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From Late June




Kia Picanto S Manual 2021 Review – The cheapest Kia

November 10, 2020

Bowen's Report Card

Kia Picanto S Manual 2021 Review – The cheapest Kia


I know plenty of you right now are looking at this white microcar with disdain. That’s totally fine with me, because to be honest the Kia Picanto wouldn’t be my drug of choice. But the little “clear white” car before you is in fact very good, very good indeed.


With a 1.25-litre four-cylinder petrol engine under the bonnet, things don’t start well. A quick glance at the spec sheet reveals some more horror. Just 62kW at 6000rpm and 122Nm at 4000rpm is under your right foot. The atrocity continues via a five-speed manual sending power to the front 14-inch rims.

Now of course all of the above words are supercilious at best. Given the Picanto S has a tare weight of just 993kg, the little Kia is in fact a joy to drive.

The Drive

The simplicity the Picanto offers is one of its true strengths. It delivers an engaging drive and a stack of character. The Picanto is the type of car you’d give a name, like Cindy or Vivian (two names used by my best man Mitch for his cars). There is literally nothing to complain about, even though the suspension set-up is rather rudimentary.

The steering communicates exactly what is happening. When pushed hard, an inherent understeer starts to liven things up. However, I’m tipping that has been engineered in as a comfortable safety net. There’s only so much those 14-inch wheels can handle.

The five-speed manual is tidy and easy to predict, with a light clutch. Although I found myself hunting for a sixth gear, don’t do that because you’ll find reverse.


The five seats are covered in cloth.  You could pile five in, but given the year we’ve had, I very much doubt too many will snuggle up that close. There’s a satin silver finish across parts of the doors and other parts of the centre console and cabin. It is most certainly built to a price, but given the endearing nature of the Picanto you tend to overlook it.

One 12-volt power outlet is up front, as is one USB port. Your chosen beverage can be secured in two cup holders on the floor console. Larger bottles are looked after by two front door holders.

Value for Money

The manual Picanto kicks off at a MSRP $14,660; if you need the auto add $1400. Drive-away pricing is also on offer, so best check with your dealer. Fuel economy is rated at 5.0L/100km and as usual Kia’s seven-year/unlimited kilometre warranty is there for the ride.

What I Love

It’s a steal and fun, even for the keen driver.

Technology and safety

It’s astounding that the cheapest Kia offers wireless Apple CarPlay; that kind of tech was the exclusive domain of BMW just a few years back. Unfortunately, the system only makes sense if there’s a wireless charging bay, which there isn’t.

Along with Android Auto the Picanto S scores cruise control, plus a 4.2-inch colour display in the middle of the instrument cluster. Halogen Daylight Running Lights (DRL) are offered on the base Picanto;  they’re about as high tech as a burning candle. LED DRLs are found only on the GT-Line Picanto.

Autonomous Emergency Braking is standard, but in general the Picanto is a low tech car when it comes to driver assist systems. 

Bowen’s Report Card

It’s cheap, fun and carries a very long warranty. At this price point the Kia Picanto in my opinion is best in class. It’s an 85 out of 100 from me.