This Car Review Is About: The 2019 Kia Picanto GT. It’s the pert and perky little five door hatch, with minor and tastefully styled body add-ons, an energetic powerplant, and a fun factor that’s off the scale. It’s a screaming bargain at just $17,990 driveaway.Under The Bonnet Is: A zippy and free spinning three cylinder petrol engine with a real warble when it’s spinning up. There are 74kW available at 4,500rpm, and a very useful 172Nm from 1,500rpm to 4,000rpm. Power heads to the front wheels via a five speed manual. Boost and bang for the milk-bottle sized engine comes from a turbocharger that adds plenty of sizzle. The dry weight of the Picanto GT is just 1,007kg, which means that the power and torque, plus the five speed, don’t need to work hard to provide the spark.
Tank size is just 35L for the standard unleaded fuel. Economy, says Kia, is 4.8L per 100km for the combined. In the urban cycle, its far more likely home, it’s 6.2L/100km. Get it onto the freeways and that drops to 4.0L/100km. We finished on 6.4L/100km on our mainly urban test cycle.On The Outside It’s: The same little block of Picanto that’s been available for a few years but now with extra grin. There are colour highlights from inserts outside and in, new wheels, front bar additions with driving lights and extra air intakes, whilst the rear gets the cool “neon” light look at night plus a twin exhaust and a diffuser style add-on. Nexen supplies the 195/45 N Blue Plus rubber to wrap the 16 inch eight spoke alloys. The review car came clad in Aurora Black, with the GT also having Clear White, Signal Red, and Titanium Silver.
On The Inside It’s: Comfortable and familiar, yet carries a bit more cachet. There are red leather highlights on the front seats, alloy pedals with rubber strips for extra foot grip, and red backlighting for the switchgear. There’s some brightwork on the tiller and piano black for the console stack. Seats are manually adjusted but with the not-quite-as user friendly levers rather than the dials which are MUCH more user friendly. Luggage space is 255L with the rear seats up, 1,055L with seats down. It’s JUST enough, if packed correctly, to carry a decent weekly family shop but if it’s a really decent shop, then the space behind the front seats will need to be used.Space itself is more than adequate for a couple, but go more than three then the Picanto’s 3,595mm length and 2,400mm wheelbase come into play. Thankfully the front seat room is enough for all but basketball players so pulled forward the rear leg room becomes tenable. Shoulder room is a bit cosy thanks to the 1,595mm and headroom is fine even with a 1,485mm height.Storage comes in the form of two cup holders in the centre console, bottle holders for the front doors, a coat hook and net hooks in the cargo area. Sounds are from a non-DAB equipped audio system but Bluetooth streaming is standard. Sound quality isn’t as good as it could be either, with depth and punch not on the same level as other systems found in Kias. Apple and Android apps are standard as well. That’s a good thing for those that use them as satnav is not standard.What About Safety?: Covered. Sort of…AEB (Autonomous Emergency Braking) with FCWS (Forward Collision Warning System) leads the party, backed up by a reverse camera and rear parking sensors. LED driving lights up front add visual safety and add to the visual presence and the headlights are Auto on. BUT, and it’s a big but, no Rear Cross Traffic Alert, no Blind Spot Alert, no Lane Keep Assist, no front sensors, hold back the Picanto GT in crucial areas.
On The Road It’s: An absolute bundle of fun. The engine is a cracker and the gearbox is well specced for cogs. The clutch is light and really could do with more feedback as to where the pedal is in travel and where the plates are in gripping. Once the driver has worked that out though, practice gets the pickup point and shifts to launch just right. However the spring loading for the gear selector is also light and a touch vague in where the lever goes. The gate is close so a slide from second to third feels like it’s in the same line, and there isn’t enough definition in the shifter’s movement to properly advise where the lever’s going.
ONCE everything is worked out, the little engine that could, does. It’s got a real warmth to the sound, yes, but the appeal is in how it pulls the Picanto GT , in how it allows tractability in gentle around town driving or getting serious on the freeway. It’s geared for easy going driving, but also some get up and go squirt as required. The turbo kicks in at just under 2,000 and on the freeway that gearing allows a push of the pedal to see the Picanto GT rocket forward. It’s accompanied by a thrum, a not unpleasant rumble from the three cylinder donk, which is muted when not being pressed.Off the line it’s easy to feel pressed back into the seat easily when driving in anger. There is some real urge in this tiny engine and it’s something a driver can exploit and enjoy. Bang the gear selector from first to second to third and the GT simply rolls on inexorably, seamless in its acceleration. Throw out the picks and the lightweight car slows quickly and confidently.And thanks to the slightly bigger footprint, and the grippier tyres, hard-arsed cornering can be exploited and enjoyed too. Under power the Picanto GT can be punted into turns that would see the speedo read 20, 30 km/h slower (depending on the corner’s radius and driving conditions) whilst taking advantage of the engine on boost.
Ride quality is good but not great. The rear end is prone to a little skipping around on the roads that have the expansion joints and the whole car will crash bang on missing road sections. It’s a suspension that is flat and taut but not supple enough to dial these out.
What About Warranty?: There is Kia’s 7 years warranty as standard. That’s with unlimited kilometres. Roadside assist is for 12 months initially however if the Picanto GT is brought to Kia for servicing then that extends to 7 years coverage also. Servicing is capped price and for every 15,000 kilometres or annually, whichever occurs first.At The End Of The Drive. The Kia Picanto GT is an embodiment of the words “pocket rocket”. That 172Nm of torque is so useable in a small car, and somehow manages to stay engaging even when loaded with two adults, a ten year old, and shopping. It’s the gear selector and clutch that blunts the engine’s sharpness as these really could do with tightening up. Ride quality is also not quite en’ pointe as there’s a lack of the absorption needed in the upper end of the travel.
The lack of DAB isn’t crucial but FM sounded dull. If a GT designation is to indicate a top of the tree model, then add a top of the tree audio setup. But for the price, it’s a strong tugger of the heartstrings. Make up your own mind by going here.