Test drive: Kia Picanto 1.2L

It won’t trouble Perodua, but good-guy Picanto is just too cool for that anyway

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Bam! One pebble to the right-edge of our new Picanto’s windscreen is all it takes to make one significant crack. It quickly spreads right in front of my eyes and I can’t say I was not alarmed. The Naza Kia team however assured me that it’ll be fine…

A not so good start to my first experience with the all-new Kia Picanto. Yet, on the other hand it’s just 30 minutes into the media drive but this compact is striking all the right chords, discounting the pebble-meet-windscreen moment.

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Physically, the new car doesn’t look different from the old, and that’s a good thing. The uncomplicated lines, simple shape, and (if it’s your thing) funky colours has been carried over from the previous car.

The appeal truly is just appreciating what simple modern motoring is – turn up and drive. No time wasted on switching between engine modes (particularly true for hybrids/PHEVs), or throttle mapping. The glasshouse is generous too so one does not spend too much effort in finding the best seating position. Win!

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You do have to check your expectation when it comes to performance, however. Without force-feeding, the 1.2-litre engine actually feels like a 1.2-litre engine and nothing more. It’s fine in isolation as it builds up speed with no real drama (or hurry); but once you need to find speed quick the lack of displacement hits you in the face like, well, a poorly thrown sponge cake. In short, the Picanto is not going to surprise you in the performance department.

Sure, it will reach 170kph given enough road – and provided the driver is committed enough. And the cabin is still a relatively calm place at this point, by the way. Yet, taking it slow results in a far more rewarding driving experience. The steering’s lack of feel and uninterested throttle response are just minor points really.

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It seems the only thing the Picanto is interested in delivering is fuss-free driving. It has no right to be this pliant just based on that short wheelbase but that’s what it gives. Actually the new Picanto boasts 15mm longer wheelbase than before although that has got more to do with increasing cabin space rather than for drivability, I suspect.

This time around a manual-box option is not even in the cards like the previous time, but the engine’s 84ps and 122Nm of torque seems fit with this 4-speed auto.

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And there’s plenty on offer for its RM49,888 price tag, which includes six airbags, Vehicle Stability Management, Hill-Start Assist, and LED rear combination lamps. The 7-inch touchscreen gives you control of your Android phone or iPhone via Andoid Auto or Apple CarPlay, and that’s something I appreciate very much.

Which is probably why I am (unfairly) let down by the Apple CarPlay feature; you see, you can’t use third party cables for the integration to work. It needs to be a genuine Apple charging cable. You know that one, right? The flimsy all-white cable which tends to expose its gut after the slightest bit of heavy use.

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So that’s that. The new Picanto is a remarkably honest and pleasant car that let me down by being picky about its cables. Still, it’s easier to buy the proper cable than finding something not-Perodua which can upstage the Picanto.


  Engine   1,248cc, 4-cyl, FWD, 84ps, 122Nm
  Price:   RM49,888
  Fuel consumption   5.4 litres/100km (claimed)
  Performance   0-100kph in 12secs

Verdict: Well made in all factors, except that it could use with a wee bit more power [8/10]

Ahmad Zulizwan
Author: Ahmad Zulizwan
Take it to the track, please.