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2006 Kia Picanto Review - Beating The Odds

2006 Kia Picanto Review – Beating The Odds

Long have I loathed the thought of driving a Kia Picanto. From a far I’ve always thought they seemed too tiny and underpowered with their supposedly frugal engines but then again this might have to do with my build and nothing about the car itself. Well this past weekend I managed to get the opportunity to drive the Kia Picanto on a rather wet and grey looking day.

But before I carry on its important to note the rather astonishing achievements that Kia – Hyundai have made over the last couple of years, having gone through a mini revolution they have emerged triumphant and the true testament of this is the onslaught of cars from both these manufacturers that has taken the world by storm. Gone are the days of those rather plastic and cheap looking cars which people time and again squirmed at. The styling and quality of these cars has improved with time and as such the Kia Picanto presents a rather appealing value proposition.

So, now comes in the 2006 Kia Picanto . It’s a tiny little 5 door hatch powered by a rather frugal 47kW and 99Nm engine mated to a 5 speed manual gearbox. . Our test unit is blue in colour and has been put through its paces over the years. A number of scratches and dents are evident, but something tells me it’s not the owners fault. I’ll casually ignore what appears to be a key scratch on the left side of the car.

There is nothing special about the exterior of the Kia Picanto, however it’s definitely prettier than the Tata Indica which we tested some time back especially since it comes with colour coded bumpers. The blue however makes this little thing look remarkable.

In terms of interior space it is more or less the same with the Tata we tested a while back and similarly also has a 60:40 split rear seat (Kia Picanto has 157 litres of boot space as opposed to the Tata Indica which has 220 litres). This car’s boot was full of lots and lots of clothes and spare changes of ladies shoes. In no way am I suggesting it’s a ladies’ car but that’s who we got it from. The seats are comfortable, fully manual of course, no electric motors to carry me back and forth. The quality of the interior is remarkable as well, not quite Volkswagen Polo but getting there. The dashboard did not feel cheap at all.

The problem with the Kia Picanto is that it has a tiny engine. When engineers design gearboxes they usually have to consider the torque and power outputs of the engine and adjust the gearbox accordingly. With the kia Picanto because there is so little of both power and torque you almost always have to be on first gear on most inclines, this may require an adjustment in driving style especially if you are more attuned to driving larger engined vehicles. In the Kia Picanto it has to be an almost instantaneous shift otherwise the engine lets out a horrible wail as you run out of revs and redline.

Then comes the handling, franky I’m quite foreign to this but I will tell you this. If you drive any car at about 50kph on a very twisty road you generate point something of a g (unit of measurement of acceleration, in this case lateral acceleration). This feels great. If you drive something with lots of grip say a Ford Focus ST on a windy road you generate a lot more g and can travel at higher speeds before you loose grip and the car chews out its own tyres. In the Kia, am not so sure if you can try employing such tactics to get the smile factor while driving. It rides on very small tyres so there isn’t much grip on offer and the tyres start screeching a bit too early.

When it comes to the weighting of the steering wheel it feels perfect, it’s not heavy and it’s not too light either. The car has a turning circle of 9.2 metres which is much better than the Tata’s 10.2 metres. The steering just feels right. This it makes it pleasant to drive and manoeuvre in and about town.

In general the little Kia Picanto is a good car for its level of pricing. The difference it has from the Tata we tested is that it feels more refined, and comfortable. We love the looks, and the ride quality isn’t bad for its category of car. Sadly, because it feels like a delicate little car, it simply cannot put in the amount of work the Tata did. One treats the Kia Picanto with a bit more restraint compared to the Tata Indica when it comes to the ease at which one hurls heavy machinery into the car (see our previous article on the 2005 Tata Indica).

If you are the sort of person who carries about bits of machinery in your car, please spare the Kia and get the Tata instead. However, if you are just starting out and would love a nippy little car to go about in, meet friends, drive of into the distance and the setting sun, and such things as romance novels are made of…then go for it!

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