Kia Picanto 1.0 T-GDi GT Line S
The previous king of cheap thrills – the Suzuki Swift Sport – now has a price tag too high to be considered ‘cheap’. Cue the Kia Picanto GT Line S. With a rev-happy 1.0-litre turbocharged engine and 1,020kg kerb weight, it zips around with glee. What’s more, it has cheeky styling to match, Kia’s usual generous array of equipment, and carries a price tag of £15,000. The only drawback is limited space, being a supermini.
Superminis are generally not exciting, especially when it comes to styling. These are cars that are built to a budget and bought on a budget. And fancy body kits don’t usually fit the bill.
Happily that’s far from the case with the Kia Picanto GT Line S. This is without question the best-looking car in the segment.
Our test car was finished in Clear White, and the GT Line S does well to give this small car a big presence.
At the front there is a black and red front grille with chrome surround. Either side are the headlights which incorporate LED daytime running lights.
The front bumper gives the Kia Picanto a wide stance, and features proper air vents in either corner. Framing these are red accents, which complement the grille. The front number plate surround is a premium-looking gloss black.
At the side, two-tone alloy wheels look deceptively larger than their 16-inch diameter. A sports side skirt features yet more red trim. Chrome door handles and window surrounds, with rear privacy glass, add a premium touch.
The rear bumper is as broad-shouldered as the front. Nestled neatly to one side is a twin exhaust pipe. The rear valance is gloss black, with a final red stripe to complete the GT Line S styling package.
The Kia Picanto was complemented on its styling by a wide demographic; young and old, male and female. Seeing it in a car park or shop window, it has serious kerb appeal. Far more than you’d expect of a supermini, that’s for sure.
If there were any signs of the Kia Picanto being built to a budget, then these come in the cabin. It’s only understandable that to be able to sell a car cheap there will be a sacrifice on materials to keep build costs down.
Take a seat in the Kia Picanto GT Line S, and you can see where these sacrifices are. The dashboard and door card plastics are on the hard and scratchy side. You can also tell that the seats are a faux leather.
But in truth, these shortcomings can be forgiven. The leather may be fake, but there’s a nice pattern on it. The red accents and stitching match the exterior sportiness, and also bring a bit of colour and vibrancy to the cabin.
A silver flash across the centre of the dashboard and a nicely-perched touchscreen stop you focusing on the dodgy plastics. The Kia multimedia system is sleek, and elevates a car like the Kia Picanto.
Also impressive is the flat-bottomed steering wheel, finished in perforated leather with contrast red stitching. Behind this are the relatively simple dials. A black background with white numbers and red needles is surprisingly effective however. You even get a small multi-function trip computer in the middle.
Despite the materials not being the highest quality, the Kia Picanto feels well put together. There are no trim rattles, and the switchgear feels as good as it does on other models such as the Ceed.
The engine powering the Kia Picanto GT Line S is as small as the car’s body. It’s a 1.0-litre, 3-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine. But, like the car itself, this engine also has a huge character.
On paper, the performance figures aren’t the most exciting. 100PS and 171Nm sent to the front wheels via a 5-speed manual gearbox. 0-62mph takes 9.8 seconds and the top speed is 112mph. Not exactly tantalising then.
But the figures don’t tell the full story. You see this 1.0 T-GDi engine is an absolute gem, and is perfectly suited to a car as light as the Picanto; with its kerb weight of 1,020kg.
This engine wants to be revved. Take it up to the red line, and you’re rewarded with an eagerness to accelerate. Work the gearbox hard to eke out every last ounce of power, and you’ll be convinced this little Kia could take on just about anything.
And it’s more than comfortable on the motorway, too. Even with a full car, 70mph is no problem. You’ll even be able to overtake with ease.
There’s a decent soundtrack too, with a characteristic 3-cylinder thrum. It’s not too harsh, and provides a great audible accompaniment to some spirited driving.
There is, however, a minor grumble. We have previously tested another Kia with a 1.0 T-GDi engine: the Stonic. In that car, however, it had 115PS and a 6-speed manual gearbox.
Knowing now how much fun the Picanto GT Line S is, it’s hard not to think it could have been even better with the higher power output.
In the world of cheap thrills, handling is a big deal. A car need not have the biggest brakes, or a fancy suspension setup, to be able to hold its own and provide a fun drive. The Kia Picanto GT Line S is proof.
I daresay the Picanto was never designed with enthusiastic handling in mind. And yet it does so rather well. A distinct lack of weight helps significantly with this.
Admittedly, the new Suzuki Swift Sport is lighter still. But we’re not going to complain with 1,020kg. It means there’s not much weight to push on in the corners.
That’s good, because the Picanto does pitch and roll when you drive exuberantly. But because it’s so light, it does so to a lesser degree.
With such a compact size, any road feels wider. When on your favourite B-road, you’ll feel like you’re on an American freeway. As such, you can position the car exactly where you want it.
The steering lacks any real feel to it, and it could do with being a little heavier for our liking. Nevertheless it is direct enough for you to point the Picanto’s nose exactly where you want.
Being so light means you don’t need the best brakes either. The discs on the Kia Picanto GT Line S aren’t particularly fancy, but they are more than enough stopping power for this little pocket rocket.
The suspension, with its tendency to lean, makes for a reasonable compromise in everyday driving. The Picanto is comfortable on the motorway, and absorbs lumps and bumps on our pothole-ridden roads pretty well.
Being lightweight brings further advantages too, notably in terms of fuel economy. In this regard, the figures do look great on paper.
The Kia Picanto GT Line S, with its 1.0 T-GDi engine, offers 48.7mpg on the combined cycle. What’s more it does so under the newer, more realistic WLTP testing regime.
What’s so great about the GT Line S is that even if you drive it like you’re in the WRC, all the time, it will still return 35+mpg, where other turbo hot hatches would see sub-20 figures.
CO2 emissions are a NEDC-equivalent 117g/km. First year VED is £170, with subsequent years being the standard £145.
Somewhat perplexing is the lack of start/stop technology. This was present on the Stonic, with its 115PS engine. In that car, CO2 emissions were 115g/km, so one would expect that if it was in the Picanto GT Line S the car would be even more efficient.
Despite only having a 5-speed manual gearbox, a tall 5th gear means motorway driving is still reasonably economical.
Quite frankly though, the lack of start/stop technology is but a minor point. You can’t knock the Kia Picanto GT Line S for its economy credentials, both on paper and in the real world.
When it comes to practicality, and everyday usability, the Kia Picanto is a bit of a mixed bag. But that’s the case with every supermini because they are, after all, superminis.
The boot is just about big enough for a bit of shopping. And we do mean a bit: 255 litres is hardly enough for a good booze run!
The Kia Picanto GT Line S has a variable boot floor. This allows for a flat load area with the rear seats forded down, but does reduce boot space.
The buggy we use for our daughter is one of the smallest available when folded down. Despite this both the variable boot floor and the parcel shelf had to be removed to get it in the car.
Space in the back of the car is limited too. It’s best to think of the Picanto, or any supermini for that matter, as a four-seater. And the rear seats are not really designed for adults. That being said, being a 5-door does help getting in and out of the rear.
But for zipping around town, they’re perfect. You can parallel park in spaces most cars would drive past. You can be that annoying little car in the supermarket car park that hides between two larger ones and makes people think there’s a free space.
There are other advantages to a car the size of a shoe box. When you go to the local jet wash, you only need £1.50 to wash it top to bottom. Do it by hand and you can reach across the roof from one side of the car to the other.
As with any Kia, the easiest review section to write is the equipment one. In fact, the hardest part is keeping the word count down.
Despite being a supermini, the Kia Picanto GT Line S is equipped more lavishly than some executive saloons.
Let’s start with the creature comforts. Keyless entry and go comes as standard. All four windows are electric. The door mirrors are electrically-adjustable and power-folding. You get heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, air conditioning and cruise control with speed limiter.
In terms of audio-visual equipment, the Picanto boasts a 7-inch touchscreen system. It features satellite navigation, DAB radio, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. There’s even a wireless charging pad for your mobile phone.
Reassuringly for a supermini, the Kia Picanto GT Line S features a host of safety equipment, enabling it to achieve a 4-star Euro NCAP rating. The only reason it did not score 5 stars is that ESC is not standard across Europe.
Incidentally it is on UK models, but Kia believes that entry level models in other European markets, and the budgets of the customers that buy them, do not call for ESC. So four stars it is.
Safety equipment includes Forward-Collision Avoidance with autonomous emergency braking, Hill-Start Assist Control, Emergency Stop Signalling and ABS with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution and Brake-Assist System.
That’s a lot of equipment for a small car. In fact, it’s a lot of equipment for any car.
Value For Money
There was a general consensus in the motoring world that the Suzuki Swift Sport was the previous king of cheap thrills. It had a list price of just under £14,000. It wasn’t as fast, or as plush, as the likes of the Ford Fiesta ST or Peugeot 208 GTi. But it was still incredible fun to drive, at an irresistible price.
Now though, a Suzuki Swift Sport costs around £18,000. There’s good reason for the price increase – more safety equipment and a more sophisticated engine – but that means it’s no longer cheap. It’s time for a new king.
And that new king is the Kia Picanto GT Line S. Cheeky exterior styling. Fun, zippy performance that puts a smile on your face. An equipment list to brag about in the pub. And all for a mere £14,895 OTR. White is an additional £260, with premium colours costing £535.
It’s impressive that the Picanto GT Line S has all the safety equipment of the new Swift Sport, and is only marginally more expensive than the old Swift Sport.
Also impressive is the standard Kia 7-year, 100,000-miles warranty. Not only does this provide peace-of-mind motoring, but it enables you to sell a car in 5 years’ time with a further 2 years’ warranty remaining.
The Kia Picanto GT Line S is a hidden gem in the vast array of new cars available today. And in a world where prices only seem to be going up – you can’t seem to get that much car for less than £40,000 these days – it’s especially refreshing to come across a car that’s such great value for money.
Shop around, and we reckon you could get a Picanto GT Line S for less than £14,000. The only question remaining: what colour do you want?
Facts and Figures
|Engine||1.0-litre, 3-cylinder turbocharged petrol|
|Max power||100PS at 4,500rpm|
|Max torque||171Nm at 1,500-4,000rpm|
|Drivetrain||5-speed manual transmission, front-wheel drive|
|Fuel tank size||35 litres|
|Fuel consumption||48.7 mpg combined, WLTP|
|CO2 emissions||117 g/km NEDC equivalent|
|Kerb weight||1,020 kg|
|Luggage capacity||255 litres|
|NCAP rating||4 stars|
|Price as tested||£15,155|