Kia's "toy car", the Picanto, has been significantly revised for the new year and the sprightly little number is now even more fun to toss about.
In what is essentially a dramatic facelift, Picanto gets a totally new skin. Its more modern front end has bigger and more bulbous headlights (that are height adjustable) and new fenders and bumpers.
At the rear, the taillight clusters have been redesigned too, with funky circular detailing. Bumpers front and rear are impact resistant to 8 km/h and are now colour-coded on all models.
Three models are available, with base, LX and EX specification levels to choose from.
All Picantos are powered by the same 1.1-litre that produces 48 kW at 5 500 r/min and peak torque of 98 Nm at 2 800 r/min. Drive is to the front wheels via a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic gearbox.
On the road
Of course, performance figures are not really the point on a car like this, but for those that are interested, Picanto hurries from 0 - 100 km/h in 15 seconds and has a decent top speed of 152 km/h.
And spending time behind the steering wheel of the little car is an absolute pleasure. Its MacPherson strut and torsion beam suspension, matched with Picanto's short wheelbase, makes it a capable handler.
Steering feel through the beefy leather-wrapped wheel is good too and should take most of the hassle out of city driving.
The engine is quiet and runs smoothly, and a minimal amount of coaxing and cog-swapping was required to beat the inclines encountered along the Cape Town-route. Picanto's breezy five-speed manual gearbox offers light, yet decisive, shifts.
In-gear acceleration is also fair and while some foresight is required when undertaking any overtaking manoeuvres, Picanto?s punchy acceleration means keeping up with city traffic should not be a problem.
Although I would have relished the opportunity to give my biceps a workout in the base model, which as the name implies is rather basic, journalists present at the launch were allowed to sample the range-topping EX version packed to the hilt with goodies.
Take your pick
There is an intermediate LX specification level that adds features over the base model such as power steering, a 60/40 split rear bench, driver's airbag, air conditioner and electric front windows.
But EX has everything you could think off, including a very cute "sports kit" with an integrated roof spoiler and third brake light, side indicator repeaters in the exterior mirrors, fog lamps, alloy wheels, dual front airbags, ABS with EBD, alloy wheels, electric windows all round and electric mirrors.
That Picanto's cabin is almost entirely redesigned helps too. Upholstery and the instrument cluster (with a digital odometer and "door ajar" warning) are new. And for a car this size, the interior offers an alarming number of trays and pockets in which to stash the things we habitually accumulate.
Three cupholders - two up front and one at the rear - are provided and a fair-sized centre storage bin does a good job of holding keys and coins and everything else.
And since Picanto is so comprehensively specced, very few options are offered. An MP3 compatible front-loading audio system with an auxiliary jack (R3 000), metallic paintwork (R1 482) and a two-year/40 000 km service plan (R3 089.40) are it. The service plan can however be extended or changed to a maintenance plan at the customer's behest.
Base (man) - R77 995
Base (auto) - R86 995
LX (man) - R89 995
LX (auto) - R99 995
EX (man) - R105 995
EX (auto) - R115 995
And while we're on Kia products, if you are patiently waiting to place your Cee'd order, don't hold your breath. According to Kia SA head Ray Levin, the current rand/euro exchange rate makes it "impossible" to bring the car to South Africa this year.
However, the Rio range will be boosted with the addition of a 1.6-litre model.