The all new Kia Picanto A-segment City Car, available from 17 June in five door hatchback form and then three door versions due in two months time, is based on the same platform and engines of parent company Hyundai's excellent i10 models.
Prices have just been released but only for 1.0 and 1.25-litre petrol engined five door models and these start at £7.995 and range up to £11,195. They show an average £800 increase over the Picanto models they replace.
Get a FREE quote on your next KIA PICANTO
Click below and save up to 30% on a new KIA PICANTO
'But the added technology and safety equipment more than covers that increase' said Simon Hetherington, marketing director for Kia Motors UK, at the media launch this week.
The new Picanto certainly looks more interesting styling wise than the Hyundai i10 and is more in keeping with the best European City Cars such as the Ford Ka and Fiat 500.
The new Picanto is a world apart from the original models introduced seven years ago. Those looked and felt cheap but they were popular accounting for 60 per cent of Kia's 34,000 Scrappage Scheme sales.
Hetherington added, 'Kia's success with the Scrappage Scheme accelerated the brand into the mainstream of major manufacturers and the resulting public awareness accounted for our steep growth to 56,000 UK sales last year.'
Around 6,500 new Picantos will be sold in the UK this year and 15,000 sales is the target for 2012. Hetherington said that 90 per cent of those would be to retail customers.
He also said that Kia was anticipating the additional three door models would take between 25 and 30 per cent of total Picanto UK sales but it is a new area for them and we expect younger drivers, both male and female, will be attracted by the lower price, running costs and the three door's sporty styling.
New Picanto engines and performance
In the new Picanto range of five door models there is the choice between two new Kappa family petrol engines; 1.0 and 1.25-litres which deliver fuel consumption savings over the previous units of up to 8.5mpg and CO2 emissions are lowered by up to 15g/km.
Top speed and acceleration performances are also improved. The larger 1.25-litre engine is available with Kia's EcoDynamics fuel-saving technology - an Intelligent Stop & Go system, or, alternatively with automatic transmission.
The three-cylinder 1.0-litre unit develops 68bhp and 70lb ft of torque and officially offers combined fuel economy of 67.3mpg.
The 1.25-litre four-cylinder version of the Kappa engine is offered in three guises, all developing 84bhp and 89lb ft of torque. In standard form it averages 60.1mpg.
With a four-speed automatic transmission fuel consumption is 53.3mpg and finally there is the EcoDynamics model with fuel consumption at 65.7mpg.
Kia Motors UK expects 60 per cent of customers to choose the 1.25-litre engine and most will go for the EcoDynamics engine specification because of the lower CO2 emissions it offers.
The 1.0-litre engine has CO2 emissions of 99g/km and the larger unit only 109g/km which reduces to 100g/km with EcoDynamics stop/go function.
This means that the 1.0-litre unit and the 1.25-litre EcoDynamics engine are road tax free and the 1.25-litre non EcoDynamics unit, still with only 109g/km of CO2 emissions, is road tax free in the VED First Year rate and then £20 per annum for the second year onwards.
The new Picanto is rarely likely to be a company car, but you never know, so the Benefit-in-Kind tax rate for all models is just 10 per cent. Keeping running costs low, insurance groups are provisionally 5 to 10 with the mainstream model likely to be rated group 7
The performance figures for the throaty sounding 1.0-litre, three cylinder unit are a top speed of 95mph with zero to 62mph taking 13.9 seconds - it sounds faster. The 1.25-litre unit gives a top speed of 106mph and zero to 62mph takes 11 seconds.
During test driving around the French city of Bordeaux and the surrounding famous vineyards of the region, the 1.0-litre unit returned a real-life fuel consumption figure of 47mpg over 100 miles.
The 1.25-litre engine with EcoDynamics returned 47.4mpg driven over a similar route and distance. Both units felt short of mileage and in need of freeing-up so I would expect to see improvement on my figures.
Both needed to be worked hard to overtake slower traffic but they made light work of motorway cruising and were not stressed running at low revs around town.
New Picanto specifications
The price for the new Picanto has gone up over the old models but so has the size and standard specification. New Picanto is just less than 3.6 metres in length but there is more rear seat legroom and foot space.
It is a better ownership proposition and a more user friendly four seater City Car. For good measure the boot is 27 per cent larger as well with 200-litres of space.
The new Picanto is just much more grown up than the original one. It feels sturdier, it is more comfortable with a supple ride, the handling is good, it holds the roads better, the driving refinement is vastly improved - it is just a far more accomplished product.
It looks a whole lot better as well with muscular front and rear bumpers, flared wheelarches, and sculptured lines running along the front and rear passenger doors give this car a really dynamic appearance.
Inside there have also been improvements. All the instruments and controls are logically placed, the specification is relatively high, the safety equipment good and in most areas the quality of the plastic trim looks and feels improved.
There are three levels of specification simply called 1, 2, and 3. The 1.0-litre engine is available with 1 and 2 specification levels and the 1.25-litre unit with levels 2 and 3. The anticipated main-selling version will be the 1.25 EcoDynamics 2 priced at £10,195.
Standard features include a height-adjustable seat and a tilt-adjustable steering column. Picanto 2 and 3 models have Bluetooth with voice activation and recognition, enabling hands-free mobile phone use, and while Picanto 2 comes with manual air conditioning, Picanto 3 has full automatic air conditioning.
Every model has front electric windows and Picanto 2 and 3 add rear electric windows and alloy wheels. Automatic headlights with LED projection lamps and daytime running lights are fitted on Picanto 3.
In-car entertainment is provided by a standard RDS radio and CD player with MP3 compatibility. Picanto 2 has four speakers and Picanto 3 has six. All versions above level 1 also have USB and AUX ports, an iPod cable and steering wheel-mounted audio controls.
I'm not sure I could live without air conditioning especially on hot days commuting in a city so level 1 specification doesn't get my vote and the fact that it only has manually adjusted door mirrors and steel wheels doesn't help.
Go for level 2 specification because it is a better buy and it's not worth skimping unless the budget is really tight. Likewise the 1.25-litre engine is a better drive over the 1.0-litre unit and it only costs an extra £600 with the level 2 specification.
In short the new Kia Picanto is hugely improved over the old model, it drives and handles so much better and true it does cost an average £800 (8%) more but the new models offer far more than an 8 per cent improvement over the old ones.
Kia Picanto MILESTONES
Kia Picanto 1.25 EcoDynamics 2, 5-Door City Car (Likely best selling model)
Engine/transmission: 1.25-litre, Kappa four cylinder, DOHC, variable valve timing 16V petrol engine with intelligent stop and go, 84bhp, 89lb ft of torque at 4,000rpm, 5-speed manual
Performance: 106mph, 0-62mph 11 seconds, 65.7 Combined Cycle (47.4mpg on test), CO2 100g/km, VED road tax £0, BIK company car tax 10%
Insurance group: 7P
Dimensions/capacities: L 3,595mm, W 1,595mm, H 1,480mm, boot/load space 200 to 605-litres
For: A small car that has that grown up feel about it, good price, good specification, low running costs, 7-year/100,000 mile warranty, comfortable ride, good looks
Against: Nervous response steering at higher speeds, no reach adjustable steering wheel, significant price hike over outgoing budget models