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Driving Review: Kia Picanto

It’s always been a winning formula from Kia, so the changes are cosmetic and minor at that

WHAT IS IT?

It’s the new Kia Picanto – a lightly refreshed version of the A-segment hatchback many South Africans have come to know and love. It’s always been a winning formula from Kia, so the changes are cosmetic and minor at that. The range continues with two trim lines, two engine choices and either manual or automatic gearboxes.

HOW DOES IT LOOK?

Pleasantly, the facelifted Picanto isn’t very different compared to the pre-facelifted model, and I think that’s a good thing. Kia wowed the world with this car’s design back in 2012 and it’s remained youthful and fresh since then. The changes do however add a decent touch of sportiness and aggression, and I like them a lot. The new front end features a slightly revised ‘tiger nose’ grille and a new, deep front air dam. The latter is flanked by two new light clusters, the large and bulbous housings playing host to new daytime running lights. At the rear, a really cheeky new bumper is available with a blacked-out lower section, adding zest and sportiness in spades – easily my favourite part of the facelift. Inside, the classy design and high quality have been retained, with minor changes to the radio section.

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WHAT DOES IT OFFER?

Available with either a 51 kW/ 94 N.m 1.0-litre petrol engine (LX) or the 1.2-litre petrol engine in the range-topping EX (65 kW/ 120 Nm), Picanto remains a value proposition thanks to good specification levels and continuing appeal to the younger market at which it is aimed. Standard features across the range include air conditioning, retractable cup holder, central locking and a radio/CD/MP3/USB/aux audio system. The LX comes standard with 14-inch steel wheels and hub caps, while the EX comes with the snazzy 15-inch alloys seen in these photographs. The EX also adds Bluetooth, automatic headlights and a multi-function steering wheel to its repertoire. A sunroof is optional on the EX only. Safety equipment includes dual front airbags and ISOFIX child seat anchor points on all models, with the EX also featuring ABS with EBD and an emergency stop signal system.

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HOW DOES IT DRIVE?

Out on the road, it remains a peppy little go-getter. Having spent time with one in Cape Town last year and now driving the facelift up at Gauteng altitude again, the 1.2 EX manual derivative didn’t really lack much in terms of power – save for the need to shift down to fourth for the odd hill now and then on the open road. Steering, happily, seems more weighted and contributes to a more stable ride than before, although crosswinds and the KIA are not best friends. Driving from Randburg through to Vereeniging, the launch presented the fleet of Picantos with something rather odd – a kart circuit. As it turned out, it was a clever place to have some fun, the tight and twisty track allowing us to explore the Picanto’s dynamics. They’re good, by the way.

IN CONCLUSION

The Picanto has always been a car I liked – a car with plenty added value and an appealing design. That’s just been turned up a notch, and the best part is that KIA won’t charge you anything extra for the facelift. Impressively, pricing remains the same across the board, the entry-level 1.0 LX manual retailing for R136 995 and the 1.2 EX manual for R149 995. The automatic gearbox is available for R12 000 extra with either model, and pricing continues to include a 5-year/ 150 000 km warranty. A 2-year/ 45 000 km service plan is available as an extra-cost option.

WORDS: BRENT ELLIS @JournoBrent

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