There's that well-known, age-old adage that reads: If it ain't broke, don't fix it. The chaps at KIA know this all too well, when it's come tome to change things up on their successful sellers, they haven't done anything drastic. We saw this on the recently refreshed Rio and they've just done the same to their very successful Picanto. Not too much has changed on the latest release but at the same time they've done enough to ensure the little runaround doesn't look dated in any way. The Picanto has always looked good, especially for an A-segment car in it's price bracket, and these recent changes make it even better.
Last week I attended the launch of the updated Picanto with the KIA crew, and as usual, they had a fun day planned for us. We hooked up at World Wear for a morning caffeine fix and headed out on a long-ish drive along the highways towards Vereeniging. Before we left KIA's Christo Valentyn said that some of the clever journos present had probably figured out where we were headed to. I smiled and nodded in agreement but I had zero clue, luckily neither did my co-pilot for the day, Jesse Adams, so I didn't feel too stupid. Along the way Jesse figured it out though, Veereeniging was home to the Vereeginging Kar Circuit and that would most likely be out destination.
After our arrival at the kart track, we were given some great Korean-themed food and a short briefing on the car as well as the rules for the track before we we headed outside to take a fleet of Picantos around at high speed. Ok, not that high, but any track time is always good and the Picanto was a ball of fun out there. The little car handles great and the 1200cc motor has great power delivery thanks to some decent gear ratios. I've driven the older model but not in anger like on the track, but seeing as the setup under the hood hasn't changed, they'd perform the same back to back I'm, sure.
So what's changed on the KIA Picanto for 2015? As said, the engine and gearbox setup is the same, so the cars are still powered by KIA's Kappa motors, either a 1.0 motor (LX model) or a 1.2 motor (EX model). The 1.0 is a 3-cylinder affair producing 51kW and 94Nm while the 1.2 is a 4-banger making 65kW and 120Nm - both are DOHC and feature continuously variable valve timing. Both setups are coupled to a 5-speed manual 'box, but there is a 4-speed auto available too. While powerplants are small, the car pulls great on the roads. On the way to the track we had no trouble staying in the fast lane and overtaking lane stragglers when needed. The punchy feel of modern small capacity motors continues to surprise me.
While the last generation of the Picanto was released around four years ago, it doesn't look dated at all, it was ahead of it's time in the styling department, the numerous awards for it confirm this. There's no resting on laurels here though, the new look Picanto will do doubt continue to be a winning formula for KIA. Changes are subtle but at the same time are quite noticeable, especially bringing it's identity in line with the rest of the new KIA models thanks to the revised 'tiger nose' grille. To go with this, the front bumper is bolder and more square, it now also features daytime running lights (which you'd be forgiven for thinking are spot lights due to their location). They're only lit when the car is on, but will switch off when the headlights are used. Towards the bottom of the bumper there's a spoiler that's been added. Ok, there hasn't but the design makes it look like one when in fact it's all one piece. Good visual trickery. At the rear things remain largely unchanged except for the addition of a matte black lower section that goes up on the sides to surround the rear fogs, which have also seen a revision in shape. The entry level LX runs on 14-inch, hubcap-covered steelies while the EX has some good-looking 15-inch mags. Aftermarket 17-inch wheels wouldn't be a bad choice on the car or even the 17-inch wheel that comes on the Rio 1.4 Teq.
As you can see from the pics all over the page, the Picanto range features a host of bright and cheery colours that it look like a fun little car, which is it. Customers have the choice of 10 paint options; Clear White, Bright Silver, Milky Beige, Titanium Silver, Midnight Black, Honey Bee, Signal Red, Alice Blue, Cherry Pink and Dazzling Blue. The latter is a new addition that looks great, but if I was taking one for myself it would be a toss up between the Clear White and the Signal Red, that said there wasn't a Cherry Pink one on the launch, but it sounds cool, albeit it a girly option.
Inside the refreshed Picanto there have been a few tweaks here and there, nothing too major though. Minor tweaks have taken place to the fascia surrounding the Picanto’s audio system to give it a more modern look and feel. In the EX model there's now some steering-mounted controls for the audio system and on-board display that are easy to use and only take a few minutes to get used to. It also comes with a useful hands-free Bluetooth® function. Both models of the Picanto come with manual air-conditioning, retractable dual cup holders, sun visors (with vanity mirrors), as well as AUX/iPod/USB connections for the radio / CD player and has MP3 compatibility. Let's not forget the addition of an RDS function for the radio - Ooohhh.
Both models have driver and passenger airbags and also ISOFIX child seat anchors while only the LX model gets ABS and an ESS (Emergency Stop Signal) system. Safety has been increased with a greater percentage of high-strength steel used in the construction of the body and greater rigidity is achieved through ring-shaped reinforcing loops inside the B- and C-pillars and across the floor pan and roof. There's also additional bracing up front between the cowl and suspension towers.
The pricing for the new Picanto range is great, the KIA top dogs have managed to keep it the same as the previous incarnation so new buyers score (buyers who bought a month back might be a little peeved though). The Picanto 1.0 LX can be had for R136 995 while the 1.2 EX is yours for R149 995. To get the automatic version of either model, lump R12k on top of that figure. All derivatives also come with KIA's great 5-year/ 150 000km warranty and they have an optional 2-year/ 45 000km service plan if you like. The Picanto has been one of KIA's most successful models on the world market and with these new changes to it, that doesn't look to change any time soon.
For more info get hold of KIA SA through these various online channels: www.kia.co.za - www.kiabuzz.co.za (the official blog) - www.facebook.com/KiaMotorsSA - @KiaMotorsSA on Twitter and www.instagram.com/kiamotorssa.
• Metallic paint
• Powered tilt/slide sunroof (1.2 EX model only)
• 3 year / 45 000km Service Plan