The Kia Picanto started out as a simple compact hatchback back in the mid-2000s. It also wore the Naza Suria badge that time, before returning to its original name in the second and current generation Picanto.
The little Kia Picanto has won many fans thanks to its nimble handling and affordable pricing. Market research also revealed that many buyers fancied the Picanto due to its funky colour palette, which had bright shades of green and yellow.
Plenty has changed since then. Its closest rival, the Hyundai i10, has not been updated, while the Perodua models are receiving more and more equipment in each generation. The all-new third generation Picanto, while still occupying the same footprint, surprised us all with interior ambience and driving characteristics that have improved dramatically.
- Price: RM49,888 (OTR with SST, without Insurance)
- Engine: Kappa 1.25-litre, Inline-4, CVVT
- Power: 84 PS at 6,000 rpm
- Torque: 122 Nm at 4,000 rpm
- Transmission: Four-speed automatic, FWD
- Safety: 6 airbags, Electronic Stability Control, Hill Start Assist, Reverse Camera, Rear seat belt reminder
- Origin: Locally-assembled (CKD) at Naza Automotive Manufacturing, Kedah
In Malaysia, Kia is only offering the Picanto with a 1.25-litre naturally aspirated engine and paired with a 4-speed automatic. With the 1.2 EX priced at such a competitive level and ticking almost every option, we do not foresee the company offering a lower price (and poorly spec-ed) variant, as Malaysian consumers tend to value high specifications at which the higher price can be paid off over a long-term loan.
The design for the all-new Picanto is a good example of sticking to a proven formula. With the dimensions of the previous generation and new Picanto largely unchanged, it can be tricky to determine which Picanto is the newer model, especially in a black body colour.
However, once the ignition is turned on, the signature DRLs light up and the new Picanto exudes a premium face. The turn signals under the projector head lamps are LED technology too.
We are really impressed at the level of detail and care that Kia has taken in designing the new Picanto. The foglamps are surrounded with satin finished bezel and is part of the aerodynamic ‘air curtain’ that releases built-up air pressure to the front wheel well.
The only visually unimpressive item is the single-colour silver painted 14-inch wheels. They look plain in contrast to the great looking exterior details.
The interior of the new Kia Picanto is the single biggest change to the vehicle, perhaps even to the Kia brand. Gone are the days of single-tone grey plastic with dubious quality. The chunky multi-functional steering wheel, albeit a tad large for this interior, feels like it was lifted out of a Kia Stinger.
The touch points are painted in satin silver (air conditioning controls, door levers, audio knobs) and certain sections have piano black finishing. The front occupants are certainly treated to a strong sense of high quality and attention to detail. All these add to the high level of perceived quality in the new Picanto.
The placement of the front seats has been lowered (-10 mm) and moved rearwards (5 mm) for better overall head room and leg room. A longer wheelbase (+15 mm) also contributes to better rear legroom.
The key ‘party piece’ in the new Kia Picanto is the infotainment system. The high-resolution 7-inch touchscreen features smartphone connectivity (Apple CarPlay and Android Auto). The connection is a breeze, and the touchscreen responds to input instantaneously. Audio quality is on the better end of the scale too, as the sound is generated from six speakers in the little cabin.
The same screen also displays the image of the reverse camera with guiding lines. One might say it is unnecessary for such a compact car. But Kia is set to deliver the greatest value to customers, and the reverse camera integrating so well with the vehicle is much appreciated.
Being such a compact interior, occupants are protected by six airbags and a strong body shell made from high strength steel with an increased amount of structural adhesives.
Kia’s ride and handling has come a long way. The compact hatchback soaks road irregularities akin to a sedan a segment larger. Only on the worst surfaces where the upper halves of our bodies sway as a result of going over the poor road conditions.
This could also be attributed to the short wheelbase of just 2,400 millimetres.
However, when it comes to cornering, the little Picanto feels like it is built for it and begs for more. The steering ratio is quick and well-tuned with the bodyroll nicely controlled. At highway speeds, the Picanto also provides a sensation of great stability and sure-footedness.
The four-cylinder engine feels smooth and vibration is kept to a minimum. Sure, it tends to sound vocal at a higher operating range, but this is a budget, entry-level vehicle after all. The four forward ratios provide sufficient accelerating sensation to the Picanto.
Another tell-tale sign on how much the Picanto has developed is the NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) level. The noise from the engine is well insulated at the normal working range, and the roar from the tyres do not make themselves heard as much as other hatchbacks.
Cost of ownership
We focused our test routes around the busiest streets of Klang Valley. Over the range of 350 kilometres, we managed to record a fuel consumption of 8 litres to 100 kilometres. Taking the traffic condition into account (average speed of just 23 km/h), the said fuel consumption is not bad.
In terms of vehicle servicing and maintenance, the service interval is every 10,000 kilometres. Filling the engine with fully synthetic engine oil costs owners RM329.70 for a regular service. Transmission oil, coolant and brake fluid replacements are every 40,000 km and require an additional RM304.32.
Kia Malaysia provides a warranty coverage of 5 years with unlimited mileage.
The Kia Picanto proves that a manufacturer can fully equip and create a premium ambience in an entry-level, budget vehicle. Compared to the Perodua Axia (RM40,390), the Picanto feels like two segments above, in build quality and refinement. Even when compared to the larger Perodua Myvi 1.5H (RM50,290) and Proton Iriz 1.3 Executive (RM48,616), the Picanto can still stand proud as it is again a vehicle that feels more solid and of higher perceived quality.
The Kia Picanto remains a great choice for consumers who enjoy compact hatchbacks, now with the added bonus of a drive that feels a class above.