Picanto X-Line road test: Kia's baby SUV hits NZ
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The smallest model in Kia New Zealand’s line-up has grown ever so slightly in 2018 with the addition of an SUV-inspired variant.
The Kia Picanto has been one of Driven’s favourite small city runners, with its bold exterior design, tall proportions and packed feature set providing a brilliant entry point to anyone contemplating making the step into new car ownership.
The current generation Picanto launched in mid-2017 only enhanced those attributes with three models — LX Manual, LX Auto and GT Line — offering about as much as you can reasonably expect for a car priced between $18k-$21k.
Now the Picanto GT Line is joined at the top of the Picanto line-up with a raised and cladded X-Line variant that broadens the appeal of Kia’s city car.
Priced on par with the $21,490 sports-oriented GT Line, the new X-Line goes down a different design path with styling that draws inspiration from Kia’s popular SUV models such as the medium-size Sportage and large Sorento.
The X-Line is slightly longer (5mm), wider (30mm) and taller (15mm) than any other model in the range. A suspension tune raises the ride height and minimum ground clearance by 15mm. A wheelbase of 2.4m and turning circle of 4.7m is unchanged between all Picanto models.
Style-wise the X-Line features lime green surrounds on the Kia’s signature “Tiger Nose” grille and fog lamp surrounds, while black cladding around the side sills and wheel arches give the small hatch greater on-road presence.
You can also spot X-Line models with body colour door handles (GT Line models are chrome) and 16-inch alloy wheels with 195/45 tyres.
The exterior transformation is completed with twin exhaust outlets and LED daytime running lights.
Inside, X-Line models gain much of the same equipment and switchgear as GT Line models. The multi-function steering wheel, gear-shift knob and seats are finished in composite leather.
A large 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system features Bluetooth, and full Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility is standard across the range.
The Picanto’s high ceiling and smart interior packaging provides better than expected head and legroom, even for my193cm frame, and the cabin can carry four well-fed Kiwi adults over short journeys without fuss. However, a long road trip with four adults onboard is not recommended.
The cabin is also filled with handy storage spaces in the doors and the centre console keep loose items close to hand.
Larger packages can be stored in the boot, which provides a class-leading 255-litre capacity that grows to 1010 litres with the rear row folded flat.
Safety has been an emphasis for Kia New Zealand when kitting out the latest Picanto. Built from Advanced High Strength Steel, the small hatch is also fitted with six standard airbags (front, front side and curtain) and Autonomous Emergency Braking.
Under the bonnet, the Picanto X-Line is powered by the same 1.25L engine found in other models in the range. The power unit is one of the biggest in in the small city car segment, producing 62kW of power at 6000rpm and 122Nm of torque from 400rpm.
Kia New Zealand claims 5.8L/100km combined fuel consumption. On my week-long test, I managed to achieve 6.4L with a mix of daily commuting and country back-road driving.
The four-speed gearbox is starting to feel dated when compared to the DSGs appearing in other Kia models such as the Rio, but in constant 0-60km/h town driving it’s hard to fault. Even a raised Picanto variant is still lively off the line and the proportions make you confident enough to slot tight gaps around town.
On the motorway at 100km/h, the engine turns over at just under 3000rpm in top gear or 4100rpm when stepping down to third to get over hills.
Engine noise isn’t too apparent at any speed, but on rough surfaces a fair amount of tyre noise starts to creep into the cabin.
The X-Line’s ride is firmer than I expected, which can become increasingly annoying over long distances as the tyres and suspension struggle to soak up New Zealand’s patchy roads.
But the flipside to firm springs is found immediately on a tricky country back road where the new Picanto feels sure-footed with a surprising amount of front axle grip found in the corners.
As more cars flood on to our roads and with rising fuel prices a concern, the Picanto X-Line is a prime example of what’s on offer for those looking for affordable transportation that doesn’t skimp on kit or safety.
And in the face of soaring SUV popularity, a SUV-styled city car could be the ticket for those looking at stepping into a new car, backed by a five-year warranty.
Kia Picanto X-Line
Pro: Smart packaging, bold styling, fun around town
Con: Suspension is firmer than expected, lime green accents aren’t for everyone
Read more: Kia Picanto GT-Line road test