Kia Picanto 1.2 EX

If you’ve ever rented a car in South Africa, you’ve no doubt driven the last generation Kia Picanto, and no doubt wept a little whilst driving it. Thankfully, the new Picanto is here, which means less tears, and more happiness.


Stickers. Deceiving.

I’m going to start off with pricing, because that’s what you need to keep in mind reading this review. The 1.2 EX (top of the range) comes in at R118 995, which, if you know anything about buying a car these days, is an attractive price


Firstly, Kia has nabbed Peter Shreyer, the guy who we can thank for the design of the Audi TT, and he’s come over to bring the entire fleet into alignment and give all the models a familiar look. The Picanto looks like unlike anything else on the road, and I find it a very attractive looking car. Small hatchbacks in this segment can often look utterly bland or like something the Chinese hatched in a lab. Thankfully the Picanto is neither. My only gripe is still the very small wheels on the limits of the body, which could possibly be a leeeetle bigger…just a smidge (the 1.2 EX comes with 15inch modern looking black & grey rims)


Interior ... vastly improved

Get in and I was immediately surprised by the vast improvement in quality of materials. No longer the shiny grained grey plastic, but rather plain matt black, with silver plastic inserts running in a swish under the dash, and some more on the steering wheel. Overall it’s a fairly comfortable place to be. Standard specification is considerable, with all 4 electric windows (front auto up and down), automatic headlights (Front & rear foglamps), an ok sound system with Aux/USB plug in and CD player, Bluetooth with steering wheel controls for audio, phone and on board computer. For those of you who aren’t aware, most of those are optional extras on any Audi or Golf these days. Rear seating and boot is cramped, but it’s a small car, so that’s expected.


My first drive in the Picanto was a drive on the Joburg highway ring, and I feared for my life thinking I’d be stuck in the slow lane running through the gears to barely edge 100km/h. Oh how Beale was wrong. The 1.2 litre (4 cylinder, 65kW – 120NM) is mated to a 5 speed manual gearbox that does an excellent job of getting the Kia up to legal highway speeds and keeping there without having to play “find the gear”. It cruised comfortable at just over 3000RPM at 120km/h, with no excessive whine from the little engine. Unfortunately the clutch seemed to have been raped by some previous journalists so the pedal had a couple centimeters of slack before it had any take (like a 20year old Citi Golf). I assume not all Picanto’s have this bad luck.

Averaging around 7litres/100km’s with a 35litre tank will get you considerable distance from the Picanto, roughly 500 kilometers



Thankfully they also haven’t skimped on safety in the range topping EX (the rest of the range does not feature ABS, which is a bit odd), which has ABS & dual front airbags. Handing didn’t surprise, but also didn’t let me down, and the car felt sure-footed under braking. The only real issue is the incredibly overassisted steering. It’s lifeless to the point of feeling like you’re driving a SEGA Rally game at an arcade. A service plan is optional, but comes standard with 5 year 100 000 km warranty.


Considering the competition at this price point, the Picanto does everything the competition does, in style, and with a whole lot more spec, it’s my pick of the bunch


Also around the R118 000 mark

–       VW Polo Vivo 1.4 5door –

  • Negatives – has less power, dated styling and airbags and ABS is optional.
  • Positives – A little more sure-footed, bigger all round, proven model

–       Nissan Micra 1.2 Visia+

  • Negatives – also has less power, styling is questionable
  • Positives – Higher standard specification list, more space

–       Ford Figo 1.4 Ambiente

  • Negatives – It’s really an old Fiesta
  • Positives – bigger fuel tank & boot, high spec level & matches Picanto on power

–       Hyundai i10 1.25 GLS

  • Negatives – Looks like a tiny car, also has a tiny boot, interior not half as exciting
  • Positives – isn’t an Atos

–       Toyota Aygo Wild

  • Negatives – Looks, strange interior & a little more expensive than the Picanto
  • Positives – 4year/60 000km service plan included & Toyota reliability


Kia has come a long way, and is making leaps and bounds in terms of perceived quality, looks and all round drivability. I suspect a small shake up in the hatch segment this year.


Shiny badging

4 thoughts on “Kia Picanto 1.2 EX

  1. I Just bought a Pure WHite, Automatic 1.2 EX with added Sunroof and Rear Parking Asist, Smash and Grab on windows and im updating the little sound system. Unfortuanely they dont come with day time drivign lights or Zenon but tha is alright. I am down sizing from my BMW 320D 2013 which was bought by my fiance for me. Sure i wil miss the excellent power and class of the BMW but in the city who really needs anything more. And more than anything this little car is all mine.. time to take to the roads…

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