MAKEOVER: The new Kia Picanto now sports a kwaai exterior and plushy interior
MAKEOVER: The new Kia Picanto now sports a kwaai exterior and plushy interior
UPMARKET: A high-spec look and leather feel make for a better look
UPMARKET: A high-spec look and leather feel make for a better look

The biggest thing about this little car in its new iteration is that it has a little more space. That’s an essential with small cars, and it’s quite an art to tweak the interior essentials so as to give, at least the illusion, of more leg and arm room.
The third-generation Kia Picanto was launched this past week, sporting a kwaai new exterior makeover, a lekker cabin with design cues aimed to create the feel of more space, as well as a raised dashboard for more knee room, 55 litres more boot space and a stronger body.

It’s a winner for city driving, with low fuel costs, compact size and assertive body lines. Interestingly, the marketing manager had the impression that this is a student’s car, but the average age of the Picanto’s drivers is 38.

Infotainment received a boost, with the high-spec models featuring an 18cm easy to use touchscreen with all the vital connecti- vity. And, unusual for a car coming in at under R200 000, there’s a wonderfully useful rear cam with dynamic drive lines.

The wheelbase has been extended by 15mm to 2.4 metres, which makes for a shorter front overhang, resulting in a vehicle that sits more sturdily on the tar, always a consideration for lightweights.

Aiding this firming up, the suspension has been retuned, with MacPherson up front and torsion beam in the rear, the anti-roll bars are stiffer and the mountings adjusted to reduce the pitch and nosedive when braking. It all comes together to bring a greater sense of road-holding confidence. Add the angular new wraparound headlights, and you’ve got a kwaai look for an entry level hatch.

Inside, the big change is a raised dash, which brings the instrument cluster more into the driver’s line of sight. Leather in just the right places, like the seat bolsters, steering wheel and gear lever, adds a touch of the upmarket.

When Bobby thinks of an entry level hatch, he thinks of how after a couple of years, that they’re just not terribly quiet inside and if he wanted that level of noise he would have chosen a motorbike. The new Picanto features new levels of what they call refinement, with a range of mods introduced specifically to reduce the rattle and road vibration, to offer what the company touts as one of the quietest cabins of any A-segment model.

There’s a soundproofing panel beneath the dashboard and in the floor of the cabin, and sound-absorbent foam has been used to fill the lower sections of the A- and B-pillars. Under the hood, the reshaped air intake helps to isolate engine noise from the cabin and the engine mounts have been tweaked to counteract engine vibrations. They’ve even lowered the windscreen wiper mountings to reduce the wind roar. Thought of everything they did.

The engines, though nothing to write home about, are practical and efficient. The new range comes with either a one-litre three cylinder or 1.25-litre four cylinder naturally aspirated plant. These are carried over from the last iteration, but feature some enhancements. Both engines are paired with a five-speed manual transmission sending krag (49kW and 61kW respectively) to the front wheels.

So ja, if you’re in the market for a runaround, these cabbies start at R134 995 for the base model, and move up to R195 995 for the range topper. On sale, starting today.