Kia Picanto 1.2 EX - Big fun in small package

By JAY WONG | 4 April 2018

Momma always did tell me to “never judge a book by it’s cover” and this couldn’t be any further from the truth during a recent day-trip from Kuala Lumpur to Malacca in the new third-generation Kia Picanto (JA) - or Morning as it’s known in South Korea.

At RM49,888 (On-the-road with GST without insurance), this little compact five-seater has done away with some of its cute looks.

It now sports a more prominent front ‘Tiger-nose’ grille flanked by a more angular pair of projector headlights with LED daytime running lights at the front, while the rear takes on a pair of opposing ‘C’ light clusters and a shark fin antenna.

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Dimensionally, the 983kg (kerb) hatchback hasn’t changed much, with the only difference being that it has a 15mm-longer wheelbase at 2,400mm and the roof’s dropped by some 5mm to being 1,485mm-tall.

The engine’s the same naturally-aspirated little 1.2-litre (1,248cc) engine with 84PS and 122Nm that’s managed by a four-speed automatic before reaching the front wheels.

Performance is hardly a hothatch’s, but the Picanto still delivers decent drivability with frugal fuel consumption.

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Inside, the dashboard looks way better than the previous generation Picanto’s although the steering wheel isn’t telescopic and the cabin can be rather snug for beefier fellas.

But quiet the mind, cool the senses and there lies an interesting inclusion - a 7.0-inch free-standing touchscreen with Bluetooth connectivity, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto (ready), MP3/AUX/USB and radio playback for the well-sounding six speakers.

Scan further down, past the simplistic roundels for the climate controls, and there’s the second tier stowage compartment where its ledge has the USB port, AUX-jack and a 12-volt port rather nicely integrated.

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Not to mention, the multi-function steering wheel looks and feels very much helm-worthy and even the side air-conditioning vents are of a unique shape and design that adds a youthful character to it.

It was at that very point that the mindset began altering and the only concern was will the paltry power provisions of the engine disappoint? Not quite actually.

If stop-go city traffic is the main contender, the Picanto’s powertrain will operate smoothly and the tall gears will hardly ever be noticed unless the throttle gets squashed into the floor to get the engine screaming towards its 6,500rpm red-line.

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Although the powertrain just manages to make it into the ‘adequate’ department, the handling is well above average when roads start winding while at speed.

What really impressed was the way it tackles long sweeping bends at post-highway speed limits, and how it deals with uneven sections as well.

Undulations didn’t really rock its stability and the suspension could be felt dealing with all those uneven surfaces to keep it feeling stable and impressively planted.

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KIA Picanto - 16During tighter B-road engagements, the Picanto impressed even more with its sporty feel - thanks to a grippy front -end and a rear that simply follows the nose.

The brakes have a nice firmness to them as well, having the ability to bleed speed rather well before accessing further twisted sections.

The gearbox held up to the abuse pretty well as both co-driver and myself thoroughly and continuously bounced it between second and third to help the Picanto spit itself out of corners.

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Not to mention, the motor driven power steering also managed to shine nicely with its firm and sharp-ish steering feel.

After a full day of abuse, the little car had proven itself more than worthy to be looked upon in a different light - one that shines upon its refined ride, premium features, good looks, and handling prowess for a youthful entry-level car.

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The seats are relatively well-bolstered and although it is rather down on cabin space, most young car owners are solo drivers anyhow with that occasional ‘bestie’ in the front passenger seat or perhaps a gaggle of friends heading out for a night of fun and laughter over the weekend.

In short, the Picanto is going to be a car that many will grow very fond of in a very short span of time and it’ll be a great urban companion that’s more than eager to serve even with its meagre provisions.

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Engine: 1,248cc, Kappa multi-point injection, DOHC
Maximum power: 84PS at 6,000rpm
Maximum torque: 122Nm at 4,000rpm
Transmission: Four-speed gated automatic

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Features: Six airbags, anti-lock braking system, electronic stability control, traction control, brake assist, hill-start assist, projector halogen headlights, auto light control, LED daytime running lights, rear LED light cluster, rear spoiler with integrated brake light, front and rear fog lamps, power folding and adjustable external mirrors with integrated LED turn signals, chrome door handles, keyless-entry with push-start button, premium-wrapped multifunction steering wheel with audio, Bluetooth, voice recognition and trip buttons, fabric seats, six-speaker sound system with 7.0-inch LCD floating touchscreen, reverse camera with dynamic guide lines, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto (ready), radio/MP3/AUX/USB playback driver-side auto-up, ISOFIX anchor-points and 14-inch wheels with 175/65 series tyres

Price: RM49,888 (on-the-road with GST without insurance)
Warranty: Five-year unlimited mileage.

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