Touchscreen infotainment was previously an option reserved for the upper echelons of the Picanto range, but it now comes as standard from mid-rung 3 trim upwards. It’s usefully 1.0in bigger, too at 8.0in, but Kia hasn’t fallen into the trap of over-digitisation: temperature, fan speed and volume remain happily adjustable via physical dials, and the multifunction steering wheel gives easy access to a sensible – rather than overbearing – array of settings and controls.
It’s a necessary touch of refinement in an interior that otherwise smacks of utility. The Picanto’s value billing becomes abundantly clear if you start enthusiastically prodding and poking your way around the cabin: the leather-effect plastic trim is unconvincing and the switches and knobs a tad flimsy-feeling, but the seats are comfortable, the glasshouse bright and airy and the driving position sufficiently variable. It’s a perfectly liveable environment, all told.
The 1.0-litre atmo engine makes do with just 66bhp and 96lb ft, making it one of the least powerful powerplants currently fitted to a mainstream production car, and even though this Picanto weighs just 977kg, it’s sorely lacking in the performance department. Tackling motorway slip roads is best viewed as a marathon, not a sprint, but that’s alright because the unrelenting engine and tyre roar through the under-insulated cabin at speed is enough to make you avoid longer jaunts in any case.
The Picanto is, of course, a city slicker. Nimble, diminutive and sensibly packaged, it carries itself particularly well in congested urban environments and doesn’t feel half as vulnerable as it ought to, courtesy of big windows all round affording fantastic visibility and confidence. Low-speed manoeuvres, as you would expect, are a cinch, and although it’s not a necessity in a car this small, the optional reversing camera gives as clear and crisp a rearward view as you could ask for. The ride isn’t particularly fazed by decaying urban asphalt, either: there’s a bit of knocking and jolting over the harshest bumps, but it’s nowhere near as firm as it could be.
There are a few flies in this otherwise effective ointment, then, but none so unwelcome as the languid and indolent automatic gearbox. So tangibly does the car’s acceleration curve flatten between ratios that you sense your head lolling forward at every upshift, and because the blundering robot that controls the set-up is so easily confused, you can spend several seconds right at the top of first gear, revving the proverbial knackers off that wheezy motor until it finally decides to proffer up a larger cog. It’s almost as if there were an excitable child in the passenger seat begging to “do the gears”, but failing to ever quite get the timing right.