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Test Drive Review: Kia Picanto 1.2 Auto


The all-new Kia Picanto is probably the most exciting small car to emerge in the Malaysian automotive market in quite some time. In fact, speaking in general terms, Korean carmakers are on a high of sorts these days, and Kia is no exception. Since the launch of the Forte some years back, the brand has seen a resurgence of sorts. Unheard of sales figures notwithstanding, the actual cars themselves are just getting better and better.


Attempting to bite a chunk out of the A-segment of the car market, the new Picanto is indeed a breath of fresh air. It looks cool and trendy, something that younger first-time car buyers are going to find extremely appealing. It has that familiar front ‘face’ of all latter-day Kias, but packed into a neat and sporty, small body.


Speaking of packed, the Picanto houses a 1.2-litre CVVT engine under its hood that’s good for 87Ps and 120Nm of torque. Power goes to the front wheels via either a 4-speed auto or 5-speed manual gearbox. While it won’t set any records in terms of acceleration or top-speed, it is nonetheless adequate to shove this little fella along at a pretty decent pace. NVH suppression is very good for a car in this category, with hardly any external noise permeating the cabin. This prompted my asking if the cars has been ‘prepped’ differently for this media drive, but apparently they hadn’t. Externally, the Picanto looks squat, with compact dimensions that more than hint at it’s fun for all proposition.


Over on the inside, while the Picanto may look a tad basic, don’t be fooled. For a car in this class, and based on its diminutive size, it’s simply amazing just how much kit is crammed into it. First off, and I have no idea where they managed stuff them, there are SIX airbags in this car, and no that’s not a typo. In addition to all-round disc brakes (vented in front) there’s also ABS, EBD, Brake Assist, Traction Control, Electronic Stability Control, Vehicle Stability Management, Rear Parking Assist, Hill Start Assist with 4 sensors and ISOFIX equipped rear seats. A few of these features have never been seen in an A-segment car.


Like its larger siblings, the Picanto also has Daytime Running LED lights, and auto projector headlamps, with escort and welcome lights. Speaking of lights, one cool feature that’s sure to be a hit with the ladies is the huge driver’s side vanity mirror in the sunvisor, which features 6 LED lights that illuminate in sequence when the cover is flipped up. It’s a pretty cool party piece actually.


Out on the open road, the Picanto feels nippy and quick, and surprisingly agile. Interior room is more than adequate, while the mechanical power steering (MPS) offers a modicum of feedback as to what the car is doing under you. There is some body-roll of course, but the 175/50 R15 alloys and tyres on the auto version (165/60 R14 for the manual) coupled with the MacPherson struts up front and torsion beam in the rear do an admirable job of not only soaking up irregularities, but also return a sure-footed ride.


Overall, it’s quite easy to like the new Picanto. It’s one of the best-equipped cars in its segment, and in terms of value for money it makes for a very attractive proposition for first-time car buyers. While at the time of writing the actual on-the-road price has not been revealed, we were told to expect the auto version to cost less than RM64,000 and less than RM60,000 for the manual variant. All things considered, that’s a really good price. First time car buyers have never had it so good.


Specs that matter

Engine                  Kappa in-line 4cyl, CVVT, MPi, 1248cc

Transmission     4-speed auto / 5-speed manual

Max power         87Ps @ 6000rpm

Max torque         120Nm @ 4000rpm

Safety                   6-airbags, ABS, EBD, BA, VSM, TC, ESC, Hill Start Assist, Park Assist, ISOFIX

Price                      est below RM64,000 (auto) / RM60,000 (manual)


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