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New Kia Picanto - pretty straight

2011-07-15 06:01

PRETTY PICANTO: The stodgy look of the previous car is gone, replaced by a futuristic look focused on "the beauty of a straight line". Picture gallery.

Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer KIA
Model Kia Picanto 1.2 LX a/t
Engine Four-cylinder, 1248cc DOHC with dual CVVT. Emissions 144g/km
Power 65kW
Torque 120Nm
Transmission 5spd man, 4spd auto
Zero To Hundred 11.6sec
Top Speed 169km/h
Fuel Tank 35 litres
Fuel Consumption Six litres/100km
Weight 940kg
Boot Size 200 litres
Steering Electric power-assistance rack-and-pinion, 9.8m turning circle
ABS Yes
Airbags Yes
Tyres 165/60 R14, spacesaver spare
Front Suspension Independent with subframe-mounted Macpherson struts, coil springs, gas shocks and anti-roll bar
Rear Suspension Semi-independent with coil springs and gas shocks
Warranty Five years or 100 000km
Price R124 995
Rivals Peugeot 107, Citroen C1, Chevrolet Spark, Hyundai i10, Renault Twingo

Author: LES STEPHENSON

 
Kia and its sister Korean automaker Hyundai are on an ascending curve and, given the style, features and build quality of its just-launched-in-SA Kia Picanto, there seems to be no limit to where they are going.

The Picanto, whose first version arrived from the far shores of the Indian Ocean back in 2004 as a rather cuddly and a bit chubby new member of the burgeoning A segment (read entry, first-time buyer), was pretty good then; now it’s a really superb example of compact auto engineering.

EVERYTHING'S CHANGED

No doubt most of the 30 000 SA Picanto buyers through the past six-and-a-bit years will agree that the previous model was a good, though inexpensive, set of wheels that did its job of city driving and commuting without complaint. It wasn’t, however, the epitome of style; not a car you’d get into each workaday morning and say “Wow!’

After inspecting and experiencing the 2011 version through the dry and dusty cane fields around Stanger, in kwaZulu-Natal, today all that’s changed. Iconic designer Peter Schreyer, the 25-year Audi penman who drew the original Audi TT but now works for Kia, believes in the beauty of a straight line and it’s a straight line that defines the profile of the Picanto.

As indeed it does, in various forms, in other Korean products.

The line slashes along each flank of the car, linking a rather bulbous but wide tail with a snout of a bonnet that together make a strikingly attractive car that is aimed full-bore at the younger market; the first-time buyers whom Kia and its partners hope will migrate one day to bigger, more versatile (but certainly not necessarily better!) and more expensive cars and SUV’s.

TARGET BELOW R100 000

Elsewhere on Wheels24 today is an article on the narrowing gap between the prices of new and pre-owned cars; the trade-in values of the latter are falling as the sticker prices on new cars hardly move despite inflation. It’s cars such as the Picanto that are to blame – if “blame” is the right word for automakers’ natural response to a lack of vehicular demand in former high-volume markets.

Europe, for example.

WIDE GUY: Designer Peter Schreyer chose to broaden the bum of the latest Picanto - and everything else on the car is new, too.

Kia, as bossman Ray Levin said in response to my question at the launch function in Umhlanga, aims to keep the price of entry versions of its small cars below R100 000; and indeed it has with the latest Picanto. The five-speed manual three-cylinder, one-litre units start at R99 995; add the 1.2-litre four-cylinder engine and they climb through R107 995 for the LX to R114 995 (Ray, bless him, loves his ’995 price tags) to the EX at R114 995.

Which is where the algebra comes in: those prices are pretty much the same as the outgoing models, despite inflation and the addition of a host of extra features such as uprated audio systems, power windows and mirrors, leather steering-wheel, anti-lock brakes, gearshift indicator and the stunning new design (depending on model).

They’re also more fuel-efficient with their new Kappa engines; your target would be around five litres/100km.

PICKING UP THE LUXURY

The “extras” are also easy to calculate: each model is available variously with an auto gearbox (add R10 000), power sunroof (R6000) and a service plan (starting at R3255).

Bottom line is, small cars are picking up all the luxury, performance and handing items that were once the preserve of, for instance, BMW, Merc and Audi. They’re just smaller and less powerful but can still manage close to 160km/h and hold the road like a race car of not-so-man years ago.

Helping with the retail price maintenance are falling parts prices. Example: anti-lock brakes that used to add (in international terms) $600 to prices now factor in at only $200.

But back to the engines: each new Kia Picanto has, as Kia puts it, “the highly efficient Kappa engine that helps to improve fuel consumption and reduce CO2 emissions”.

There’s the four-cylinder 1248cc unit that makes 65kW/120Nm; the three-cylinder 998cc (same size as the original Mini) makes 51kW/94Nm. Each has DOHC, dual continuously variable valve timing, a cast aluminium block, maintenance-free long-life timing chain and low-friction valve springs.

ECO INDICATOR

This combination of advanced technologies means that exhaust emissions have been significantly reduced; regular models will have a CO2 rating of 117-144g/km depending on model and transmission.  Fuel economy will range from 4.9 to six litres/100km.

There’s an ECO indicator that prompts the driver (manual only) to change gear and, when glowing green, means you’re saving the planet.

And while all that’s going on, how does it drive. Damn nicely, thank you. Kia has built in a sporty amount of suspension stiffness so cornering is fun and safe and the not-too-deep potholes of KZN (c’mon, you provincial fatcats, get them fixed) are scornfully absorbed by the 14” wheels.

The engine (I was driving the top-end 1.2 EX auto) has a nice throaty exhaust that lets you know when it’s working hard, not a shake or rattle to be felt or heard, and the steering is resilient enough to make holding a line a pleasure.

Legroom up front is fine, even for us taller folk, but knee-room in the back is, well, kinda tight. And the boot is tiny – but big enough for two folk on a weekend away. Even so, I don’t see any problem with Kia holding on to its market share of 10-15% given the car’s obvious quality and competitive pricing.

LOOKING FOR TRENDS

And talking of competitors, the Picanto will be up against Peugeot’s 107, Citroen’s C1, Chev’s Spark, sister-ship Hyundai’s i10 (with which it shares an engines (an earlier report that engines were not shared, according to Kia, was later corrected by the automaker) and Renault’s Twingo in a market that, Kia says, includes first-time buyers, commuters and younger buyers in their 20’s and 30’s – people looking for style and new trends.

Here’s how the standard and option equipment vary according to model...

Standard quipment for the base Kia Picanto 1.0

Exterior: 14” steel wheels with hubcaps and 165/60 R14 tyres, multi-focus reflector head and tail lights, black door releases and external mirror housings, body-coloured bumpers, manual door mirrors, tinted glass and heatable rear screen, roof-mounted micro radio antenna, rear foul-weather lights and a high third brake light.

Comfort and convenience: Electric power steering, tilt-adjustable steering wheel, non-auto aircon, gearshift indicator, trip data information, 12V power outlet, rear parcel shelf cover

Interior: Radio/CD player/MP3 with AUX, USB and iPod compatibility and four speakers, black cloth upholstery, centre console storage with cup-holders, 60/40 split folding rear seats, luggage under-floor box.

Crash protection and security: Driver’s airbag, IsoFix child seat anchors, intermittent windscreen wipers, height-adjustable head restraints front and rear, child-proof rear door locks, keyless entry, immobiliser and alarm, remote-controlled locking.

Kia Picanto 1.0 LX adds:

Body-coloured door releases, front fog lights, rear wiper, auto-on lights, auto interior/exterior lights (see you home), power front windows, passenger-seat undertray, front passenger airbag.

Kia Picanto 1.2 EX adds:

14” alloy rims with 165/60 R14 tyres, chromed grille and door releases, body-coloured sill mouldings, steering-wheel controls for audio and cellphone, power rear windows, power/heatable external mirrors, leather steering-wheel, Bluetooth, tweeter speakers, anti-lock brakes and flashing emergency-stop brake lights.

Still to come from Kia over the next six months or so are the Sedona VQ (Aug/Sept), Rio hatchback (Sept), Rio sedan (Nov), Soul MPV facelift (Sept), Optima sedan (Nov or early Jan).

More information on the 2011 Picanto.

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