A full used buyer’s guide on the Kia Picanto covering the Picanto Mk3 (2017-date)
July 2021 marked 30 years since Kia arrived in the UK, and it’s no understatement to say that the company is now unrecognisable from the one that hit UK shores in 1991.
In relation to the Picanto, this statement is especially significant, because Kia’s first UK car was the Pride, which was about the same size as this model. The Pride was essentially a rebadged Mazda 121, and that, in turn, was really a Ford model.
Nowadays Kia has no need to rebadge the cars of other makers, because it does a very good job of developing and building its own wares, and the Picanto is proof of that, despite sharing much with the Hyundai i10, because the two brands are intertwined.
- Kia Picanto Mk3 (2017-date) – Korean city car is a great choice, backed by a seven-year warranty.
The third-generation Picanto went on sale in April 2017 priced from £9,450, with buyers able to choose between the same 66bhp 1.0 and 83bhp 1.25-litre petrol engines as in the Mk2 version, albeit in upgraded form.
By September 2017 the best engine of all had been added to the range: a 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol unit, called the 1.0 T-GDi. At the same time the Picanto X-Line was introduced, with ride height raised by 15mm and micro-SUV styling.
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A facelift in September 2020 brought more efficient engines (with no 1.25-litre option), a design refresh and updated infotainment with an eight-inch display. There were also three special editions: Wave (January 2019), Titanium (August 2019) and Zest (January 2020), none of which was offered with the 1.0 T-GDi engine.
Which one should I buy?
The 1.0 T-GDi engine is the pick of the crop, but it’s only available with the top two trim levels (GT-Line and GT-Line S). This is the only truly zesty powerplant; the others are fine if you’re in no hurry, but if you regularly undertake longer journeys you’ll probably find the non-turbo engines rather lacklustre.
Entry-level Picanto 1 trim has electric front windows, remote central locking, a two-speaker hi-fi and steel wheels. The Picanto 2 brings 14-inch alloys, electrically heated and adjustable door mirrors, air-con, powered rear windows, Bluetooth and a four-speaker audio set-up. The Picanto 3 adds 15-inch alloys, electrically folding door mirrors, climate control, navigation, cruise control, rear parking sensors and a seven-inch display on the dashboard.
Alternatives to the Kia Picanto Mk3
The Kia’s closest rival is the Hyundai i10, which shares much with the Picanto and offers the same package of decent value, excellent reliability and ready availability.
The Volkswagen up!, SEAT Mii and Skoda Citigo have been around a long time, but the VW Group trio still impresses with big-car feel, great build quality and engaging dynamics. The MG3 is a less obvious choice, but one worth considering for its value and impressive driving experience.
More obvious is another closely related trio in the form of the Citroen C1, Peugeot 108 and Toyota Aygo. Again, they’re getting on, but they’re still competitive, plentiful and good value. Whatever you eventually buy, it’s worth avoiding base-spec models, because they’re often spartan yet not much cheaper than mid-range examples.
What to look for
The X-Line is more common than you might think; it accounts for one in eight cars by the time the higher-spec X-Line S is added to the mix.
Kia offered a £350 Advanced Driving Assistance pack on the 1 and 2, with auto emergency braking and speed-sensing automatic door locking.
The range-topping GT-Line comes with heated front seats and steering wheel, an electric sunroof, rear parking camera and artificial leather trim.
When the Picanto was facelifted in late 2020 the previous automatic was replaced by a slicker, automated manual, dubbed AMT.
The rear seats do fold down, but their bases remain fixed. This means there’s a bit of a step in the cargo area when it’s at maximum capacity.
Being a small, relatively simple car, it’s reasonable to expect a pretty trouble-free life from Picanto ownership, and online chatter indicates this is largely the case. Inspect the alloys for signs of corrosion, and look out for urban bumps and dings.
The higher up the range you buy, the more appealing the Picanto’s interior in terms of both equipment and the materials used.
All models feel well made, though, with facelifted cars (from late 2020) even better in this respect. There are seatbelts and headrests for three in the back, but the Picanto is best viewed as a four-seater unless you’re carrying kids. Boot space is good, at 255 litres, or 1,010 litres with the back seats folded flat.
The Picanto 1 only gets a small dot-matrix infotainment screen, plus USB and AUX ports. An eight-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is available higher up the range.
The service interval for all Mk3 Picantos is every 12 months or 10,000 miles. Main dealers offer fixed-price servicing, with the first four costing £117, £142, £109 and £202 at one showroom we spoke to, while another wanted £159, £129 and £179 for the first three.
Plans are available that allow you to pay for two services up front, and these are discounted slightly as a result; typical costs are £369-£419 depending on age, engine and which services are due.
All Picanto engines are chain-driven so there are no cambelts to replace, but fresh brake fluid is required every two years, while the coolant should be renewed every 10 years or 100,000 miles. The cost of doing these jobs is included in the service prices.
Kia has a very good record when it comes to issuing safety-related recalls. Across all three generations of the Picanto, a total of only three actions have been issued. Two of these were for the Mk1 (2004-2011) and one for the second-generation model (2011-2017).
The Mk3 has never been the subject of any recalls, and since it was launched back in 2017, Kia has issued just 10 recalls across its entire model range. One of those was for cars going back to as far as 2005 (that campaign was centred on the Sorento and Sedona).
Intriguingly, the rate at which Kia has issued recalls has actually increased slightly in recent years, with many problems centred on electronics and electrics (including the high-voltage systems of plug-in cars), but the Picanto remains unaffected.
Driver Power owner satisfaction
The Picanto came 29th in the Driver Power 2019 new car survey, and notched up the same position in 2020. Top-10 scores for interior quality and layout, steering, brakes, handling and servicing costs are very reassuring. There were lots of other scores within the top 20, but what owners don’t like are the poor performance, the small boot and a shortage of safety features.
The Picanto Mk3 arrived in spring 2017, and within two years the Kia had been voted the best city car by Auto Express readers in our Driver Power new car survey. It’s easy to understand why, because the Picanto is well equipped and an easy ownership proposition, thanks to an impressive dependability record, yet it’s also good to drive and looks smart. Buy an entry-level model and some key bits of safety kit are not included, but that aside the Picanto makes a pretty compelling case. What’s impressive is that even if you buy one of the earliest Picanto Mk3s it’ll come with three years’ warranty remaining. That puts the Kia on par with many new cars, and if that doesn’t give you the confidence to buy a Picanto, we don’t know what will.
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