Kia now thinks it has the perfect tiny car in the segment, and buyers seem to think so too, as the Picanto is the most popular car in the micro segment. So do these buyers have it right? We test the 2020 Kia Picanto GT-Line to find out.
Price & Equipment: 7.5/10
The Picanto starts off as one very well priced and cheap car. $16,990 drive away is the entry price for the entry-level Picanto S (the auto is $17,990 drive away). For that money, you get key safety features such as six airbags, auto emergency braking with forward collision warning, a reversing camera with reverse parking sensors, an 8.0-inch touchscreen with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, cruise control, a 4.2-inch colour driver’s display, automatic headlights with halogen daytime running lights, a rear fog light, an alarm and 60:40 split-folding rear seats. The S, being the cheapest Picanto, is the best value in the range if all you need is a city runabout. We’d go so far as saying that the Kia Picanto S is the cheapest “decent” car worth recommending in Australia, as it still feels throughly developed and is well equipped with all of the basics. All models of the 2021 Kia Picanto come with a 4-star ANCAP safety rating sadly, meaning that they don’t quite hit the safety highs needed in 2021.
Of course, you can spend more on the Picanto for the GT-Line which we tested here and GT, which both share the same equipment levels. Our Picanto GT-Line came with faux leather upholstery with a leather steering wheel/gearknob, sportier-looking bumpers, projector headlights with LED daytime running lights and tailights, front fog lights, 16-inch alloy wheels and heated/electric-folding mirrors. Our manual Picanto GT-Line came with the same engine as the S and has a $17,990 drive-away price. The GT comes with a more muscular 74kW 1.0-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol engine which retails for $19,490 drive away as a manual. Add $1,000 to each model for the four-speed automatic gearbox.
Rivals for the Picanto used to be quite common but nowadays, the competition has either gotten a lot more expensive – the Toyota Yaris and Mazda2, for example – or just left the segment altogether, like the Honda Jazz. Still on offer are the MG3 (from $16,690 drive away) and the Suzuki Ignis (from $18,990 drive away) – both rivals don’t offer safety tech like automatic emergency braking, though are similarly spacious.
Performance & Fuel Economy: 7.5/10
All Picanto models (aside from the GT) come with a 1.25L 4-cylinder engine with 62kW of power and 122Nm or torque – this is no rocketship with a claimed 0-100km/h of around 12 seconds. Around town however, the Picanto feels perfectly fine, especially with the five-speed manual gearbox which feels lick and positive to use. As the Picanto weighs only 995kg, it doesn’t feel too slow around town when commuting. Power is sent to the front wheels through a five-speed manual, though a four-speed automatic is optional. We would choose the manual as the automatic feels old-fashioned and should have an extra gear (or two) – it also makes the Picanto even more fun to drive.
The claimed fuel consumption for a manual Picanto is 5.0L/100km which is good, and it should mean a range of around 650km from its 35-litre fuel tank. The automatic achieves a claimed 5.8L/100km, which is almost 20 per cent more. Our testing of the manual Picanto resulted in a middle of the road consumption figure of around 6.5L/100km in purely urban conditions – having a newer tech engine would lessen this figure considerably, while also improving performance.
Ride & Handling: 8.5/10
Driving the Picanto is a fun experience – it’s quite nimble and thanks to Kia’s Australian suspension tuning, it feels surprisingly mature and deals with bumps quite well. It feels like a much bigger car on the move than it actually is. Kia’s local tuning program has produced a winner – unlike the Ignis and MG3, the Picanto is tuned for Australian roads. This means that it’s capable of handling whatever is thrown at it, which is handy given how awful our roads can be. The local tuning has also made the car quite fun to drive – it’s chuckable and rewards its driver with safe, secure handling that defies its bargain sticker price.
Being only 3.5 metres long, having thin pillars and great visibility makes the Picanto easy to drive and especially park in urban areas. The rear view camera is super clear and gives a good view behind the Picanto’s boxy body. Not all is rosy about the way the Picanto drives however, as road noise can be high at motorway speeds, but this isn’t so much of an issue in such a small and cheap car.
Interior & Practicality: 8.5/10
Though the 2021 Kia Picanto is a tiny car externally, the interior isn’t at all that cramped – you can still fit four adults in the car with ease, with enough legroom and especially headroom to accommodate tall passengers. Up front the driver and passenger can both get comfortable behind the wheel with comfortable seats, even if they aren’t the most bolstered. The driver’s seat is height adjustable but it is disappointing to see that the steering wheel can only be adjusted up and down, and not back and forth. All of the doors open nice and wide and make for effortless ingress and egress.
The simple and intuitive dash design of the Picanto is easy to get used to, as everything is as where you would expect it to be. The hard plastics used throughout are well put together and feel built to last. Nothing felt flimsy or about to fall off inside, whilst the standard 8-inch touch screen with wireless phone connectivity looks classy and upmarket.
The boot of the Picanto can swallow 255-litres below its parcel shelf which is very good for its class – the much bigger Toyota Corolla can only hold 217-litres. Folding the seats frees up 1,010L of space, and gives the Picanto serious load lugging capacity.
Service & Warranty: 10/10
The 2021 Kia Picanto comes with the best new car warranty offered in Australia, Kia’s seven-year/unlimited kilometre warranty. This also comes with a seven-year roadside assistance plan as long as you keep servicing your Picanto through a Kia dealership. It’s hard to believe that even when buying one of the cheapest cars in Australia, it is covered by the very best warranty in the country.
The Picanto’s service intervals are 12 months or 15,000km and the cost of servicing over three years is $1,043 or an average of $347 per year meaning that servicing the little Kia won’t break the bank.
The 2021 Kia Picanto GT-Line DiscoverAuto Rating: 8.4
In a market where more and more buyers gravitate to larger SUVs, the pint-sized Picanto is still perfect as a city runabout or a first car. It’s easy to drive, economical, easy to park but also most importantly it’s fun to look at and fun to drive. It has character, which is rare in this class. If you’re considering a small car, the Picanto is full of value and with a long warranty, it is definitely worth considering. Cheap and cheerful, the 2021 Kia Picanto is our favourite cheap car here at DiscoverAuto.