Author: Kieran Bicknell - 22 July 2021
Kia Picanto GT-Line – The perfect palette cleanser
High-power supercars, mind-bending 0-60 times and big engines, every now-and-then one’s tastebuds and expectations need to be reset and the Kia Picanto GT-Line does just that.
No, I’m not talking about EVs, as even these are in an arms race of their own between chasing 0-60 times or seeing how much range they can squeeze out of their batteries.
I’m talking about the sort of car that even die-hard road testers love, even if they won’t necessarily admit it. A small, agile car with a low-displacement motor and a tiny footprint. The sort of cars we all learned to drive in or cut our teeth on during the early stages of our careers. Yes, I’m talking about the humble ‘city’ hatch.
Enter the Kia Picanto GT-Line, which ticks all of the above boxes and is an absolute riot to drive, but not in the traditional sense of things.
You see, this is not a fast car, nor is it powerful. What it is, however, is a total reset to remind us how we don’t need 1000hp or a 5-star hotel on wheels to have fun driving. Granted, the Picanto I had on test was the range-topping GT-Line, so it had a few extra bits (more on that later), but underneath, the recipe remained essentially unchanged, and that’s a very good thing indeed.
From the moment I was handed the keys, I knew this would be something a little different. No fancy keyless entry or start here. A traditional flip-out key that goes in an actual ignition barrel is the order of the day here.
The diminutive turbocharged engine drives the front wheels and is coupled to a five-speed (yes, they still exist) manual transmission. Honestly, it was like being 19 again in a small, nimble manual hatch, but without the constant terror of things breaking or going wrong that usually accompanies most first cars.
Let me say this, it’s been a long time since I’ve enjoyed a press car this much, and even longer since one surprised me as much as this.
The little turbocharged engine is surprisingly punchy, with an impressively engaging clutch action and gearbox, making a satisfying ‘click’ as you row the gears. The steering is remarkably weighty while on the go without being too heavy and offers a significantly better amount of feedback than I expected.
Out on the road, the Picanto was proving to be an absolute riot. Gone were the usual sprints off the traffic lights and down dual carriageways, replaced with an effort to keep the momentum up, finding gaps in the flow of traffic and exploiting the Picanto’s tiny footprint and direct steering inputs.
Even small journeys to the shops became great fun and having enjoyed the Picanto this much, I understand entirely how events such as the C1 Cup and other hatchback racing series are so exciting and interesting to compete in.
The good news doesn’t stop there, as the Picanto is far from a one-trick pony. Inside, the GT-Line spec means the cabin is also a great place to spend time, featuring wireless smartphone connectivity with Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, half-leather seats, contrast stitching, and – mercifully during a heatwave – wonderful A/C with actual controls rather than any of that touch-screen nonsense.
And, while you’re probably not going to pick the Picanto to go on a family holiday or a trip to IKEA, the boot is impressively spacious thanks to its depth, being able to hold a week’s worth of shopping with ease, while the rear seats fold for more luggage capacity if needed.
On the outside, the GT-Line styling adds new bumpers, lower fog lights and upgraded wheels, all of which look fantastic in my opinion and help this range-topping model stand out among the other cars in the same segment.
If all that wasn’t enough, you also get Kia’s trademark 7-year / 100,000-mile warranty for added peace of mind. Not that it feels like you’ll need in mind, though I did find that the CarPlay system kept disconnecting from any phone I tried whilst I had the car, and although the music continued to play, having to re-open the map regularly did prove annoying.
Tech issue aside, there isn’t anything to complain about here. The Picanto is subject to the usual city car space issues, but complaining about luggage capacity in a city car is akin to complaining about the lack of windows in a submarine – it’s just plain pointless!
Genuinely, I was smitten by the Picanto GT-Line. If I wanted a second ‘commuter’ car for inner-city journeys and short trips, I think this would be it. Equally, if you’re looking for a fun runabout, the first car or want something that strips away all the ‘noise’ associated with modern cars and their overly complicated features, then the Picanto GT-Line is the one for you.
Author rating: 5/5