Kia Picanto MT review

By Mikko David

With the rising cost of fuel and worsening traffic conditions unyieldingly burdening motorists nowadays, mini-compacts are getting so much attention that manufacturers are actually introducing newer models of the diminutive people carriers. One of the first to have a go in this class was Kia with its very capable Picanto.

The first-generation Picanto offered frugal fuel economy without utterly sacrificing usable space and relative comfort. The2011 Kia Picanto promises to do an even better job with a host of innovations that brings this mini-compact in line with the fuel-conscious times.

The efforts of Kia Motors' chief design officer and the original Audi TT's designer, Peter Schreyer, are clearly evident with the new Picanto. It sports a distinctly simple and clean European flair. The Picanto now looks more futuristic, aggressive and sporty with its angular design needing only bigger wheels to lend it some Super 1600 rally-racing cred.

After driving the manual transmission 2011 Picanto, I immediately appreciated its improved design quality and finish, certainly when compared to its predecessor. The plastics don't feel cheap and are, in fact, quite classy in black for a car in this segment. Fabric-clad seats amply hug the sides and backs of those sitting in front. It is interesting to note, however, that six-footers will certainly have a hard time finding the right driving position even with the front seats pushed all the way to the back. It follows that the back seats, though rated to accommodate three, will require a particularly tall person to sit sideways. It doesn't help either that there are no headrests provided for the back seats to support a long, lanky passenger's neck and shoulders.

On the road, steering is light coming from idle--great for parking lot maneuvers. It gets weighed down as the car's speed reaches 20kph, giving stability to a straight line drive. Clutch travel was hardly light though as the Picanto requires some pedal travel to engage the clutch and it releases abruptly just as I start to pull back. Sure, it saves the disc from unwitting clutch drivers but it also makes gear shifting a little cumbersome and awkward--almost amateurish.

Underneath the Picanto's bulging hood, the 998cc, three-cylinder, 68hp kappa multi-point injected motor might be underwhelming for racing standards--there's a short lag in power just before 2,000 revs--but it turns around with a noticeable pull afterwards. And even after some spirited driving, the Picanto actually reveals itself as a fuel miser. Based on the Picanto's on-board trip computer, I managed an average of 12.5 kilometers per liter in the city. This figure rose up to 16 kilometers per liter on the highway. And that's normal, air-conditioned--albeit non-aggressive--driving that negotiated daily EDSA city traffic and cruised at 100kph on the expressways. Undoubtedly, this a product of a new engine-management technology as well as an 84kg weight-loss program for the Picanto. If there's any reason to buy this car, then fuel economy has to be it.

Though the spec sheet numbers state a 45mm increase in length, a 10mm bump in height and 15mm longer wheelbase figure versus the old Kia Picanto, it is quite obvious that this is still a mini-compact that's designed mainly for the daily commute to and from work. In fact, from the driver's seat, a quick glance at the back makes you realize how compact the Picanto's interior dimensions are with the trunk's tonneau cover almost within arm's reach. This made me realize that the Picanto is more like a mobile backpack, really--one you can stuff your daily-grind things in, zip up and drive away with until you get to your next destination.

For a mid-range price of P545,000 it comes with power windows on all four doors with the driver's side enjoying automatic up-and-down movement, perfect as you roll away after paying parking and toll fees. The Picanto also sports power side-mirrors and a central power lock switch within handy reach of the driver. Together with the aforementioned trip computer, it is even equipped with a useful ECO-mode setting that tells the driver when to shift up or down via a gear number display on the instrument cluster. These little touches become handy tools in managing fuel expenses.

Even if it doesn't have airbags, ABS or a vanity mirror, the Picanto does its job with reasonable and reassuring comfort especially when compared to its contemporaries in the 1.0-liter category. And that's another promise this little Kia has managed to keep.

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  • hajabah Nov 08 2011 @ 05:28pm
    To the best of my knowledge, at least the i10 and the Alto also have the abrupt clutch action... and that made taking my practical exam for my license (in an Alto, LTO's car) very awkward. And annoying. I sort of wonder what the logic behind this feel is.
  • myas110 Nov 08 2011 @ 11:31pm
    still overpriced, i think.

    no ABS or even airbags compared to i10 and celerio.

    we need to have at least a driver side airbag mandatory to all vehicles in PH.
    • RS500 Nov 09 2011 @ 01:10am
      Overpriced? Not really - considering the amount of features it has. I have to agree with you that at least a driver side airbag should be mandatory to all vehicles, public or private transportation. I lot of people might disagree with us but it is better to have it than need it during certain situations.
  • bruce Nov 09 2011 @ 12:48am
    a vios i think has a better fuel mileage compared to what was indicated in this piece.. of course i'll get the low variant vios compared to this at almost the same price..
    • BOOGIECAT Nov 09 2011 @ 11:21am
      Vios is priced at 584K and it will be phased out in 2013.
  • ashek268 Nov 09 2011 @ 02:04pm
    Certainly not worth it!
  • mindkinetic Nov 14 2011 @ 03:41pm
  • warak1422 Nov 18 2011 @ 06:44pm
    As usual...PANIS
  • lomo13 Nov 22 2011 @ 12:06am
    they could have priced it lower.
    most would still prefer the vios over this one.

    target market would more likely get 60 months financing. at that terms, monthly payments are comparable to a low-end vios. konti lang and diperensiya.

    wise up, columbian. a picanto's still not on top of the list, even with fleet managers.
  • red_ukg Jan 05 2012 @ 08:16am
    overpriced for a car so small...will go for the low end vios with a better fuel mileage and comfort in the back seat..
  • redrav4 Feb 09 2012 @ 03:37pm
    Reading the review (along with watching several Youtube videos about this car) convinced me in the end to buy the 2012 Kia Picanto (MT). Overall I'm very happy with the purchase. What surprised me the most was the legroom inside the car. It's quite deceiving from the outside. When you get inside it's very roomy.

    The ride is very comfortable. I've ridden big SUVs in the past and of course those will give you the best experience. But I've never found myself annoyed by the way the car handles the usual bumps on the road.

    Some may speculate the engine is small and can't handle big ramps...I didn't really encounter any issues when driving over inclines with this car. It just feels like any other regular car. I didn't find myself putting more effort when driving up inclines or cutting through traffic, or going about 80 on an open road. I could drive faster than 80 but I really wouldn't want to blow my investment in an it's good enough for me. And I'm glad I can save a lot of money because of the low monthly installment.

    Lastly, the engine is really quiet! Maybe some people like their cars loud...this one just hums silently. But I like that about it. It's very relaxing to drive with it.
  • Lee17 Mar 05 2012 @ 01:46pm
    can you guys make a review of the 1.2 picanto? btw you just gotta love that stubby manual shifter. sick
  • jasonstriker34 Mar 31 2012 @ 10:33am
    mukhang matakaw talaga sa gas ang Korean brand 12.5km/litre for 1.0 kappa engine? compare sa celerio 21km/litre!
  • rarq23 Nov 20 2012 @ 02:46pm
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