Long term car ownership is not something in which I am terribly familiar. Whilst I won’t bore you with the details, this example of Kia’s smallest offering is my longest owned vehicle, so I thought it would be good to show how perceptions have changed from it being a brand-new car with 80 kilometres on the clock, to one with now over 36,000km.
CarAdvice already have a good article on what the Picanto was fighting against on the market, and the review helped me make the decision to purchase one, despite the aged drivetrain. When I signed the dotted line and drove away, I was reasonably happy that I had made a sensible decision.
Standard kit was impressive for a sub-$20k car. With radar AEB, phone mirroring, auto headlamps and a decent warranty and service scheme attached, some cars in the class above didn’t even have these things.
The 1.25-litre 4-cylinder with a 4-speed automatic fitted the bill for driving around Bendigo (Victoria) at the time and it returned decent fuel consumption in the mid 6’s - slightly higher than 5.8 litres per 100 kilometres combined rating.
Fast forward to 2020 and the car now gets me around Melbourne a couple of times a week, and my feelings towards it have changed significantly.
City driving is comfortable, with no real offense caused. It regains composure quickly from potholes, yet the tiny wheels do cause some unrest when you hit tram lines (however it is manageable).
Outside of the city and up to speed, it doesn’t feel like a truck would blow you off the road. The little Kia is planted and the steering weighs up enough to make you feel confident to change lanes.
Road and wind noise are reasonable, but nothing to write home about - though it is getting worse as the months pass. The engine spins a little over 3000rpm when you are doing 110km/h and does drone, which is not dissimilar for the other cars this competes against. Extra urban consumption is rated at 4.6L/100km, which I have never seen. On a highway run back to Bendigo, it will sit in the mid 6’s.
The little Kappa engine under the bonnet isn’t a bad unit, though it is heavy on fuel for a car of its size while in the stop-start traffic of Melbourne. On one trip from Flemington to Hawthorn (and back again), it recorded a round trip score of 9L/100km; well above any claimed figure and worse than what I could get from my partner's 2002 Toyota Corolla. It would be better suited to the manual transmission, which brings me to the topic of the auto that is bolted into this car.
The 4-speed automatic would never be described as refined. It stutters and falters, no matter what speed or environment you are driving in. When you want to take off faster than your Nan would, it makes the little 4-pot whine and moan to 4000rpm before changing up, and then it quickly makes its way to top gear to take a breather. On slight inclines, it only likes third gear, and will almost refuse to drop to second gear, even if you are only doing 40km/h. There is no intuitive control that you as the driver can take to help it out. It’s the biggest let down of the car.
Inside, the cloth seats have fared well, however friends who have slid out of the driver's seat have shown the material does collapse quicker than a poorly built house of cards. Creaks from the dashboard and trims around the doors have surfaced (which bugs my partner to no end) and the worst of all is the groaning from the body as it flexes when pulling into driveways. It sounds like the door wants to pop off from its hinges.
On the positive side, the infotainment is simple and effective, and the phone mirroring (for Android and iOS devices) has always worked reliably. Sometimes the screen is a little slow to respond to input, however it’s nowhere near as bad as some other touchscreens. Despite it being a little slow, the best feature about the screen is the most overlooked on all new cars, and it is a little button next to the screen marked ‘DISP’. Hit it, and the screen turns off. Not glowing like in some (I’m looking at you, Volkswagen), but completely off. It reminds me of the old night drive buttons in SAAB, which I desperately miss from my old 9-3. The only problem with that feature though, is that you then have no clock. Maybe Toyota could lend Kia some of the digital ones they had left over from the 1990’s.
Roll this all together and it’s no surprise my time with this car is coming to an end. It’s being traded in next week for something a tad more interesting, which I will endeavour to write a review about once I’ve had it a few months.
The Picanto is a car. Nothing more, nothing less. Transport for the masses in the mid-20th century could evoke emotions, whereas now you just flick the key and go. That’s what this car represents, which is why it has such a middle of the road score. It’s an average car, for those with needs of transport that’s reliable and user friendly.
NOTE: With no image supplied, we have used a CarAdvice photo for this story.