REVIEW | 2021 Kia Picanto X-Line is a bold urban adventurer

The new X-Line features distinctive crossover styling.
The new X-Line features distinctive crossover styling.
Image: SUPPLIED

The Kia Picanto mini hatchback has been spun into interesting new variants lately. First there was the Runner panel van and now an “adventure” version, the X-Line.

Tapping into the voracious consumer appetite for compact crossover vehicles, the X-Line has been tarted up with plastic strips on the wheel arches and doors, more aggressive front and rear bumpers and a 4x4-style rear skid plate. The 1.2 X-Line replaces the high-spec Smart model in the Picanto lineup. Its styling dazzle includes 15-inch alloy wheels and LED front and rear lights.

It is a purely cosmetic exercise and this Kia is not made to wallow in the mud like a Toyota Land Cruiser. The front-wheel drive X-Line rides just 5mm higher than a regular Picanto, at 156mm, which gives it neither off-road ability nor the elevated driving position that many buyers in this market segment seek. Drivers who wish to gaze imperiously down on other road users will instead need to look to Picanto rivals such as the Renault Sandero Stepway with its 193mm ride height, Ford Figo Freestyle (190mm) or Suzuki Ignis (180mm).

In terms of its driving dynamics the X-Line doesn’t veer from the Picanto script of a nimble little hatch that eagerly scurries through suburbia.

The Picanto tips the scales at a flyweight 962kg, making that small 1.2l engine punch stronger than expected from its tepid-sounding 61kW. It’s sufficiently perky in urban driving, and doesn’t run out of breath on the open road where it contentedly cruises at the speed limit. It does all this without needing to be revved within an inch of its life, thanks to decent midrange torque. The little engine also does not sound buzzy and the car’s general refinement is good.

Slick gearshifts and a light clutch make the five-speed manual Picanto largely effortless to drive, but there is a four-speed auto version at a R14,000 premium for those seeking two-pedalled convenience.

The resigned rear bumper has a faux skid plate.
The resigned rear bumper has a faux skid plate.
Image: SUPPLIED

The Picanto rides with the typically choppy nature of short-wheelbase cars, but ride quality is acceptable and high-profile 15-inch tyres competently absorb the vagaries of potholed roads.

The tiny increase in ride height does not have adverse handling effects and the little hatch is able to zip through corners like an excited rodent. The light steering and the car’s diminutive size complete a driving package purpose-built for urban commuting.

Squeezed onto this car’s tiny 3.6m length is a cabin just about large enough for four. Rear seat space is tight without adults feeling squashed in like sardines.

The boot is tiny and has a thin space-saver rear wheel, though with the rear seats folded we were able to stash a bicycle in there (with one of its wheels removed). The 255l  boot also has a two-step floor that allows some items to be hidden out of sight.

For a budget car the cabin has a pleasant enough aura, with faux leather dual-tone seats and attractive brushed metal detailing. The interior plastics aren’t the soft-touch type but they are nicely textured, and the Picanto has one of the more premium-looking cabins in the class. There is even a padded armrest for the driver on the storage nook between the front seats.

The steering adjusts for height only, not reach, but the little car is otherwise well loaded with features including a reversing camera, electric windows, and a touchscreen infotainment system with all the necessary connectivity. It is all fairly user friendly except for the infotainment screen not being especially touch sensitive, icons sometimes need jabbing a number of times.

Two-tone artificial leather upholstery and a colour touchscreen infotainment system.
Two-tone artificial leather upholstery and a colour touchscreen infotainment system.
Image: SUPPLIED

Safety fare in the tiny car is acceptable if not class leading. It includes driver and passenger airbags and ABS brakes, but no stability control. The Picanto achieved a three-star Euro NCAP crash rating.

For buyers in the entry-level segment this urban-adventurer Picanto is competitively priced at R237,995. If you don’t require all the toys and faux-SUV looks, the 1.2 Picanto is available in lesser grades (the Street for R210,995 and the Style for R220,995).

The Picanto X-Line may look like an SUV and quack like one, but with no off-road ability it does not pass the duck test. But this applies to most crossovers. In this market it is all about the “urban-adventurer” looks — and sometimes a higher ride height — and Kia has shrewdly tapped into this popular segment.

Tech Specs

ENGINE

Type: 4-cyl petrol

Capacity: 1.25l

Power: 61kW

Torque: 122Nm

TRANSMISSION

Type: Five-speed manual

DRIVETRAIN

Type: Front-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE

Top speed: 170km/h

0-100km/h: N/A

Fuel consumption: 5.0l/100km (as claimed), 5.9l/100km (as tested)

Emissions: 116g/km

STANDARD FEATURES

Leather-look upholstery, rear parking camera, touchscreen infotainment system with Apple Carplay and Android Auto, LED headlights, aircon, auto on/off lights, trip computer, remote central locking, electric windows, two airbags, ABS brakes

COST OF OWNERSHIP

Warranty: Five years/unlimited km

Maintenance: Two years/30,000km

Price: R237,995

Lease: R5,151

* at 10% interest over 60 months no deposit

Kia Picanto 1.2 X-Line manual

WE LIKE:

Price, funky styling

WE DISLIKE:

Choppy ride

VERDICT:

A crossover on a budget

MOTOR NEWS

Star rating

*****Design

***Performance

****Economy

***Ride

***Handling

***Safety

****Value For Money

****Overall

Competition:

Ford Figo Freestyle 1.5 Trend, 91kW/150Nm — R246,000

Suzuki Ignis 1.2 GLX, 61kW/113Nm — R229,900

Renault Sandero Stepway Techroad, 66kW/135Nm — R251,900


subscribe

Would you like to comment on this article or view other readers' comments? Register (it’s quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.