Picanto: a style all of its own

Tuesday, 9 September 2003

The Kia Picanto is a new entry-level model which combines head turning looks with unbeatable value to set its owner apart from the crowd.

A key model in Kia's European strategy, the Picanto is a very compelling buy for the young, style conscious consumer.

Combining commanding performance with comprehensive features, the Picanto is equally at home on the daily run to work as on the week-end run to the sports field.  Its class leading interior dimensions enable the Picanto to sport 157 litres of luggage space with the rear seats up and leave plenty of room for kit bags.  Fold the seats down and you have 882 litres of space to play with, providing plenty of room for a mountain bike or two, a fair range of camping equipment and, if the mood takes you, up to eight sets of golf clubs.

The Picanto is a high volume product designed to achieve strong penetration particularly in Europe, where it will contribute significantly to Kia's goal of tripling sales in the region by 2005 and raise awareness of the Kia brand in general.  Designed to fit squarely in the A-segment, the Picanto continues the process of matching vehicles to the European market.  The Kia range currently covers around 35% of segmentation.  By 2005 this will increase to around 85% as vehicles are developed to more closely match European tastes.

Versatility was a key element in the Picanto's product development.  Aimed at young, active consumers and families with young children, the goal was to fit the Picanto to answer the widest possible range of consumer wants and needs.  Essentially, the goal was to provide MPV-style utility within a mini-car package.  With that goal in mind, the Picanto was designed to provide the maximum amount of interior space and to make that space customisable to answer the widest scope of use.

The styling for the Picanto also reflects future trends in the A-segment market, where the percentage of five-door/five-seat cars is expected to increase over the next few years. At the same time, a shift toward five-door models in general will see this section of the market increase considerably. 

An in-house team headed by Kang Lee designed the Picanto, incorporating input from Kia's European R&D centre.  The Picanto will be built at a new factory in Suhsan, a few kilometres from Kia's Hwasung plant.  Initial production will be 120,000 units per year, of which 88,000 will be export models.  The sales target for Europe is 60,000 in 2004.

Exterior Styling

Combining wide-eyed appeal with sporty, modern lines, the exterior of the Kia Picanto is clearly inspired by European tastes and preferences.  Designer Kang Lee gave the car a clear design link with the popular Carens small MPV while ensuring that the Picanto was both distinctive and attractive.

The body-coloured lift-up door-handles fit flush with the side of the car for a more streamlined, upscale appeal.  The wing mirrors, available in black or body-coloured paint, are designed to increase aerodynamic efficiency and reduce wind noise. 
14" wheels complete the side view, with a choice of steel or eight-spoke alloys.  Sportier three spoke 15" alloy wheels are also available.

Interior Styling

The interior design for the Picanto focuses on functionality and ergonomics.  The two-tone, full fabric trim blends style and comfort into a relaxing driving experience that is accentuated by a full range of convenience features.

The interior design continues the same bold styling that characterises the exterior of the vehicle, with arched surfaces and contoured edges.  Controls are ergonomically positioned to ensure the maximum ease of use.

The dashboard is arched and contoured to match the shape of the steering wheel.  On the driver's side a wide sill extends over the instrument cluster, which consists of four analogue dials and a multifunctional LED display.  A digital clock is incorporated into the cluster.

Below the air vents are the audio system and the climate control system.  Controls are rotary-type for ease of use and clearly marked for increased visibility.  The air-conditioning controls are on a slide-switch beneath the rotary dials.

The central fascia is finished in a high grade plastic to match the colour tone of the interior and features an optional metal grain trim.  In the automatic model, the gear selector below the fascia features a metallic front plate that adds impact and a touch of flair to the interior.

A range of 18 cabin storage areas further expands the interior space.  The centre console features two beverage holders, one of which can be used to hold a removable ashtray.  A cell phone tray and a rear storage tray complete the console stack.  In the dashboard are two storage trays below the steering wheel on the driver's door side and a two-layer glove box.

Both front seats have seat back and seat side pockets for storing books and magazines.  The two front doors also both contain hard-case map pockets.  A case for storing sunglasses is standard, mounted above the driver's door.  A ticket-holder can be found on the rear of the driver's sun visor.  A storage tray under the passenger seat rounds out the range of storage areas in the front of the car while a luggage tray in the trunk keeps small or valuable items secure. 

The 60:40 split rear seats offer both back folding and double folding options, creating seven different configurations for the rear seats.  The high opening angle of the trunk and the wide access to the luggage compartment make it easily accessible.  The trunk also features luggage hooks and a luggage net to ensure that cargo does not move around the storage space when the car is moving.

The Picanto's audio system incorporates a range of head-units fitted in-market to reflect regional preferences in the markets in which the car will be offered.  All audio-systems feature a roof mounted AM/FM radio antenna.

Sound is broadcast through up to six-speakers, with a speaker mounted in each of the front and rear doors and tweeters mounted in the A-pillars.

The driver's seat features a four-way adjuster function.  Both the driver and front passenger seats feature slide and recline adjustability, allowing the occupant to alter the angle of recline of the seat back and the distance of the seat from the dashboard.

Both the driver's seat and front passenger seat also feature optional seat warmers and adjustable headrests. The Picanto includes a full range of electrical refinements as standard with additional optional features for maximum ease of use.

Outside mirrors can be adjusted using a switch mounted on the armrest on the driver's door and central locking comes as standard while a supplementary keyless entry system is available.

The driving controls are laid out to ensure maximum vehicle control without sacrificing comfort.  The clearly laid out instrument panel is easy to read at a glance and features an adjustable back-light for night driving operated from a rotary switch below the steering wheel.  The rear-view mirror features manually controlled day and night settings.


The Picanto comes with a choice of petrol engines - a 1.0 and a 1.1 SOHC litre powerplant - that offer an excellent blend of sporty performance and outstanding fuel economy.  The 1.0 litre engine is mated to a five-speed manual transmission.  The 1.1 litre plant is available with either a five-speed manual or a four speed automatic transmission.  The Picanto is also one of the most efficient cars in its class in terms of CO2 emissions.  The 1.0 litre engine produces 120 grammes of carbon dioxide per kilometre.  The 1.1 version generates a miserly 130 g/km in the manual version and 153 g/km in the automatic version.   

The 1.1 engine provides 64 ps at 5,500 rpm and 9.8 kgm of torque at 4,000 rpm, making the Picanto one of the most powerful cars in its class.  The 1.0 provides 60 ps and 8.8 kgm of torque.  Highly efficient and lightweight, the engines promise dynamic performance and excellent fuel economy.

According to internal tests, the Picanto 1.0L can achieve up to 56.5 mpg, go from 0-100 km/h in 15.8 seconds and will reach a maximum speed of 152 km/h where traffic regulations allow.

A 1.1 litre diesel version of the Picanto is planned for release in 2005.  Projected figures indicate that the engine will provide 70 ps and will keep CO2 emissions down to 116 g/km.


The five speed manual gearbox is fitted with a hydraulic clutch for smooth, effortless shifting and optimum gear ratios that suit a wide range of driving conditions. 


The Picanto's braking system features 241 mm ventilated discs on the front wheels to prevent heat build-up and deliver sure and stable braking performance.  The brake system will bring the Picanto to a dead stop in only 41 metres from 62 mph.

The Picanto's standard ABS system allows the driver to apply maximum brake force to all four wheels without locking them out and thus to maintain full control of the car even when the brake pedal is fully depressed.

The ABS system incorporates an electronic brake force distributor (EBD), helping to distribute braking force evenly among all four wheels by regulating the number of pumps required to prevent skidding.  The system is also able to adapt to wheel grip conditions, adding a further degree of control and reducing pad heating.

The Picanto's impressive interior space and fuel economy is aided significantly by the inclusion of an instant mobility system (IMS) that obviates the need for a spare wheel and saves around 20 kg in weight.

The IMS allows the driver to repair a flat in less than 10 minutes without jacking up the car, compared to about 30 minutes to replace a wheel.  This means the driver spends less time in the potential danger zone at the side of the road.

Driver and passenger airbags are installed as standard, protecting the driver from injury in the event of a frontal collision. Side and passenger airbags are also available.

Three-point seatbelts are fitted to front and rear seats, including the rear centre seat in the five-seat version.  Front seatbelts are height adjustable for greater security and a more comfortable fit and have pretensioners and load limiters to tighten the seat belt in the event of a collision.  To meet regulations relating to the fitting of child safety seats, an ISOFIX anchor point is fitted in European models.

Kia has a reputation for packing a lot of car into a value price range, and the Picanto takes that reputation a stage further.

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