First Drive: Kia Picanto X-Line
Kia’s top-spec Picanto hopes to tempt drivers out of compact SUVs, explains Alex Grant.
SECTOR City Car PRICE £12,820-£14,220 FUEL 47.1-54.3mpg CO2 120-137g/km
Factor out SUVs and city cars are the third-largest segment in Europe, accounting for a million sales per year. It’s a tough market, balancing style and technology with low running costs and, while there’s no direct SUV rival, the lure of the expanding ‘Juke segment’ is starting to nibble away it its customer base.
So cars like the Picanto X-Line might become more common. Kia accepts there’s limited demand for all-wheel drive at this end of the market, but these range-topping trims offer a few of the SUV selling points without needing to step up to the real thing. An emphasis here on ‘some’ – the makeover comprises body cladding and a 15mm increase in ride height, but obviously not the extra space to match.
Not that this is a deal-breaker. The Picanto is a fine city car; good to drive, even with the raised ride height, motorway-friendly, surprisingly roomy (boot aside), and distinctively styled in a segment where packaging dictates similar proportions. And, aside from the Vauxhall Viva Rocks and its pokey, pricey Adam Rocks stablemate, rivals are thin on the ground.
Both X-Line trims get a 1.25-litre naturally-aspirated petrol engine with a five-speed manual gearbox, making do without stop/start as it offers no financial benefit for drivers, Kia says. There’s also a £670 four-speed automatic option, but it’s not offered on the X-Line S we tested, and carries a significant fuel economy and CO2 penalty. Which is a shame, as theoretically it’s ideal for city traffic.
Pricing matches GT-Line versions, including a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay and faux leather upholstery, while the S adds nice-to-haves such as climate control, cruise control, keyless entry and start, and TomTom navigation, but comes in at £14,220 on the road. A very complete city car at that level, but dangerously close to the thunder-stealing compact SUV class.