The 2018 Kia Picanto GT Line is the most stylish in its class
How much weight do consumers give to exterior design when they are shopping for a mini subcompact passenger car?
Apparently, Kia Motors Corporation thinks that consumers give a lot of weight to external appearance, as manifested by its latest iteration of the Picanto mini hatchback.
Making its world premiere at the 2017 Geneva International Motor Show for the 2018 model year, and launched in Manila last August, the third generation Picanto is all-new outside, but its drivetrain is the same as the outgoing model’s.
Not that retaining the same engine and 4-speed automatic transmission is all that bad, since Kia’s Kappa 1.2-liter, in-line 4-cylinder MPI (multi-point injection) DOHC powerplant delivering 84 ps (82 bhp) and 124 kg-m max torque has proven to be peppy enough for the Picanto’s size.
Moreover, the 1.2 Kappa engine is frugal, consuming only 5 liters per 100 kilometers as claimed by Kia Motors. And the Picanto sprints from zero to 100 km/hour in 12 seconds flat.
Anyway, upon seeing the snazzy body kit of the 2018 Picanto GT Line, consumers may tend to forget that underneath is the same old powertrain.
Without doubt, the Picanto GT is the most stylish-looking car in its class, thanks to the guiding inputs of Peter Schreyer, the German automobile designer who was pirated from Audi by Kia Motors in 2006 and appointed chief global designer, and is now one of the three presidents of Kia.
Over-all, the new Picanto looks more premium in a sporty manner, more mature and rather formidable.
The signature tiger-nose grille now spans the entire gap between the projector-type headlamps with LED DRLs (daytime running lights) underneath, and the deep, lower front air intakes framed by red trim.
The front fog lamps, C-shaped LED combination taillights, 15-inch alloy wheels, twin tailpipes and a racing red pinstripe running along the lower flanks and the rounded-off rear bumper complete the GT Line’s exterior.
Inside the Picanto GT Line, the styling upgrade is continued via a leather-wrapped, three-spoke tilt-adjustable steering wheel with white stitching plus vertical air vents on either side of the dashboard connected visually by a satin chrome line that enhances the illusion of the fascia’s width.
The controls of the four-speaker audio system are housed in a monochrome TFT LCD screen. Aside from AM/FM radio, aux-in and USB ports are ready for connectivity with portable devices. The tinny-sounding speakers, however, compromise the premium vibe of the cabin.
The front bucket seats are supportive and comfy, covered with dark blue fabric with stitchings in red and white at different levels. With the wheelbase stretched to 2,400 mm, interior space adequately accommodates four passengers, although headroom and legroom are not as generous at the back as in front.
The rear seat splits 60/40 and when folded, increases cargo capacity from 255 liters to a class-leading 1,010 liters.
As for safety features, the GT Line is equipped with dual front airbags, ABS, keyless entry system, a high-mount stop lamp and rear Isofix child seat anchors. The brakes are ventilated discs in front and drums at the rear.
On the road, the suspension (MacPherson struts with stabilizer in front, coupled torsion beam axle at the back, and gas-type shock absorbers and coil springs fore and aft) provides a reasonably quiet, comfortable ride, with wind and road noise well suppressed.
The power steering, however, is so light and airy that sometimes, the driver yearns for more adequate weighting.
Visibility is good in front and sides, but not the rear quarter view because of the thick “C” pillars. The Picanto is easy to park because of its size, but a reverse parking sensor would be most welcome.
Best in the city
The Picanto performs best in the city, where it nimbly cuts through the urban snarl and easily tackles corners.
On the expressway, however, the 82-hp engine has to maintain relatively high revs to keep up, thereby becoming noisier and affecting long-distance comfort.
The Kia Picanto from the very beginning was designed and engineered as a peppy, reliable, well-packaged little urban runabout with best-in-class cargo space and exemplary fuel economy. Young city dwellers and empty nesters who seldom hit the highway should consider the stylish 2018 Picanto.
Although the P787,000 Picanto GT Line with its sporty body kit and flashes of red trim seems ready to race, the truth is that it just looks formidable without actually being so.
But then, that’s not really a bad thing.