Kia Picanto GT Line: cheap and cheerful battler
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At the centre of the issue of convincing young people to buy new cars lies a problem.
The youth of today are perhaps the savviest, cheekiest, and most ungrateful generation to ever walk on Earth. I, of course, speak from first-hand experience.
As such their expectation of what society serves them is rather high. They're the ones who consume the fanciest mobile phones, who live their lives through a complex layer cake of social media and only they could come up with a bread spread as pointlessly decadent as avocado.
The problem is that, in the real world, trying to get a lot of them to even consider buying a new car is hard work -- especially when the entry-level cars that manufacturers try to market to this group traditionally offer little in the way of features.
This is the fight that the city-car segment finds themselves having to adapt to, and cars like the new Kia Picanto lead the charge.
Picanto pricing starts at $18,490 for the LX manual, with the automatic variant another $500 north. For Driven's test however, Kia passed us the keys to their range-topping GT Line -- priced at $21,490.
On the surface, this GT Line is a cynic's dream. Despite the decidedly sporting nameplate it features no performance improvements at all -- still using the same naturally aspirated 1.25-litre petrol engine and the same four-speed automatic as the LX auto.
But look beyond the lack of additional grunt, and the GT Line comes with a not insubstantial amount of additional gear. This ranges from push-button start, leather-ish seats, and LED day-time running lights, to the adorable new bodykit and 16-inch wheels.
Auckland | Manukau
$508.14 p/w $2,032.54 p/m
And what the spec sheet skips over are some of the little things that give the GT Line a vibe that stretches far beyond the city-car segment's utilitarian, bargain bin aura.
Reach out to open the doors and you'll find chrome door handles. Step inside and a modern interior punctuated by splashes of piano black trim, (imitation) metal, and a set of plated sports pedals greets you. All of the buttons and dials are well finished, feel nice in hand, and emit a satisfying array of clicks and thunks when actioned.
A floating 7-inch infotainment screen, standard across the whole range, dominates the space. It features Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and a reversing camera, and is a breeze to use thanks to slick, easy to read menus. All cars come with Autonomous Emergency Braking, too -- a segment first.
There and then, the Picanto performs the best party trick an economy car can; it doesn't really feel like an economy car at all. Most of the interior is constructed out of hard plastics, sure, but all of it is screwed together with high levels of refinement and care.
Space? There's 255 litres of room in the boot (55 litres more than the old one, but still less than a Suzuki Ignis). It's a decent amount, but results in a rather cramped rear seat. Leggy passengers best stick to the front of the cabin.
Predictably, once you get into the business of actually driving the thing, the experience is largely a fun one. The Picanto -- with its tiny wheelbase, feather-light steering and an even lighter weight of 864kg -- is a complete demon when tackling urban environments, car parks, and other areas of confinement. Revised sound deadening is the icing on the cake, making this one of the quietest in class.
But, the experience does sour slightly once you hit open roads. The 1.25-litre four-pot engine's 62kW of power and 122Nm of torque never feels quite like enough, especially when it comes to things like overtaking.
Peak power only comes at 6000rpm, and the Picanto can't get there quickly enough (this doesn't help the car's claimed 5.8L/100km economy figures, either). While the 4-speed automatic transmission is rapid with downshifts, upshifts are hesitant and strained when being pushed.
And, though these 16-inch wheels look fantastic, they do give the GT Line a crashy ride. Bumps and potholes are best avoided.
But while these issues can grate, they fail to overshadow the Picanto as an overall package. What used to be one of the most practical, easiest to drive, and best equipped cars in the city segment is now even better in all areas. And in GT Line spec it looks a million bucks, while costing a fair bit less.
2017 Kia Picanto GT Line
Pro: Looks great, fun and simple motoring, build quality
Con: Harsh ride, little rear leg-room, engine needs more guts