We get our hands on a turbocharged example of the facelifted city car. Is it the one to buy?

Apparently, one of the key questions that customers ask when buying bargain-basement cars is ‘will it work with my iPhone?’ Because cheap is fine, but not if it comes at the expense of connectivity.

Lucky for Kia, then, that the facelifted Kia Picanto, the least expensive car in its range, has got the latest infotainment system, complete with a larger, 8.0in touchscreen (on the 3 trim levels and above), and also has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard. The Kia Connect app makes an appearance, giving information such as traffic, weather and fuel prices. If it can keep up with the last of those at the moment, it’ll be an impressive bit of software.

Physical menu buttons remain so the system operates intuitively. It certainly looks smarter than you’d expect in a £16k car, but as with other Kias, such as the Sorento, there’s nowhere to rest your hand as you work the screen.

The surgery also tweaked the exterior looks and allowed for a bit of customisation - a crucial margin-maker at this lower end of the market - such as new paint colours and interior trim option packs. To me, it remains a good-looking, dinky thing, albeit a tad top heavy from certain angles. Blame the relatively modest 16in wheels for that.

This is the turbocharged 1.0-litre engine in top whack GT-Line S trim, offering plenty for its £16,610 sticker price. With 99bhp and 127lb ft, it offers a chunk more kick than direct rivals like the Volkswagen Up and Toyota Aygo X, but the pay-off is slightly poorer fuel economy and emissions.

If it was my money (and not many Picantos are fleet cars), I’d definitely go for the punch over the pump. The uplift in power is a more significant marker than the economy.

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The Picanto’s three-cylinder is surprisingly easy to live with. The turbo kicks in smoothly from around 2000rpm, and because it has only five gears (a manual, praise be), the engine isn’t spinning too far off its power band even when following lorries on back roads. You don’t feel like you’re constantly changing gear to keep it reactive.

A 70mph cruise doesn’t strain the car, but the road noise could be better. For a car that otherwise belies its city car size, the lack of isolation is odd.

What surprised me is how eager the Kia is to turn in. The short wheelbase helps, but the steering is sharp and the body roll minimal, so it’s an enjoyable thing to push around. There's a real balance to it, with the sort of mid-point pivot that Fords are famed for.

It all goes to show there’s life in the small car yet. Write off these ‘legacy’ city cars at your peril.

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Einarbb 23 June 2022

To persons talking about performance, it's about right for the power to weight ratio - it would have to weigh around 900kg. to achieve 0-100km/h in round 9 sec. As it weighs a ton, sub 10 is about what person can reasonably expect. Ignore the size, it's weight vs. power. About price, blame inflation and increasing emissions demands that force costly engine tweaking. And well, don't neglect all manufacturers are funding their new electric future with -- sales. So it may be the case, they've also raised profit ratio's per car sold in order to cope with those costs. 

si73 26 June 2022
Don't forget they're probably geared for economy as opposed to 0-62 times
xxxx 28 June 2022

Don't forget price increase to pay for, and set a side for, diesel owners compensation, making ICEs more efficient to cater for fossil fuel price inflation etc. Not sure how much Telsa have put there prices of ICE cars up to fund BEV's, probably ditto Nissan 

artill 23 June 2022

I am glad this car exists even if i wont buy one, and will probably never sit in one. Small cars with a bit of punch are great fun. Its the minimum performance that the Aygo deserves, which makes this look a bargain as well as quick in comparison. Yet i still struggle with the idea of over £16k for a city car. And although its performance is so much better than many city cars, how is it so slow with 99BHP? Its tiny.

And i can imagine with a lower roof line and no rear doors it might start to look good even. Its a sort of 3.5 star car, which just happens to be better than the alternatives because no one really wants to sell you a city car anymore.

si73 23 June 2022
Yes it's more powerful and less economical than an up or Aygo X in standard trims, whilst the up tsi 100bhp version may be gone, there is the more powerful and equally lowered economy GTi, which this in GT spec is surely a competitor for, same with the i10 NLine.
City cars are great fun to drive in general because of their size, and if you can live with a small car, there is no compromise as far as I am concerned, however they are now getting ridiculously expensive so the high spec and up to date tech is expected . But then this is true of all cars, is this purely because of monthly PCP costs?