There are many types of vehicles that drive around our vast roads network completely unannounced, The City car segment is one which few people if any would blink an eyelid at and the Picanto from Kia is no exception.

Face lifted a couple of years ago, the smallest passenger vehicle from the Korean manufacturer is priced from 13,415. Affordable motoring it most certainly is, with fuel consumption of up to as much as 58.9 mpg, and an unrivalled 7 years / 100,000 miles warranty.

The most basic Picanto ‘1’ is well-equipped featuring daytime running lights, USB port and Bluetooth connectivity with music streaming, ABS with electronic brake force distribution and brake assist system, advanced driving assistance pack, and forward collision avoidance assist.

Starting from £14,165 the Picanto ‘2’ adds 14-inch alloy wheels, air conditioning, leather trimmed steering wheel and gear shift, front and rear electric windows, steering wheel mounted controls, electrically adjustable and heated door mirrors.

Kia’s Picanto ‘3’ starts from £15,670 and adds 15-inch alloy wheels, automatic air conditioning, cruise control and speed limiter, it and touch screen satellite navigation featuring Kia connect, apple CarPlay and Android Auto, front fog lights, reversing camera system with a dynamic guidelines, and rear parking sensors.

Priced from £15,320 the ‘GT-Line’ features 16-inch alloy wheels, GT-line exterior styling pack, bi-function projection headlights, LED daytime running lights, black and red faux leather upholstery, D-cut steering wheel with red stitching, LED rear lights, and rear privacy glass.

An ‘X-Line S’ is priced from £17,420 and features 16-inch X-Line S alloy wheels, X-Line S exterior styling pack, wireless mobile phone charger, black faux leather upholstery with green stitching, heated front seats, heated steering wheel, aluminium pedals, and smart key with engine start/stop button.

The range topping ‘GT-Line S’ starts at £17,470 and adds smart key with engine start/stop button, heated front seats and steering wheel, as well as wireless mobile phone charging on top of the GT-Line specification.

The Kia Picanto only comes with a petrol engine, either a 1.0-litre DPi producing 66 bhp with 96 Nm of torque which can be paired to either a 5-speed manual or a 5-speed automatic transmission. The model tested and pictured, a GT-Line S, features the much more potent 1.0-litre turbocharged T-GDI engine which produces 99 bhp with a healthy 172 Nm of torque.

And who knew that around 100 bhp could be so much fun? Well, I did, actually, as just last year I competed in a rally event at the helm of an old Peugeot 106 XSi which provided almost identical power, but with a lot less torque.

Not only has tyre technology, brakes and suspension improved leaps and bounds over the last couple of decades, but turbochargers are now used in monumental volumes to extract suitable power and incredibly usable torque from even the littlest of engines, such as that fitted to the Kia Picanto.

As someone with a 3.0-litre, 6-cylinder diesel workhorse at home producing 280 bhp with around 600 Nm, I am certainly no stranger to a bit of get up and go, but such power is often too much to be enjoyed.

After just a few days with the GT-Line S Picanto I ended up on a spirited run, on mostly B roads, whilst running a little late. On arrival at my destination, I realised that this standard road car would run rings around the rally car which I had driven on racing tyres just a few months prior. It made me appreciate why there is 1.0-litre category for young competitors starting out on their rallying career whilst driving relatively new cars.

From this realisation onward, I spent the rest of the week exploiting a surprising amount of grip from the Nexen 195/45R16 tyres. It was a thoroughly enjoyable week’s driving. And these are not things I expected to say alongside the words Kia and Picanto.

Almost every new car I have for appraisal, is it forgettable experience. Cars are slowly becoming nothing more than white goods. They serve a purpose, no one pays attention to them and when they break, they get binned.

For most people these days, connected driving is whenever you have your favoured podcast or playlist streaming wirelessly via apple car play. And although the Kia Picanto GT-Line S can do this, it connected with me via the steering wheel and it’s three pedals at my feet. A trait for Kia to be proud of but one that is slowly being stripped from the consumer. Thanks for a memorable one, Kia.


Graham is a photojournalist and motoring writer with over 20 varied years of coverage from manufacturer press launches to international motorsport and motoring events throughout the world. Graham is a full member of the Guild of Motoring Writers and Ulster Motor Writers Association.