Kia intends to keep a sub-$20,000 price fighter in Australia until the end of the decade.

    But there could be a trade-off – on safety – to keep the price low.

    The high cost of ANCAP five-star safety equipment, including the expensive camera and radar sensors needed for systems including autonomous emergency braking, could mean the future Kia Picanto cheapie will never manage a five-star rating.

    As Kia prepares for the imminent arrival of its updated Picanto, currently priced from $16,290 before on-road costs, the CEO of Kia Australia is happy to confirm a continuation of the price point and ANCAP rating.

    “It will be under $20,000 for us. It will remain four-star,” Damien Meredith told CarExpert.

    The Picanto and the MG 3 are the only cars remaining in Australia with a base price below $20,000, as the high price of safety systems and a growing number of compact SUVs – which make much bigger profits for carmakers and are popular with buyers – have changed the shape of entry-level motoring in Australia.

    The MG 3 currently starts from $19,490 without any ANCAP rating, but with a new model coming soon.

    “It’s just MG 3, when you talk in competitive terms,” said Mr Meredith.

    Although the Picanto is considerably smaller than the outgoing Rio, which had been Kia’s sub-$20,000 car, Mr Meredith said the tiddler has an important role.

    “We brought Picanto in to be the first stepping stone for the Kia experience. It’s done an incredible job for us,” he said.

    “The price connection for the car is very strong. It’s good value, good quality, and it’s done well.

    “Sales have been very strong and we’ll probably do 6000-plus for the year. It is holding up very well.”

    Mr Meredith promises significant improvements for the updated Picanto, which is key to a renewal plan that also includes the next Cerato and small SUVs.

    “It’s coming very soon. It will be before the end of the year. The mechanical package is similar,” he said.

    “It’s a completely new design. It takes the design cues from what doing we’re doing with the EV9. It’s getting that more aggressive front look. It’s quite a significant change. ”

    Other changes include a new instrument cluster, as well as the deletion of the turbocharged 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine found in the current GT.

    Beyond the new Picanto, into the generation to follow, Mr Meredith tells CarExpert the plan is much the same.

    The car will be Kia’s starter car, it will stay small and affordable, and ANCAP safety will not be as important as the price.

    “It hasn’t been a problem with this model, so I don’t think it will be a problem with the next model,” he said.

    Mr Meredith is reluctant to give any firm timing on the next-generation Picanto, but it’s likely to come around 2026-2027 and run through to the end of the decade.

    “This is the start of the new cycle. I think we’ll be able to do if for a few more years. And another (model) cycle,” he said.

    “It would be be under 20 grand for us. That is the key thing.

    “Picanto is still in the long-term product plan. It’s through to the late 2020s.”

    MORE: Everything Kia Picanto

    Paul Gover

    Paul Gover is one of the most experienced and respected motoring journalists in Australia. After more than 40 years on the automotive beat there is nothing he has not done, yet he still brings the enthusiasm of a rookie. He has worked in print, digital, radio, television and for every major publisher in the country. He is also a national motor racing champion and once co-drove with Peter Brock at Bathurst.

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