The Kia Picanto is the smallest model offered by Kia in the UK, and it seems to be a popular choice judging by the number of them on the roads. Even the 1st-generation models are still commonly seen, which is a testament to their dependability. This 3rd-generation model has been around since 2017 and has had a couple of facelifts in that time, keeping the Picanto looking fresh and introducing some neat tech that you only previously found on their more expensive models.

The stub-nosed Picanto features short front and rear overhangs, minuscule dimensions and a tight turning circle making it an ideal city car – although I took it out of its comfort zone and embarked on a 700-mile round trip which was a little unfair on the little mite. . .

The unchanged size of the Picanto disguises the ingenuity that has gone into its packaging over the years. It may not have Tardis-like dimensions inside but compared to previous models it packs a lot more space, despite those similar proportions. All models are 4-seaters, except for the new, mildly-rugged  X-Line S which manages to squeeze in 5 seats.

However, they all get five doors and they all get an upgraded version of the previous 1.0-litre, 3-cylinder petrol engine which means the cute little Kia is capable of 58.9mpg, with CO2 emissions from 109g/km.

There is a choice of automatic transmission over the 5-speed manual but whichever you choose, don’t expect performance to get anywhere near “sporty”. With just 66 bhp on tap, the Picanto takes over 14 seconds to reach 60mph from a standing start – add another 2.5 seconds if you go for the Auto gearbox.

There are a total of eight versions of the Picanto to choose from in the UK, based on one engine, two transmissions and five trim lines – ‘1’, ‘2’, ‘GT-Line’, ‘3’ and the crossover-inspired ‘X-Line S’. 

My test model was the GT-Line with a manual gearbox and the standard colour of “Honey Bee”. I wasn’t too sweet on it though and if it were my money, I’d be spending an extra £575 on “Astro Grey”, which also provides red details in the grill and along the sills. This combo gives the Picanto a sportier, more premium look from the outside and is well worth the extra outlay.

What do you get and for how much? 

A Picanto ‘1’ can be had for as little as £13,695 OTR, while the ‘2’ will set you back £14,445. I suspect the GT-Line will be the most popular at £15,600 OTR or £16,300 with the auto gearbox.

The ‘3’ gets more equipment but doesn’t look as sporty as the GT-Line. It starts from £15,950 OTR, with the auto option costing from £16,650.

If a pocket-SUV appeals then the X-Line S starts from £17,700 and comes with automatic transmission only. It has some rugged design cues with SUV-style bumpers and silver-coloured skid plates at the front and rear. The X-Line S also has black cladding on the side sills and around the wheel arches – much like any other Soft-Roader has these days.

The specification is pretty good for a budget city car, with the base model getting electric front windows, Auto Headlights, Hill Start Assist, Remote Central Locking and Bluetooth connectivity with Music Streaming. However, there are no alloys and no touchscreen for Infotainment, while the speaker count stops at just 2.

But there is a host of active safety features such as Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist and a Brake-Assist System, along with the likes of a Tyre Pressure Monitoring System and Emergency Stop Signalling.

The ‘2’ still has to make do with a 3.8-inch monochrome Audio Display but it does get an extra 2 speakers and manual air-conditioning. The rear windows are now electric and the wheels are 14-inch alloys. Trim and materials are of better quality inside and out with the likes of a chrome surround on the black front grille and premium black cloth upholstery inside.

My GT-Line looked pretty smart both inside and out and benefitted from 16-inch alloys and the GT-Line Styling Pack. Side Sill Mouldings, Privacy Glass, Bi-Function Projection Headlights and LED rear Fog Lights all add to the appeal.

Inside there is Black and Red Faux Leather Upholstery, a Leather-trimmed Steering Wheel and Gearshift, a 6-speaker Audio System and a very smart-looking 8-inch Touchscreen with a reversing camera. It also has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto available.

The odd-ball ‘3’ gets less sporty looks but a bit more comfort with Sat Nav and Automatic Climate Control. It rides on 15-inch alloys.

Top-of-the-range X-Line S adds the likes of Black Faux Leather Upholstery with Green Stitching, Heated Front Seats and a Heated Steering Wheel. It also comes with a Wireless Phone Charger, a Smart Key and an Engine Stop/Start Button. Like the GT-Line (which it is based on) it gets 16-inch alloy wheels.

How Does it Drive? 

The little Picanto is a cinch to drive around town – as you would expect. It’s designed to nip in and out of side streets, dart into parking spaces and generally get you around the town/city with as much ease as possible.

Visibility is very good all-around and the compact little car is very easy to park – even without a reversing camera, which my model came with as standard.

The 5-speed manual gearbox was absolutely fine and if you remember to give it a few extra revs in the lower gears, the Picanto doesn’t feel like a slouch. The 3-pot engine is a little vocal at those higher revs but in most cases, you’ll be into the next gear soonish and away down the gym/supermarket/workplace before you know it.

All is good with the Picanto when it’s doing the job it was designed to. It rides well too, for such a small car. Our poor roads are dealt with well, despite the Picanto having a ride which is on the stiffer side. The VW up! Is more fun on twisty roads but the Kia Picanto certainly doesn’t feel too wallowy.

However, as I mentioned earlier, I was asking the tiny Kia to go above and beyond with a 300-plus mile trip down South, mostly on dual-carriageway, toward Edinburgh and then many miles down the A1 towards Leeds. At night. With a passenger and luggage.

And it got us there and back (with quite a bit of running around in between) without a hitch. It cruised on the motorway at 70mph without any annoying engine drone or extraneous noise. No, it wasn’t the quietest car I’ve ever done this journey in, but it wasn’t intrusive either, which is quite a compliment when you remind yourself it only had 66bhp to work with.

Inclines were a bit of a problem, with a gradual dropping off of speed the steeper the road became. I did have to change down to 4th gear a couple of times, but hey, it’s a city car in a GT scenario and overall it did manage close to 60 mpg.

I did miss cruise control though – as my stiff right ankle attested to at the journey’s end. However, that was the only part of me that ached. The Kia proved to have very comfortable front seats which, although having no lumber support, left myself and Mrs. B ache-free after over 5 hours of driving.

Google Maps on the infotainment screen, via Apple CarPlay proved invaluable in steering us around a particular bad hold-up and even the music streaming via Spotify didn’t disappoint as the sound system proved up to the job, even at motorway speeds.

What’s the Inside Story? 

Although this 3rd-gen Picanto is no longer than its predecessor, the distance between the front and rear wheels is now further, meaning not only does the baby Kia have a better turning circle, but it also provides more space for its occupants. And more space means more comfort.

The quality of the fittings inside the Picanto is pretty much as you would expect in a modern-day city car. There is some scratchy plastic around, but overall Kia has pulled off a smart-looking cockpit that is both easy on the eye and easy to use.

The driving position is good with enough adjustment in the steering wheel and seat to find a comfortable driving position that provides very good visibility all around. You do feel a little high in the Picanto, but that’s no bad thing.

The clear, large round main dials have a configurable LED display between them, displaying trip info and speed, while the climate controls are easily adjusted thanks to two large rotary dials and buttons, just below the central air vents.

There is black and red faux leather upholstery, a leather-trimmed D-Cut, steering wheel and gear shifter, along with satin chrome door handles. Those comfy seats share the same base materials and construction as those in the more expensive Ceed. The steering wheel deserves another mention as it looks and feels like it has been lifted straight out of a premium sports hatch.

There is generous storage space, which includes, at the base of the centre console, an open double-shelf tray to store mobile devices and other small items, with retractable twin cupholders. Unusually, for a car in this class, there is a central armrest for the driver and front passenger. It covers a small storage compartment designed to accommodate a one-litre water bottle or a sunglasses case. 

Upfront and central there is an 8-inch ‘floating’ touchscreen, giving access to the infotainment and connectivity systems, which include DAB radio and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The screen looks just like the one in you’d get in Kia’s more expensive offerings and is easy to navigate around with sharp, clear icons.

Rear passengers get generous amounts of head and leg room for a city car. Which in translation means smaller kids will be fine on the longest of journeys, but a couple of adults may start to feel the strain after an hour or so. Getting in and out is also a doddle thanks to the rear doors that open very wide.

Boot capacity is a class-best at 255 litres and this increases to 1,010 litres with the rear seats folded. You’ll also find the ISOFIX anchor points very easy to find in the rear, making it easy to fasten in a child seat.


The Kia Picanto is a city car that has proven it can handle a longer journey without stressing out its passengers. Its levels of refinement are decent enough and if you go for the more expensive ‘3’ or X-Line S model, they have the tech to make those longer journeys even easier.

But as a true, sporty-looking runabout that won’t break the bank the Picanto GT-Line is hard to beat – especially when you consider that it’s backed by Kia’s excellent 7-year, 100,000-mile warranty.


Kia Picanto GT-Line 1.0 DPi ISG

OTR Price (as tested): £15,600

Power: 66 bhp 

Transmission: 5-speed manual 

0-60mph: 14.1 secs    

Top Speed: 100 mph

WLTP Combined MPG (achieved): 58.7

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