March 2008

Kia Picanto 1.1 Ice

New bumper, grille and lights distinguish updated Picanto

March 2008

picture of car from the frontpicture of car from the rearpicture of car interiorpicture of car in detail

Overall rating

3.5 out of 5 stars


  • Cheeky styling
  • Very low running costs
  • Compact exterior dimensions
  • Urban nippiness is a real boon


  • Refinement suffers a little at higher speeds
  • Sliding rear seat would aid practicality
  • No diesel option
  • Three-door version would be a useful extra choice

Sitting comfortably at the smallest end of the scale, the Kia Picanto is a popular choice in the UK market. With truly compact dimensions it bucks the current trend of increasing dimensions. Refreshed for 2008, the Picanto benefits from a number of updates designed to increase its appeal.

One of the key appeals of the Picanto is its compact dimensions. It is a genuinely small car in the traditional sense of the word, rather than modern superminis that are as big externally as cars from the next class up were in the past. Despite this it has a five-door only configuration, which is not so common for the class but is a useful boost to practicality.

Still instantly recognisable as a Picanto thanks to its undeniably cute exterior design, the refreshed version has a comprehensive but subtle makeover. Front and rear bumpers are new as are the lights, as well as the bonnet and the front wings. The new range topping version, Picanto 3, gets a sports body kit and alloy wheels to further distinguish it from the rest of the range.

A major change for the Picanto is the model line up. The original three tier range has been expanded to six. The entry-level Picanto now has four seats and runs on 13-inch wheels, which helps to put it in band B for vehicle excise duty, making it an ideal choice for the cost-conscious. The Picanto 2 and Ice versions follow with the Picanto 3 at the top with a sportier edge.

Inside there are subtle improvements too, with a redesigned dashboard, a new steering wheel and improved materials. All but the base model have cloth trim and leather on the steering wheel and gearlever, which is a pleasing touch in a car of this class. The top-spec model even benefits from an MP3 and USB connector, a feature rarely seen at this price point.

Our verdict on the Kia Picanto 1.1 Ice

The Picanto offers the right mix of ingredients for a small car buyer. The exterior is compact yet visually appealing, the specification is good and it promises impressively low running costs. Driving the Picanto is no chore either, and unlike some budget offerings, it feels tough enough to cope with everyday life. Coupled with the good value price tag, the Picanto is a real contender in this popular segment.


Running costs for the Picanto will be impressively low. Aside from the low purchase price, insurance and fuel costs will be minimal whichever engine option is selected.

Space and practicality

Every inch of the Picanto's interior space is put to good use, and four adults can be accommodated easily, five if necessary. The boot is tall rather than long, but still packs in 157 litres, with the option of increasing this to 882 litres by folding the rear seats.

Controls and display

The Picanto's layout is refreshingly simple, with few buttons to create clutter and attractive white on black markings for the controls. The instruments are also pleasing to look at, while the adjustable steering column and seat height adjustment make it easy to find a good driving position.


A car of this stature usually struggles with poor road surfaces, but the Picanto makes a good fist of coping on broken roads. Refinement is also good considering its size: higher speeds do produce more wind and road noise, but around town it is more than acceptable.

Car security

Even the base model Picanto comes with an engine immobiliser as standard, while models above it in the range come with a remote central locking system plus alarm.

Car safety

All Picanto models come with ABS with electronic brake force distribution as standard, as well as twin front airbags and passenger side de-activation.

Driver appeal

Even with the bigger 1.1-litre engine option, progress in the Picanto is comfortable rather than brisk, but the willing petrol powerplant never feels underpowered. The whole experience is undemanding with light steering and gearchange, excellent visibility and clear displays. On twisty roads the Picanto can be fun, with modest grip and responsive steering.

Family car appeal

Smaller families will find the Picanto's practicality useful, squeezing so much space into a compact silhouette. Families with more children may struggle, however.

First car appeal

Those new to driving would do well to take a good look at the Picanto as it offers the right ingredients for a first car. Low purchase, insurance and running costs are a big plus, as are the ease of driving and good specification.

Quality and image

Cars at this price point aren't normally associated with quality, but the Picanto does not feel like a cut-price car. The cabin materials are decent, build quality is sturdy and it feels like a car that will hold together over thousands of miles. The Picanto's styling helps its image, and it comes across as a fun and youthful car rather than simply inexpensive.


With five doors as standard, access to the Picanto is simple for passengers front and rear. Despite its size, the high roofline makes it easy to get inside and the boot lid opens high and wide to make loading and unloading straightforward.

Stereo and ICE (In car entertainment)

The Picanto comes with a good quality audio system on all models, particularly the range-topping version with MP3 and USB connections. The buttons are clear and easy to use and sound quality is good.

Colours and trim

The Picanto Ice benefits from the cloth trim, leather detailing and metallic effect centre console, which helps it to avoid a budget car feel. The plastics are also of a decent quality, a little better than might be expected from a car of this price. The exterior colour options are a mix of bright and bold primaries and more sober hues to cater for most tastes.


The Picanto makes perfect sense when it comes to parking, with compact dimensions and excellent visibility. The light power steering makes short work of moving into tight spaces.

Spare wheel

Space saver spare wheel fitted beneath the boot floor.

Range information

Petrol engine options - 1.0-litre (61bhp); 1.1-litre (64bhp). Transmission options: Five-speed manual transmission, four-speed automatic option with the 1.1-litre engine. Trim levels: Picanto, Picanto 2, Picanto 2 Auto, Picanto Ice, Picanto Ice Auto, Picanto 3.

Alternative cars

Hyundai i10 Spacious for size and good value

Ford Ka Technically dated but still smart and good fun

Volkswagen Fox High quality and spacious, lacks fun edge

Perodua Myvi Bargain price tag and usable too

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