City slicker driving for a younger demographic with the new Kia Picanto

Kia has updated the Picanto, its popular city car. James Baggott heads to Spain to try it out

City slicker driving for a younger demographic with the new Kia Picanto

What’s new?

You may think the Kia Picanto is the car most likely to be driven by your granny, and you’d be right. But now the manufacturer is looking to ditch that image and target a younger age group with its suitably spiced-up city car.

Designed to attract youthful buyers, the refreshed model teams sporty looks with a more focused driving style to woo young professionals to part with their cash. But are the tweaks enough?

Looks and image

Well, there’s no doubt Kia has worked hard to liven things up. There’s an extended ‘tiger nose’ grille, the likes of which we’ve seen spread across the maker’s range, smart LED driving lights, and a large air intake at the front.

Double wheel arches add some flair at the sides, while a ‘shark’ antenna — which initially made an appearance on BMWs — has filtered down to the city car segment for the first time.

What’s more, for added sportiness, the GT-Line specification gets some random red trim — because nothing says sporty like added red inserts — and a twin-tipped exhaust.

Kia even went as far as describing the new design as ‘sexy’ in its launch presentation. Perhaps our definition of sexy is slightly at odds with Kia’s, but we get what it’s trying to achieve. Sort of.

Space and practicality

The third-generation Picanto has a huge weight on its shoulders to perform. As it’s predominantly bought as a second car by more mature buyers, Kia thinks the new tech — such as wireless charging for your mobile, parking camera, and Apple CarPlay — will tempt younger, first-time car buyers into dealers.

At just 3.6m (the same as its predecessor), Kia has managed to eke out a little more cabin space by increasing the wheelbase and reducing the front overhang, but you’re still going to wish your legs were foldable if you’re sat in the back.

Up front, you’ll sit shoulder to shoulder with your passenger, but there’s ample leg room and the driving position’s comfortable. Autonomous emergency braking — which warns then stops you if it senses a crash — as well as a smart torque vectoring system that improves handling by braking individual wheels, are also available.

Behind the wheel

It’s behind the wheel where the Picanto will divide opinion. Older buyers looking for a relaxed and comfortable ride will notice the improved suspension and capable way it deals with nasty, pot-holed road surfaces.

However, the sprightly engines, quicker turn in, and faster steering may make them feel a little too hurried behind the wheel. It’s these very characters that Kia is hoping younger buyers will appreciate.

The juxtaposition of characteristics is a trait of a car designed for a global market, where different markets want different things.

In Ireland, you may be more likely to find a Picanto in the cafe car park, but in southern Europe it’ll be left abandoned outside nightclubs while its owners party the night away.

Overall, there’s a noticeable improvement in both ride and handling, largely thanks to reduced weight and stiffer body, but whether that’s suitable for you will depend on your driving style.

Value for money

As this was an early test of a left-hand-drive model, sadly there were few details as to what options will feature on Irish models. Kia says each market is given a menu to pick from and that countries are currently working on refining what they’ll take. We do know that this will follow the conventional Kia strategy of 1, 2, and 3 levels of specification and that the GT-Line, driven here, will slot between 2 and 3.

In the GT-Line model we tried at the Spanish launch, a 7in media screen, wireless charging for mobiles, Android Auto, and Apple CarPlay all featured.

There was a heated steering wheel, seats, climate control, and electric windows and mirrors.

Buyers will have to wait a few weeks to find out exactly what’s on offer in Ireland, though.

Who would buy one?

Kia believes buyers will be largely female, describing them as ‘urban and dynamic’. Typically, the Picanto is used for commuting and will be sold mostly as second cars.

AT A GLANCE

Model: Kia Picanto GT-Line

Price as tested: £13,000 (no prices for Ireland)

Engine: 1.2-litre, four-cylinder

Power: 84bhp

Torque: 122Nm

Max speed: 107mph 0-60mph: 12 seconds

MPG: 61.4mpg

Emissions: 104g/km

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