Curious about one of Mzansi’s most wallet-friendly rides? The Kia Picanto is back with a sleeker look and more safety tech to boot.

The new Kia Picanto
The new Kia Picanto

Remember when you could snag a brand-new car for under R80K? Those days seem long gone with the affordable small car market quieter than the one EFF voter in Oranje. Yet, the spunky Kia Picanto refuses to fade into obscurity. Freshened up for the 2024 season, it’s had its 2nd facelift (this is the 3rd generation) since debuting locally in 2004. Sure, it’s not the bargain it once was, but it’s still punching above its weight in value and charm amidst a sea of bulkier options. But does it still make sense in a world where every newbie driver seems to be eyeing small SUVs? A resounding yes from us. We put this pintsized pearler through the paces and here’s our verdict.

Exterior Design

As with most purchases, we buy with our eyes first, and this little Picanto’s sleek, bold design – it’s a real head-turner. The facelift cranks up the sporty vibes to eleven with Kia’s latest ‘Opposites United’ design ethos, seen across their lineup from the crowd-pleasing Seltos to the electric flagship EV9 (one can dream…). Featuring sharp LED headlights that command attention with a full-width light bar, an aggressive front bumper, sleek gloss black trims all around, and a stretched LED tail-light that widens its stance, the Picanto EX is all about making a statement. Oh, and those 15-inch alloy wheels? They’re the cherry on top. Exclusive to the EX, these design upgrades are well worth the extra bucks if you’re after something that demands a second take.

Headlights on the Picanto
Headlights on the Picanto
Ample bootspace
Ample boot space

Interior & Safety

Inside the new Kia Picanto, there’s a bit of a mixed bag. The latest refreshed look could have been a little bolder. It does however add a touch of maturity but doesn’t quite match the sharpness of the exterior design. Those bubbly air vents and basic center console? Yep, they’re still here. But fear not, Kia delivered on the overall feel. In the baseline 1.0 LX trim, you’re treated to a suite of safety features including dual front airbags, ABS, ISOfix points, and keyless entry. Inside, the cabin boasts high-quality materials and leather-like textures that give a premium feel. Moving up to the mid-tier 1.2 EX, practical upgrades abound. Alloy wheels make an appearance, side repeater lamps are integrated into the now electrically folding mirrors, and a convenient storage box finds its place between the front seats. Safety enhancements include electronic stability control and hill-start assist. For those “big spenders” opting for the top-tier EX+ trim, luxury meets functionality. LED taillamps and 15-inch alloys give a sleek exterior finish, while inside, faux leather upholstery and high-gloss trims elevate the cabin’s ambiance. Push-button start/stop adds convenience, along with rear parking distance control (PDC) for effortless maneuvering when you find yourself in a tight spot. And of course, across all variants, the touchscreen-based infotainment system stands ready to connect seamlessly to “Vann’s Nokia 3310”, supporting Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Local Line-up

Kia has bid adieu to the previous Street, Start, and Smart labels in favor of a more grown-up naming convention with the LX, EX, and EX Plus models. Each trim level offers either a 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic gearbox. The LX models sport a feisty 1.0-liter inline-3-cylinder petrol engine, pumping out 49kW and 95Nm, while in the EX and EX Plus trims, you’ll find a gutsy 1.2-liter inline-4-cylinder petrol powerhouse, delivering a robust 62kW and 122Nm.

Picanto engine
Picanto engine

So how many buffalos will the Picanto cost you?

  • Kia Picanto 1.0 LX 5MT: R260,995
  • Kia Picanto 1.0 LX 4AT: R278,995
  • Kia Picanto 1.2 EX 5MT: R284,995
  • Kia Picanto 1.2 EX 4AT: R302,995
  • Kia Picanto 1.2 EX+ 5MT: R307,995
  • Kia Picanto 1.2 EX+ 4AT: R325,995

All prices include Kia’s 5-year/unlimited km warranty and a 2-year/30,000 km service plan.