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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Bad Timing (my fault) means the Taxi’s service and MOT happen the week I need it the most. Bad Luck means a new part it needs (a temp coolant
sensor), can’t be had on the same day, which delays the car’s return. Bad Logistics, means the Merc is some 40
miles from where I need it to be. The quickest way to attend to my pressure points this week is to leave the Merc where it is, hire a car, do the stuff that needs doing, then, when I’ve got ten mins, go
and get my car back.

And what a hire car I have! It’s a Kia Picanto 3 Auto, with 1,700 miles on the clock. Kia’s rise in the automotive world is curious. It’s probably a marketing masterclass in brand transformation. It’s gone from being a manufacturer of uninteresting and undesirable cars to - BOOM! - having a range of swish looking, contemporary cars with
some intriguing vehicles - like the Stinger - chucked in as unexpected wild cards. That, plus the reassuring appeal of a seven year warranty, must be working its magic on the good folk of Surrey, because Kias are increasingly popular here and its name is said out aloud with bold confidence over meek apology.

I don’t know quite where along Kia’s renaissance time-line this
generation of Picanto surfaced but, looking at it, I think it’s caught between old world Kia/new world Kia; much of the trim is (you can cringe at this) is new age funk, and old world naff. I’ve noticed this
before with Asian cars; they can have many modern design flourishes, but they also have that weirdly ancient door frame that has remained the same since the 70s. Look at the door mirrors; the ‘sail’ (I think it’s called that) is black and it mates with and overspills with zero finesse with a body coloured window frame. Why would you do that?
Everything else on the car is so new and so fresh, then you leave on a hang over from the 70s. Weird. Anyway, styling is subjective, so make of the Picanto’s shape what you will.

I haven’t compared engine specs, dimensions or prices (life is too short for these things; esp this week), but I guess the Picanto’s competitor is VW’s Up, which I’m familiar with.

Engine-wise, the Up is intriguing in petrol mode. It goes like a rocket, sounding growly n gruff, which gives it quite a bit of character. By contrast, the Kia’s engine is very uninspiring. Whereas
the Up barks endearingly, the Kia drones. Again, I’ve not looked at the figures, but it feels torque-less at low RPM. It has low gearing (which may counter the feeble torque and explain the appalling fuel
economy). The auto gearbox is ok and while it changes smoothly, it seems a bit lost at low speeds, which is a travesty for a city car, plus it has no meaningful relationship with the engine. In isolation, neither the gearbox or engine are bad; but together... they’re not the
best of buddies and are mismatched. Below 40 mph, it’s got no energy or zip and it sort of flounders a bit. Above that speed, the rapport between the engine and gearbox improves quite a bit.

Steering-wise, the Kia’s is light, quick and quite darty. While this is good, you need to be careful; it’s also over assisted at low speed, and as you can’t see the bonnet and the thick A-pillars cause blind spots, it’s easy to get close to/clip a kerb.

Speed up a bit though, and the steering is pretty good, if devoid of much (but not all) feel.

Ride wise, you have to bear in mind it suffers the curse of all swb cars; a lousy ride. For the most part, it’s ‘ok’; but over poorer road surfaces, it’s not as polished as the Up; there is a roundabout near Ascot with an appalling bad surface, and turning right on it even gently (admittedly, on a wet road) make the Kia-oh-dear! jump and skip half into the next lane; I know that the Up was much more polished on that evil corner in similar conditions.

Noise suppression-wise, it is hardly a limousine, but it is off the scale better than the VW, which doesn’t appear to have any insulation at all below the carpets, on the roof or over the wheel arches. At 60 mph, the Kia is perfectly ok, while in the Up at the same speed you start drawing up plans to physically harm whoever signed off its noise as acceptable.

Despite an unpromising low speed start, the Kia is a lot of fun through the corners, though. It’s quite wide (or it seems to be) so it’s stable, and, with a bit of speed behind it, it’s quite a giggle; balanced, sure footed and agile and a really good laugh; it’s a tad
throttle-happy too and you can make the back dance a bit mid-bend. I can see the bones of quite a promising hot hatch in the making here.

For sure, the VW Up is more mature and at times amusing because of its engine. But the Up is a bit too joyless, a bit too dour, a bit too ‘small Golf’ and - despite its abilities - it lacks the fizz you want from a small car. It never wants to party. It just wants to ‘do’.

The Kia isn’t as mature in its style (it’s aimed at a ‘yoof’ market), but it is heaps more fun and, in a patchy sort of way, it is almost as good as the VW, while also being much more game on when you’re feeling frisky. I don’t know how representative of Kia the Picanto is, but I can see why customers are warming to the brand. Plus, there’s that seven year warranty...

Would I buy one? If I needed to choose between the Up and the Kia... I think I’d be signing up for the Picanto.
 

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We have a few C'eed (or is it Cee'd) pool cars at work that I've put a fair few miles on. The fleet consts of Kias, Toyota Aurises, Seat Ibizas and Vauxhall Astras of 2016-18 vintage. If I had to rank them I'd put the Ibiza bottom because it's just nasty and cheap. The Auris comes in third, hard ride, uncomfortable seats, numb steering, crap climate control, but a lovely feel to the switches and buttons. The Kia comes in second. It's pleasant, handles tidily, and is well equipped. It doesn't feel as well screwed together as the Auris (the gearlever rotates on the stick which I find really annoying) and the (diesel) engine is a bit rough. It scores highly on not being an Astra but the Astra's engine is much nicer so it gets the top spot.

All of that said, I've also driven a Focus from the same period and it's in a different league.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
It is interesting and intriguing how Kia has pretty much come from nowhere to suddenly making near class competitive cars.

Agree about the Focus. Only driven the mark2, and that was also a bit of a giggle as well as being Golf like sensible the rest of the time.
 
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