Size matters when it comes to city cars like the Picanto. Buyers want space, versatility and practicality, but within a compact package that can be threaded through narrow and crowded urban streets and parked in the tightest of hard-to-find spaces.
It was with this in mind that the teams at Kia's European design centre in Frankfurt and Namyang in South Korea began co-operating on the design and package of the all-new, third-generation Picanto. And the starting point was that it should not be a millimetre bigger than the car it replaces. The footprint of the new car is therefore exactly the same as that of the previous one – 3,595mm long and 1,595mm wide.
However, those stark figures do not do justice to the ingenuity that has gone into the new car's design and packaging. Kia customer research revealed that buyers of the previous model wanted more of everything except overall size – more passenger and luggage space, more features and more quality. This enforced a complete rethink of the packaging of Kia's smallest European model. Thanks to the all-new H platform on which it is built, there is a 15mm longer wheelbase (2,400mm) without affecting overall length, and the front overhang has been reduced by 25mm while the rear overhang is 10mm greater to make space for a larger boot. The all-new Picanto is also 5mm taller than its predecessor.
Gregory Guillaume, Kia's Head of European Design, describes the new Picanto as "a small car that someone forgot to tell that it is small".
It is more European, more spacious more sophisticated and more sporty – an important consideration with ‘GT Line’ and ‘GT-Line S’ versions in the range for the first time.
There is a simple elegance about the all-new Picanto and a complete absence of fussy extraneous detail. As a result, the all-new Picanto is more youthful and energetic in appearance. From the front it gives the false impression of being wider and more stable than the previous model thanks to the elongated and slimmer 'tiger-nose' false upper grille. This is in black with either silver paint or, from grade ‘2’ upwards, a chrome surround. It stretches outwards to meet the multi-function reflector or bi-function projection headlamp units. LED daytime running lights are standard on ‘GT-Line’ and ‘GT-Line S’.
The lower grille/air intake of all models is larger, and is now widest at its lower edge, in complete contrast to that on the previous model.
Upright side grilles now house the front foglamps where fitted, and they are pushed as far outwards in the muscular bumper as is possible. The Kia badge has been relocated from the grille to just above it, and there are concealed windscreen wipers which help towards a drag co-efficient, or Cd, of 0.33 while reducing wind noise. Air curtains which channel air away from the wheel arches and wheels reduce turbulence and improve aerodynamics while adding a more dynamic appearance. The top of the windscreen is castellated, as on the Sportage.
At the sides, the 'cute' and 'cheeky' appearance of the previous Picanto has been replaced by a more assertive and bold look, with a rich cubic effect and elegant horizontal lines along the side skirts and shoulder. The beltline is now straighter, and it is 5mm lower at the front and 14mm lower at the rear, enhancing the view out for all occupants while making the cabin more airy. The wide C-pillar – something of a distinguishing Kia feature – is more upright to accentuate the greater cabin space.
There is a black or chrome beltline moulding and door handles, depending on model; tinted glass on every version; privacy glass on the rear side windows and tailgate of ‘GT-Line’ and ‘GT-Line S’; aerodynamic door mirrors; and wheels of 14, 15 or 16 inches in diameter – alloy on all but grade ‘1’.
The chunky appearance of the front bumper is echoed at the rear, and here, too, the fog lamp and reversing light have been pushed as far out to the car's extremities as is possible. C-shaped main light units – LED for ‘GT-Line’ and ‘GT-Line S’ – are retained, but are more voluminous, with added detail to give a more high-tech image. As at the front, the overall effect is to exaggerate the car's width and stability. A roof spoiler aids aerodynamics and houses the high-level brake light. A subtle shark's-fin antenna replaces the previous aerial.
The longer wheelbase, higher roofline and new proportions have had a significant beneficial effect on the space within the all-new Picanto. Front head, leg and shoulder room have all been increased – by 3mm, 15mm and 10mm respectively – while rear space in all three directions has been largely maintained. There has also been a 55-litre increase in boot capacity, to a class-best 255 litres, while the loading height is now 55mm lower. Folding rear seats, split 60:40, are standard across the range, expanding the luggage area to a maximum 1,010 litres, the ‘GT-Line S’ has a two-level boot floor.
Lots of small, detailed changes in the cabin design and layout further add to space and comfort. The seats are set 10mm lower than in the previous Picanto, and are 5mm further back. The door trims are more slender and the crash pad is slimmer, while the dashboard and steering wheel have been raised by 15mm and 10mm respectively, creating more knee space.
The dashboard, in common with other recent new Kias, is slim and wide to emphasise the cabin's width, and is split along horizontal lines into an upper display area and a lower control area. It is clean, modern and simple, with a satin chrome strip separating the two principal areas.
The significantly improved quality of the all-new Picanto – perceived and actual – is evident in the fit and finish and the choice of materials. The instruments appear in 2.6-inch monochrome or supervision monochrome display. Depending on model, there is black cloth or premium black cloth upholstery. A leather-trimmed steering wheel and gearshifter appears from grade ‘2’ and there are black, silver paint or satin chrome door handles.
Comfort has been considerably improved by new seats based on those in Kia models two or three classes up. Where the seats in many city cars have one-piece backrests with integrated headrests, those in the all-new Picanto feature fully-adjustable active headrests. The new seats share the same base materials and construction as those in the latest Optima. In the rear, the backrest angle is more reclined – from 25 to 27 degrees – and there are more prominent side bolsters. All of this makes for a more comfortable and relaxing ride on longer journeys.
In-car practicality has not been overlooked, either. There is more storage space which includes, at the base of the centre console, an open double-shelf tray to store mobile devices and other small items, with retractable twin cupholders. The new central armrest for front passengers, which is standard in grades ‘3’, ‘GT-Line’ and ‘GT-Line S’, is a first in class and slides fore and aft by up to 55 mm. It covers a small storage compartment designed to accommodate a one-litre water bottle or a sunglasses case. The ‘GT-Line S’ also has a tray for wireless charging of mobile devices.
The ‘GT-Line’ and ‘GT-Line S’ have a number of distinguishing features to emphasise their role as the sportiest models in the range. The most obvious of these from the outside are the sports front and rear bumpers and side sill mouldings, with red trim highlights. The upper grille and lower side grilles also feature red detailing. The lower rear bumper contains a diffuser section and twin exhaust tailpipes.
There are 16-inch alloy wheels with 195/45 R16 tyres, chrome exterior handles, chrome side window trims, privacy glass on the rear side windows and tailgate, bi-function projection headlamps, LED daytime running lights and rear lights and front fog lights in the corners of the main lower grille/air intake rather than in the side intakes.
Inside, ‘GT-Line’ and ‘GT-Line S’ have black and red faux leather upholstery and stainless steel pedals with non-slip rubber inserts. There are satin chrome door handles and, for the ‘GT-Line S’, a heated steering wheel and front seats.
The ‘GT-Line S’, along with grade ‘3’ versions, also has a 7-inch central 'floating' touchscreen, giving access to the navigation, infotainment and connectivity systems, which include integration with Kia Connected Services powered by TomTom®, DAB radio, Android Auto® and Apple CarPlay® connectivity via apps pre-loaded onto a smartphone. In all other models the audio details are displayed on a 3.8-inch monochrome unit.