Chirpy chirpy cheap cheep

It’s all about expectation. Pick a base model, non-premium small car with a tiny engine and it’s going to be dull, slow and missing all the equipment you’d actually want, right? Don’t be so sure.

Kia’s latest Picanto has been on the market for a short while now and is finding its niche. It is easy to see why.

Visually, it’s tidy; no retro chic here but a fully modern design. It carries Kia’s new face and the lights run right up to the A pillars – similar to the Aygo, C1 and 107. The rear is fairly bland and I’d avoid the softer metalics; small cars like the Picanto look better in solid, bold colours. This ‘1’ version comes with particularly unattractive wheel trims on its small 14” wheels but overall it’s neat and purposeful.

I scanned the interior to see what was missing from this budget version. In fact, there is nothing missing and a great many features I wasn’t expecting on the entry model: CD player, variable intermittent wipe, electric windows, Isofix, rev counter. Some of the plastics are a little shiny (especially on the radio) but the controls are clear and easy to use. The flippy cup holders in front of the gear lever are particularly nifty. The seats are supportive and comfortable and the steering wheel is height-adjustable allowing a good driving position to be found.

On the road, it’s surprisingly lively. The off-beat three cylinder 998cc engine revs freely and the slick gearbox encourages the driver to make the most of the 68 PS. Even with a couple of extra passengers, the car feels reasonably nimble. Under about 3,500 rpm the power delivery is a little flat but working the small three-pot harder reaps the rewards of the lovely off-beat sound and more spirited progress. It’s important to keep an eye on that dial too because the willing engine is quite happy to bounce off the rev limiter.

On the motorway, gearing is kind, sitting at 3,250 rpm at 70 mph. It is not too noisy and there is less pitching motion than in Fiat’s 500.

At lower speeds the suspension is a little bouncy but the handling is neutral and predictable. Feedback through the steering is fine through the bends but it is somewhat numb around the straight-ahead position. Low speed manoeuvring is easy thanks to the light clutch and steering plus good turning circle.

For me, the Picanto works not only because of its competence but because it stacks up financially and with only 99 g/km of CO2, road tax is zero. And then you have Kia’s seven year warranty.

Whether this is to be a first car or a downsizing choice for financial reasons, the Kia Picanto certainly won’t disappoint.

Model tested:

Kia Picanto 1 (5 door) 1.0 petrol £7,995 plus £495 for metallic paint

Power: 68PS (6,200 rpm), torque: 70.2Nm (3,500 rpm), emissions: 99 g/km CO2 (band A), 0-62 mph: 13.9 secs.

Motor Writer rating: ●●●●○

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