It is an extremely important car for us, and could be responsible for almost one in six of our UK sales. In fact the UK delivers close to a quarter of all European Picanto sales. Although the city-car market is shrinking – some forecasters believe that by the end of 2018 it will have been reduced by 20 per cent based on 2015 figures –we expect the all-new Picanto to increase its market share in both the UK and mainland Europe. Retail customers represent just over 60 per cent of all city-car buyers, but with Picanto the proportion is 82 per cent, so it is a vitally important car for us in attracting private buyers.
Only by a tiny number, if at all. Three-door city cars are increasingly falling out of favour with buyers in this sector and now account for only 10 per cent of sales, a figure which continues to fall. It is not worth the cost of additional tooling at the factory to produce different body sides and doors for such a small number of sales.
Grade ‘2’ versions will be the biggest sellers, and will be the choice of around 45 per cent of buyers, but we are predicting large demand for the new GT-Line and forecast that this could be responsible for around 30 per cent of Picanto sales. We think the most popular engine will be the 1.0-litre MPi, but we are extremely optimistic about the prospects for the 1.0-litre T-GDi.
Three words: refinement, connectivity and safety. City-car buyers, many of whom are downsizing from something larger, demand the levels of refinement they are used to, so there is a far greater degree of soundproofing materials in the new Picanto. Connectivity systems also add to weight, as do the cameras and radar systems needed for the Autonomous Emergency Braking feature. So, overall, the weight is little changed, but the new Picanto is much lighter than if we had continued with conventional and less-safe steels. Every model still weighs less than 1,000kg.
There are no plans to produce an electric Picanto, or hybrid versions, because we believe we are well covered in the small-car alternative powertrain market by the Soul EV until there is a more mature recharging infrastructure. A GT is perfectly feasible - we have a 118bhp version of the T-GDi engine which would slot easily into the Picanto – but 75 per cent of all city-car sales go to models with engines of 75bhp or less. As always, there has to be demand and a strong business case for any additional versions.
The system under which UK car buyers pay road tax, or Vehicle Excise Duty, changes for 2017-18 so that the Government can claw back some of the money it was losing as cars became more fuel efficient. As a result, fuel consumption for the all-new Picanto would have been only marginally better by fitting ISG, while the cost of the car would have been considerably higher. Kia's policy is to ask buyers to pay more only where there are significant benefits in return. But all versions of the new Picanto produce less CO2 than before, so for the small but significant number of business users, benefit-in-kind taxation rates fall.