The Technical Story

T-GDi engine will be the most powerful ever in a Picanto

The most powerful engine ever to appear in a Picanto will take pride of place in the all-new, third-generation model. It is a 99bhp version of Kia's in-house 1.0-litre T-GDi (Turbocharged Gasoline Direct-injection) unit and will become available later this year. The T-GDi power unit is offered alongside modified 1.0-litre and 1.25-litre multi-point injection (MPi) petrol engines which, like the T-GDi, are from the Kappa family. As with the vast majority of city cars, there is no diesel because any savings in running costs would not be sufficient to compensate for the higher purchase price.

A major re-engineering programme has reduced the fuel consumption and emissions of the MPi engines, which are now as low as 64.2mpg and 101g/km. Five-speed manual gearboxes are standard, but a four-speed automatic is available with the 1.2-litre engine.

There has been extensive work to enhance comfort and driver enjoyment through revisions to the suspension and steering. The Picanto relies on independent MacPherson struts at the front and a new, lightweight U-shaped torsion beam axle and new trailing arms at the rear. The improvement in ride and handling also benefits from the stiffer all-new platform and body as well as a quicker rack for the column-mounted Motor Driven Power Steering (MDPS).

Refinement has been dramatically improved through detailed work on the aerodynamics, body structure, insulation and soundproofing, and is now best in class.

The 1.0-litre and 1.25-litre multi-point injection engines

At launch, the two petrol engines available in the in the all-new Picanto are a three-cylinder 998cc unit and a four-cylinder with a displacement of 1,248cc. Both are from the Kappa family and have the same 71mm cylinder bore, but the four-cylinder version has a shorter piston stroke – 78.8mm against 84mm. Both have four valves per cylinder, continuously variable valve timing on the inlet and exhaust sides and multi-point fuel injection for highly efficient combustion with strong performance across a wide rev range.

They have a common 10.5:1 compression ratio, a cast aluminium block, low-friction beehive valve springs, an offset crankshaft and a maintenance-free long-life timing chain.

Both have been extensively modified to improve performance, fuel economy and emissions. Upgrades include a new exhaust manifold integrated into the cylinder head and a new cooling system with shut-off valve, reducing the time it takes the engine to warm-up from a cold start. A new two-stage oil pump reduces mechanical friction. For the 1.0-litre unit, a new auto tensioner reduces belt noise, and cooled exhaust gas recirculation minimises pumping losses and knocking while bringing about a two per cent fuel saving. The 1.25-litre unit now features a revised dual continuously-variable valve timing system and new coated piston rings to reduce cylinder friction for greater efficiency, as well as an auto tensioner on the belt and a piston cooling jet.

The 1.0-litre 12-valve unit develops 66bhp at a now-reduced 5,500rpm and 96Nm of torque at 3,500rpm, giving the car a 101mph top speed and sprightly 0-60mph acceleration in 13.8 seconds with immediate responses that befit a primarily urban car. Of equal interest to budget-conscious buyers is its excellent combined economy of 64.2mpg and CO2 emissions of only 101g/km. The spread of torque, acceleration and highway performance have all improved compared with the previous Picanto, but at the same time there has been a 1.4mpg improvement in overall economy and a 4g/km reduction in CO2 emissions. It is worth noting that the urban driving economy potential of the 1.0-litre Picanto is more than 50mpg.

The 1.25-litre 16-valve Kappa engine develops 83bhp at 6,000rpm and 122Nm of torque at 4,000rpm. It is allied to either a five-speed manual gearbox or a four-speed torque-converter automatic transmission. The manual has a top speed of 107mph and a 0-60mph acceleration time of 11.6 seconds. Combined fuel economy is 61.4mpg, while the CO2 emissions are 106g/km. As with the 1.0-litre engine, this represents small but nevertheless significant gains of 1.3mpg and 3g/km.

With automatic transmission the Picanto averages 52.3mpg (a 1.9mpg improvement) in the official combined cycle, with CO2 emissions of 124g/km (down by 6g/km), while the respective top speed is 101mph, with 0-60mph acceleration in 13.2 seconds.

The improved torque characteristics of both engines has allowed Kia engineers to employ higher gearing, which promotes greater fuel economy while reducing noise at cruising speeds.

The 1.0-litre T-GDi engine

The 1.0-litre T-GDi engine fits in perfectly with Kia's downsizing strategy by delivering exceptional power and torque from only three cylinders and a cubic capacity of just 998cc, thanks to turbocharging and direct injection. The T-GDi unit sprays a fine mist of fuel directly into the cylinders through a high-pressure (up to 200 bar) injection system, resulting in highly efficient combustion. Direct injection with turbocharging also helps to boost low-speed response and driveability.

The key targets were instantaneous response, high combustion efficiency and exemplary torque across a wide portion of the rev band. The 1.0-litre 16-valve T-GDi engine develops 99bhp at 4,500rpm and 172Nm of torque continuously from 1,500rpm to 4,000rpm, and features a number of innovative technical solutions. There are laser-drilled injectors with six holes laid out in a pyramid shape so that the fine mist of fuel is spread evenly throughout the cylinders. A straight air intake port ends in a sharp air intake throat, reducing air resistance at all stages of the process. This improves cylinder tumble flow for faster, more efficient combustion while suppressing engine knocking.

There is a single-scroll turbocharger paired with an electric wastegate motor. This improves turbocharger performance while scavenging clean air for the engine to re-use for combustion. At the same time it allows the wastegate to open to improve the flow of spent exhaust gases. It is an innovative system which allows higher low-end torque, more immediate response at any throttle opening and improved fuel economy at high engine loads.

The engine is fitted with an integrated exhaust manifold in a one-piece casting, improving sealing, reducing weight and lowering exhaust gas temperatures. Lower temperatures result in cleaner emissions by allowing the catalytic converter to operate more effectively. Engine temperatures are closely regulated by a dual-thermostat split cooling system, which allows the block and cylinder heads to be cooled independently. The main thermostat controls the flow of coolant to the cylinder heads above 88º C to reduce knocking, while the engine block thermostat shuts off coolant flow above 105º C to reduce friction and improve efficiency.

There is continuously variable valve timing on both the inlet and exhaust sides, electronic throttle control and light, low-friction moving parts. The crankshaft is offset from the centre-line to aid smoothness. As a result of these detailed engineering measures the T-GDi engine exhibits minimal throttle lag – the delay between the driver pressing the accelerator and the turbocharger delivering boost. The turbocharger is integrated within the exhaust manifold.

For added durability, the cylinder block has been heat-treated and the crankshaft, pistons and connecting rods have been strengthened.

The T-GDi engine is expected to accelerate the Picanto from standstill to 60mph in less than 10 seconds on the way to a top speed of 112mph. As models powered by this engine have not yet completed the homologation process, economy and emissions figures are unavailable.

Model
Power
bhp
Torque
Nm
0-60
sec
Max speed
mph
Average
mpg
CO2
g/km
Picanto ‘1’ 1.0 66bhp 5-speed manual
66
96
13.8
100
64.2
101
Picanto ‘2’ 1.0 66bhp 5-speed manual
66
96
13.8
100
64.2
101
Picanto ‘2’ 1.25 83bhp 5-speed manual
83
122
11.6
107
61.4
106
Picanto ‘2’ 1.25 83bhp 4-speed auto
83
122
13.2
100
52.3
124
Picanto ‘GT-Line’ 1.0 66bhp 5-speed manual
66
96
13.8
100
64.2
101
Picanto ‘GT-Line’ 1.25 83bhp 5-speed manual
83
122
11.6
107
61.4
106
Picanto ‘3’ 1.25 83bhp 5-speed manual
83
122
11.6
107
61.4
106
Picanto ‘3’ 1.25 83bhp 4-speed auto
83
122
13.2
100
52.3
124
Picanto ‘GT-Line S’ 1.25 83bhp 5-speed manual
83
122
11.6
107
61.4
106

Greater driver satisfaction and improved passenger comfort

The all-new Picanto, like its predecessor, is based upon a suspension system which features independent MacPherson struts at the front and a torsion beam axle at the rear, with column-mounted Motor Driven Power Steering, but there have been extensive revisions to deliver greater driver satisfaction, quicker responses and a more comfortable ride.

The changes start with the all-new H platform which underpins the third-generation Picanto and the revised proportions and weight distribution of the car. The new H platform features twice as much high-strength steel as in the previous model – up from 22 per cent to 44 percent – making the all-new car's shell not only more robust but also 23 kilogrammes lighter. At the same time the amount of structural adhesive bonding the body sections together has increased almost nine-fold, from 7.8 to 67 metres, to add further stiffness.

As a result, the all-new Picanto is 32 per cent better than its predecessor in static torsional stiffness and 12 per cent better for tensile strength. A stiffer body benefits ride comfort and handling by allowing the suspension to do its work without having to compensate for flexing; helps to reduce noise, vibration and harshness; and provides a stronger, safer barrier in the event of impact.

The longer wheelbase, shorter front overhang, larger rear overhang and seats which are 10mm lower and 5mm further back have created a slightly more rear-biased weight distribution, while the small-capacity engines minimise weight over the nose and add to the car's agility. The relocation of mechanical parts because of the shorter front overhang also lowers the centre of gravity, which further aids agility.

Kia engineers have built upon the sharp handling responses and comfortable ride of the previous Picanto to provide even greater stability and quicker steering reactions, something which is especially helpful in confined city streets and when parking, with an even more comfortable ride.

The MacPherson strut front suspension has revised geometry which reduces friction and ensures that the forces from the wheels are now more in line with the dampers. The anti-roll bar is now two per cent stiffer and mounted slightly lower, while that at the rear is five per cent stiffer. This has reduced the angle of cornering roll by up to one degree which, along with the shorter front overhang, improves steering responsiveness.

The slightly more rearward weight bias naturally reduces the pitch centre of the car and nose dive when braking, improving ride comfort without the need for firmer spring and damper settings. The extended wheelbase also adds to ride comfort.

The rear torsion beam is now U-shaped and features new trailing arms which reduce unsprung weight by 1.8kg on the rear axle, with no loss of component rigidity. As at the front, there are measures to reduce friction and maximise damping.

The steering rack for the MDPS system is now mounted lower and is 13 per cent quicker, requiring just 2.8 turns between the extremes of lock instead of the previous 3.4. Along with the shorter front overhang, this considerably improves responsiveness and agility in tight manoeuvres and when parking. The all-new Picanto has a tight turning circle of just 9.4 metres.

Wheels of 14, 15 or 16 inches in diameter (steel on grade ‘1’ models; alloy on all others) are fitted, with 175/65 R14, 185/55 R15 or 195/45 R16 tyres. All models have a tyre repair kit in place of a spare wheel.

Anything for a quiet life with comprehensive new NVH counter-measures

Besides being the most engaging small car to drive that Kia has ever produced, the all-new Picanto is also the quietest and most refined.

It features a comprehensive package of new NVH counter-measures to shut out mechanical road and wind noise. The all-new Picanto is now the quietest car in class, both when idling (39 decibels) and at a steady cruise (68 decibels).

Additional refinement measures include a new soundproofing panel beneath the dashboard and in the floor of the cabin, expandable sound-absorbent foam in the lower sections of the A- and B-pillars and a new sound-absorbent engine cover and reshaped air intake to isolate engine noise from the cabin. The structure of the engine mounts has been revised to counteract vibrations and there is an improved heating and ventilation radiator which is quieter than that in the previous model. Even the windscreen wipers play a part: they are now 6 mm lower to reduce the level of wind noise at the base of the windscreen.

Wind turbulence has also been reduced by the air curtains ahead of the front wheels, which reduce the vortex around the tyres, and by the rear roof spoiler.

The best of active and passive safety

The ultra-stiff body shell of the all-new Picanto, composed of 44 per cent advanced high-strength steels versus 22 per cent in the previous model, has beneficial effects beyond handling and comfort. It provides a greater barrier against injury in the event of an accident.

The chassis of the new car has carefully designed longitudinal and lateral load paths and greater torsional and bending rigidity than the model it replaces. Structural improvements include the application of almost nine times more adhesives (now 67 metres) to bond the body together. Advanced high-strength steels reinforce all major chassis parts. The new, stronger steel has been used to strengthen the floor pan, roof rails and engine bay, as well as the A- and B-pillars, creating a stronger core structure.

Electronic Stability Control (ESC) and Vehicle Stability Management (VSM), which work together to stabilise the car on slippery road surfaces or when simultaneously cornering and braking, are now joined by a new feature – torque vectoring. This is a first for Kia in the city-car class and a further aid to handling stability. Using the anti-lock brake and ESC sensors, it detects when the car is drifting off its intended course in corners and brakes the inside rear wheel if the front of the car is running wide or the outer rear wheel if the rear tyres are starting to slide. It is standard on all models.

All versions also have Hill-start Assist Control (HAC) to prevent the car from rolling backwards when setting off on steep inclines.

There are six airbags, with pre-tensioners and load limiters front and rear to brace occupants in their seats in extreme braking, and to prevent injury to chests. A visual and audible seat belt reminder warning is fitted, and there are ISOFIX child-seat mounting points.