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2024 Kia Picanto - First Drive Review
2024 Kia Picanto - First Drive Review

2024 Kia Picanto – First Drive Review

April 23, 2024
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Kia’s Picanto will be 21 years old in 2024. To make it even more appealing to young jet-setters, Kia has enhanced its sheetmetal, added a raft of features, and there are new colour choices available too.

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Kia Picanto

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SA’s A-segment is a busy one – after all, it’s here where SA’s cheapest new cars are to be found and since South Africans are a cash-strapped bunch, this is where most of us shop.

Since its inception in 2004, Kia has sold over 100 000 Picantos to South African buyers and the brand has no intention of slowing down its sales success. Still in its third generation, the Picanto has now received a thorough refresh to make it even more appealing – and you’d never guess to whom: most people who buy Picantos fall in the 26 – 32-year-old age group.

Related: Is the previous Picanto good for new drivers?

So, what’s different?

Styling – way sharper, cooler, and more fashionable

The design, inspired by the brand’s “opposites united” theme which we’ve seen on cars like the suave Sportage, is much slicker than before.

The front end gets a complete refresh, featuring a redesigned lighting signature for maximum small-car sophistication. Kia’s signature tiger-nose grille gets a more prominent update, while sculpted lines on the hood and fenders give the Picanto a wider, more planted stance. (Featured in these images is the entry-level EX model.)

Everything you need to know about the previous Kia Picanto

The sporty theme continues in the rear with redesigned taillights that stretch horizontally and connect beneath the rear window. This creates a cohesive design element and complements the restyled rear bumper. Overall, the Picanto’s makeover conveys a sense of confidence and contemporary style.

Buying used? Find out which car has the lowest running costs: the Suzuki Swift, Fiat 500 or the Kia Picanto.

New colours and wheel choices on offer

There are three new colour choices namely Sporty Blue metallic, Smoke Blue metallic and Adventurous Green metallic, but the usual lineup of colours is still available and these consist of  Clear White, Sparkling Silver metallic, Aurora Black Pearl, Astro Grey metallic and Signal Red.

The Picanto offers a variety of wheel options to match your taste. Depending on the trim level, you can choose from sporty 14-inch and 15-inch alloy wheels, while 14-inch steel wheels (see above) with stylish covers are standard on the entry-level EX model.

Interior – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it

The Picanto’s interior carries over its reputation for quality and tech, and changes are minimal. The familiar horizontal layout creates a sense of spaciousness, further amplified by the visual width it adds. The driver-centric dashboard still features the prominent 8-inch colour touchscreen as its centre piece with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto as standard.

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Black cloth upholstery comes standard, while higher trims upgrade to a sophisticated two-tone black and grey leather option. 

The digital instrument binnacle (standard across the board) further elevates the cabin’s upmarket ambience.

Engines – the same, but better

You still get to choose between Kia’s trusty 1.0-litre and 1.25-litre petrol engines, and Kia has revised them both for better efficiency and longevity.

The efficient 1.0-litre 3-cylinder delivers 49 kW of power at 5,500 rpm, complemented by 95 Nm of torque at 3,750 rpm for energetic city driving. For those craving a bit of muscle, the 1.25-litre 4-cylinder puts out a healthy 62 kW at 6,000 rpm and 122 Nm of torque at 4,000 rpm. Both engines pair with either a 5-speed manual or a convenient 4-speed automatic transmission.

New nomenclature – LX, EX and EX Plus

Kia has done away with the previous naming convention of Start, Street and Style. Here’s the grade walk for the latest Picanto range.

LX Grade (driven on launch):

  • ABS and EBD
  • Two airbags
  • Body-coloured bumpers and trim
  • Steel wheels with covers
  • Isofix on the outer rear seats
  • Electrically adjustable and heated side mirrors
  • Remote central locking with alarm and immobilizer
  • Child locks
  • 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay & Android Auto and rearview camera
  • Keyless entry
  • Height-adjustable driver’s seat
  • Leather-wrapped, multi-function steering wheel (adjustable for rake)
  • 60/40 split rear seats
  • Electric windows
  • Manual Airconditioning
  • Four speakers
  • USB-C port
  • Five-speed manual transmission 
  • 1.0-litre engine

EX Grade (Mid-Tier):

  • Builds on LX features
  • 14-inch alloy wheels
  • Side repeater lamps on electric folding side mirrors
  • Storage box/armrest binnacle between front seats
  • Rear occupant alert function
  • Upgraded 4.2-inch Supervision TFT instrument cluster
  • Automatic light control
  • Two additional tweeter speakers
  • Electronic Stability Control (ESC)
  • Hill-start Assist Control (HAC)
  • 1.25-litre engine

EX Plus Grade (Top-Tier):

  • All features from EX grade
  • Smart Key with push-button start/stop
  • Illuminated driver’s vanity mirror
  • Automatic climate control
  • Rear parking distance warning sensors
  • Artificial leather upholstery
  • High-gloss interior trim accents
  • LED rear taillights
  • 15-inch alloy wheels
  • 1.25-litre engine
  • Fog lights 

Sadly, the Kia Picanto X-Line didn’t make the cut to be continued.

Driving the Picanto

When we exited the Raddison Blue hotel, a bright and cheerful line-up of Kia Picantos in entry-level EX trim were waiting for us. My co-pilot and I sat ourselves down in a Sparkling Silver Metallic model, and hit the road towards Sea Point and Camps Bay, as we were told to just have fun instead of driving along a prescribed launch route. 

Zipping through traffic is a breeze in the Picanto, as its light and nimble little body is propelled easily by the four-cylinder, 1.0-litre engine mated to a slick and smooth-shifting 5-speed manual ‘box.

U-turns are done in two shakes of a lamb’s tail and finding parking is the easiest thing of all – the Picanto is still only 3,595 mm long and 1,595 mm wide, and its compact size has made it the theme of many memes on the internet. In a crowded city like Cape Town, the world really is your oyster when you’re driving a Picanto! 

I opened the boot to store my leather jacket inside, and it’s hard not to notice how tiny it is. It’s the same with space on the rear bench. It’s pretty tight if you’re over 1.65 metres tall. I also noticed a lack of rear door cards with binnacles, but at least there’s a solo bottle holder available in the centre for a rear passenger.

We ended the launch at the Cape Town Waterfront and looked for parking in the basement opposite the Two Oceans Aquarium. There was one narrow parking spot next to a cement pillar where normal cars could obviously not fit, but my co-driver proceeded to squeeze in without any effort, and both of us could still exit the Picanto comfortably.

After battling and stressing myself out and to find parking at Cape Town’s Chris Barnard Memorial Hospital in a Toyota Fortuner two weeks ago, having a little Picanto at my disposal made me feel footloose and fancy free!

Verdict

The new Picanto is not cheap; in fact – the Picanto has been one of the more ‘premium’ entry-level cars for a while now, and has almost become an aspirational car for many, due in part to its good looks, price tag, and generous list of standard features. 

While it’s on the small side for couples who regularly have friends or high-school kids riding along in the back, it’s perfect for the trendy, single, urban professionals (previously known as ‘yuppies’!) or even single parents who want a sexy-looking car with all the creature comforts and excellent build quality.

Can’t afford a new model? you can always wait a few months until a demo model becomes available.

Pricing for the 2024 Kia Picanto is as follows:

Kia Picanto 1.0 LX Manual:R 260,995
Kia Picanto 1.0 LX Auto:R 278,995
Kia Picanto 1.2 EX Manual: R 284,995
Kia Picanto 1.2 EX Auto:R 302,995
Kia Picanto 1.2 EX Plus Manual:R 307,995
Kia Picanto 1.2 EX Plus Auto:R 325,995

The Kia Picanto comes with a comprehensive warranty package. This includes unlimited km coverage for 5 years.

For scheduled maintenance, a pre-paid service plan is offered, covering the first 2 years or 30,000 km (whichever comes first). (Customers seeking extended coverage for future servicing can explore additional plan options through Kia Financial Services.)

Roadside assistance is also included within the warranty, providing support in case of an unexpected breakdown.

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