Interested in a Kia Picanto?
    • Cheap and cheerful motoring
    • Welcome upgrades to safety suite
    • Save The Manuals
    • Smaller and not as pretty as MG 3
    • ANCAP rating has now expired
    • Servicing isn't exactly cheap
    4 Star

    Australia’s cheapest new car is… no longer Australia’s cheapest new car.

    The Kia Picanto was for a long time the entry point into the new car market, but this latest update means it now costs more than one of the top-selling affordable vehicles going right now – the MG 3.

    Still, the Picanto serves as the entry point into the Korean brand’s line-up, and has packed in heaps of new and desirable features to justify the $1700 price increases, going heavy on active safety tech the MG lacks.

    The Picanto retains both manual and automatic transmission options, as well as a two-variant range structure to offer more choice than most at this end of the market.

    Here we’re trialling the cheapest one – is it the pick?

    How does the Kia Picanto compare?
    View a detailed breakdown of the Kia Picanto against similarly sized vehicles.

    How much does the Kia Picanto cost?

    We have the most affordable Picanto on sale – the 2024 Kia Picanto Sport – which starts from $20,690 drive-away with the five-speed manual transmission on test.

    2024 Kia Picanto pricing:

    • 2024 Kia Picanto Sport 5MT: $17,890 ($20,690 D/A)
    • 2024 Kia Picanto Sport 4AT: $19,490 ($21,690 D/A)
    • 2024 Kia Picanto GT-Line 5MT: $19,690 ($22,490 D/A)
    • 2024 Kia Picanto GT-Line 4AT: $21,290 ($23,490 D/A)

    Prices exclude on-road costs unless otherwise noted

    To see how the Picanto compares with its rivals, check out our comparison tool.

    What is the Kia Picanto like on the inside?

    Changes in the cabin are a little less dramatic than the exterior, but there’s quite a few upgrades here.

    The fundamentals are the same but there are small changes like a new LCD instrument cluster which is more neatly integrated into the binnacle than the old analogue dials, and the seat fabric has been updated.

    Smaller details include the inclusion of USB-C charge ports, as well as additional buttons on the steering wheel and to the right of the driver’s knee for applicable safety systems that have been added with this update.

    Oh, and the steering wheel is now trimmed in ‘premium’ leatherette as standard, as is the shifter.

    Considering the jump from the old S to the Sport is roughly $1700, there’s definitely a more upmarket vibe to various points of touch and interaction as well as the more fulsome tech suite that goes beyond quoted price difference.

    It’s all still quite basic and austere, but it’s functional and attractive enough given the price point.

    The freestanding 8.0-inch touchscreen offers wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which actually works properly now compared to older iterations, and the manual air-con is surprisingly powerful as I found out on a hot summer day.

    Storage is good thanks to a dual-tier shelf under the dashboard augmented by 12V, USB-A and USB-C ports, as well as adjustable cupholders and an open tray in the centre console.

    Everything is also ergonomically placed and positioned, with the centre stack slightly angled towards the driver and everything is well within arm’s reach – just don’t go looking for soft plastics, because there are none.

    The back seat continues to surprise, given you can actually fit real people there despite the Picanto’s tiny dimensions.

    I managed to fit two of my friends in the rear with minimal complaints. The Picanto’s tall and boxy proportions mean even someone my height (6’1) can snugly fit – a longer road trip might be pushing it with regular use though.

    Being a budget city car there aren’t a whole lot of back seat amenities. You get the requisite ISOFIX anchors on the outboard seats as well as top tethers across all three, but there are no vents or folding centre armrest.

    In fairness that’s to be expected of a vehicle in this segment, but worth calling out if you’re planning to use the second row somewhat often.

    Behind those rear seats there’s 255 litres of cargo capacity, which can be expanded to 1010 litres with the rear seats folded.

    That’s more than a Mazda 2 Hatch (250L) or Suzuki Swift (242L), which is impressive given the size class. There’s a pretty big step up from the boot floor to the seat backs, though.

    All versions of the Kia Picanto feature a temporary space saver spare wheel.

    What’s under the bonnet?

    ModelPicanto 1.25 MPI
    Engine1.25L 4cyl petrol
    Power62kW (6000rpm)
    Torque122Nm (4000rpm)
    Transmission5-speed manual
    Driven WheelsFront-wheel drive
    Weight976kg (tare)
    Fuel economy (claimed)5.4L/100km
    Fuel economy (as tested)6.0L/100km
    Fuel tank35 litres
    Minimum fuel requirement91 RON

    How does the Kia Picanto drive?

    While the bulk of Picanto buyers will likely opt for the dearer four-speed auto, it’s great that Kia has kept the five-speed manual on sale.

    Why? Well for starters manuals are becoming harder and hard to find these days, and for a lot of younger motorists buying their first car this could be a great way to get into an affordable new car and also practice ‘driving stick’.

    It also gives you more control and an added ratio for the pretty basic and meek 1.25-litre petrol engine, which is now the sole powertrain given the 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo from the outgoing range has been axed.

    With just 62kW of power and 122Nm of torque, this little Kia is no pocket rocket – especially when peak torque isn’t online until 4000rpm. However, this thing only weighs 976kg so you can get it moving if you need to push it.

    I haven’t driven an atmo manual for a while, so you may find you have to row through the gears a lot to keep the Picanto on the boil. It’s more involving and helps you really get in touch with what the car’s doing, but it can also be quite tiresome in stop-start city traffic.

    The Picanto has a very light clutch and almost wobbly shift action, which early on might be a little jarring but you soon learn to embrace the charm that comes with driving this little thing around town.

    It revs out willingly and is fairly responsive, but I’d ignore the shift indicator in the cluster which encourages you to change gears at around 2000rpm – which is never going to work in hilly conditions. Keep in mind you don’t get peak torque until 4000rpm and peak power until 6000rpm.

    While the new ‘basic’ digital instrumentation looks neat in the driver’s binnacle, I feel this is a step backwards for the manual as it’s difficult to gauge at times how many revs you’re holding on take-off and how quickly the tacho is rising on the clock radio-style display.

    Further, the vague clutch and shift actions can mean it’s very easy to over-rev the Picanto on takeoff and between gearshifts. Having hill start assist definitely helps when setting off on an incline.

    It handles well too. That chunky leatherette-trimmed steering wheel and accurate steering calibration make this quite a fun little thing to punt around city streets.

    It rides pretty well too, erring on the firmer side but it does a good job at balancing comfort and dynamics. The Sport’s little 14-inch alloys and 175/65 tyres add a bit more cushioning than the GT-Line’s 195/45 R16s too.

    The Picanto is also surprisingly settled on the freeway for such a little car, helped by Kia Australia’s localisation of the chassis and steering as well as, perhaps, the fact the Picanto is sold in markets like Europe.

    While it’ll take a heavy foot to get anywhere quickly, you won’t have to feel like you’re in some dangerous little tin box that’ll get blown away by passing buses and trucks. It’s surprisingly sure footed and confident at 100 clicks.

    Further, the five-speed manual’s log final ratio means it’s not spinning away at well above 3000rpm like it is in the four-speed auto. It just feels like it has longer legs in those scenarios.

    Unlike the MG 3, which lacks any form of modern active safety tech, the Picanto has a slew of modern assistance features which should not only help you on the road but also give parents piece of mind for their young drivers setting out to drive in this big scary world.

    AEB, blind-spot and rear cross-traffic assist as well as lane keep assist all actively intervene to avoid collisions or drifting out of one’s lane. You also have Lane Following Assist that will actively keep you centred in your lane as well, and does so in a not-so threatening way.

    There’s also auto high-beam for the standard projector-type halogen headlights. Unfortunately, LED lighting units are reserved for the GT-Line flagship – I can forgive this in the Picanto, perhaps not models higher up in Kia’s range.

    I will note Kia doesn’t offer the Picanto with a more sophisticated AEB system with pedestrian and cyclist detection, nor adaptive cruise control despite it being available in the Korean domestic market. Probably nitpicking for this particular variant.

    What do you get?

    Picanto Sport highlights:

    • 14-inch alloy wheels (NEW)
    • Halogen headlights
    • Halogen daytime running lights
    • Auto high-beam
    • Auto headlights
    • LED rear fog lights (NEW)
    • Space-saver spare
    • Power-folding exterior mirrors (NEW)
    • 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system
    • Wireless Apple CarPlay, Android Auto
    • 4.2-inch instrument cluster screen (NEW)
    • Leatherette-wrapped steering wheel (NEW)
    • Leatherette-wrapped shifter (NEW)
    • 4-way manual driver’s seat adjustment
    • Cloth upholstery
    • 3 x top-tether, 2 x ISOFIX points
    • Manual air conditioning
    • 4 x speakers, 2 x front tweeters
    • Cruise control
    • Power windows
    • Day, night rear-view mirror
    • 1 x front USB-A outlet
    • 1 x front USB-C outlet
    • 1 x front 12V outlet

    Picanto GT-Line adds:

    • 16-inch alloy wheels
    • LED headlights (NEW)
    • LED daytime running lights
    • LED tail lights (NEW)
    • GT-Line exterior package
    • Power-folding, heated exterior mirrors (NEW)
    • Leatherette upholstery
    • 6-way manual driver seat (incl. height adjust)
    • 3-spoke ‘Sports’ steering wheel (NEW)
    • Metal pedals (NEW)
    • 1 x rear USB-C outlet (NEW)

    Is the Kia Picanto safe?

    The Kia Picanto scored a four-star ANCAP safety rating based on 2017 Euro NCAP tests, but that rating has since expired as of 1 January 2024.

    It received an adult occupant protection rating of 87 per cent, a child occupant protection rating of 64 per cent, a pedestrian protection rating of 54 per cent, and a safety assist rating of 47 per cent.

    ANCAP and Euro NCAP noted the child occupant and pedestrian protection ratings fell under the thresholds for a full five-star safety rating.

    Standard safety equipment includes:

    • Autonomous emergency braking (AEB)
    • Blind-spot assist (NEW)
    • Driver attention warning
    • Forward collision warning
    • High Beam Assist
    • Lane Follow Assist (NEW)
    • Lane keep assist (NEW)
    • Leading vehicle departure alert
    • Rear cross-traffic assist (NEW)
    • Rear occupant alert
    • Reversing camera
    • Rear parking sensors
    • Safe exit warning

    How much does the Kia Picanto cost to run?

    The Picanto is backed by Kia’s seven-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty.

    Like the wider line-up, Kia offers seven years of roadside assistance and capped-price servicing – maintenance is required every 12 months or 15,000 kilometres.

    Kia Picanto service pricing:

    1yr or 15,000km$310
    2yr or 30,000km$506
    3yr or 45,000km$367
    4yr or 60,000km$537
    5yr or 75,000km$349
    6yr or 90,000km$630
    7yr or 105,000km$370

    CarExpert’s Take on the Kia Picanto

    Australians love to buy the biggest and most expensive versions of most cars, but for those more pragmatic buyers that take the “right size, right size” approach, the base Picanto still has a lot to offer.

    For $20,000 drive-away you have all the bases covered in terms of assistance and infotainment technologies, as well as a pretty economical and uncomplicated drivetrain that’s cheap to run.

    Based on my real-world economy you should be able to achieve over 550 kilometres between fills of the tiny 35-litre tank, which with 91 RON unleaded will make this one of the cheapest and most efficient ways to get around.

    Props to Kia for decking out the new Picanto with active safety features like blind-spot and rear cross-traffic assists, as well as active lane centring. While some while argue “you shouldn’t have your licence if you need these”, for first-time drivers or the elderly prone to errors it’s a great safety net that you don’t appreciate the value until you need it.

    You really don’t need to spend up for the GT-Line either unless you really want the more premium aesthetics and LED lighting, because the fundamentals of this new Sport are more than solid enough for the coin.

    If you’re in the market for properly budget motoring there’s little else to choose from with the exception of the second-hand market.

    Click the images for the full gallery

    MORE: Buy a Kia Picanto
    MORE: Everything Kia Picanto

    James Wong

    James Wong is the Production Editor at CarExpert based in Melbourne, Australia. With experience on both media and manufacturer sides of the industry, James has a specialty for product knowledge which stems from a life-long obsession with cars. James is a Monash University journalism graduate, an avid tennis player, and the proud charity ambassador for Drive Against Depression – an organisation that supports mental wellness through the freedom of driving and the love of cars. He's also the proud father of Freddy, a 2019 Volkswagen Golf GTI .

    Overall Rating

    Cost of Ownership7.5
    Ride Comfort7.5
    Fit for Purpose9
    Handling Dynamics8
    Interior Practicality and Space7
    Fuel Efficiency8
    Value for Money8.5
    Technology Infotainment8.5
    $17,890 MSRP
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