Kia Picanto GT-Line S

 

    Think of a GT car and your thoughts quite naturally turn to the likes of 1960’s Aston Martins, Bentleys, Ferraris, and Jaguars; exquisite luxury leather-lined coupes with effortless power, sleek styling, and more-than-likely astronomical price-tags. GTs are cars in which an intercontinental drive would be a pleasure not a chore - GT stands for Grand Touring after all GTs.  They’re the kind of car one expects to find at The Goodwood Revival.

   Well, that’s my excuse anyway.

   Kia’s £13,950 Picanto GT-Line S on the other hand probably doesn’t spring to mind quite so quickly. It’s a city car first-and-foremost; a hatchback for the shopping or school-run. But, it does have a class leading boot capacity, it does have a leather interior (albeit a synthetic one), it does boast built in sat-nav, bluetooth, DAB, and heated seats – all perfect for long journeys – and, most importantly… it has a GT badge on its boot-lid.

   The fact that its delivery here fell just a day or two before my annual mid-September jaunt to Sussex for Lord March’s extravaganza of all things classic-motoring was purely coincidental. Honestly! Time then to see if Kia’s Picanto GT-Line S really can cut it as a GT.

   Granted, a 200 mile each-way trip probably doesn’t constitute a Grand Tour, but for something that’s more usually spotted pootling around town, it does provide a more than adequate test. My preferred route to what was once RAF Westhampnett takes in B-roads, A-roads, Motorways, and of course a High Street and town centre or two; A Kia Picanto, especially a GT-Line S, should be able to take all of that in its stride.

    Needless to say like any modern day city car the Picanto coped with aplomb. Not only is it surprisingly comfortable for something with such a short wheelbase – it rides well, and the seats remain supportive with both driver and passenger remaining ache-free after a couple of hours between pit-stops – it’s actually quite a lot of fun to drive. Well, within reason.

   With just 83bhp (there’s a 99bhp turbo promised a little later this year) and 90lbft of torque, it’s never going to win any traffic-light Grand Prix’s, and a hilly a section of the A34 and the schlep across the South Downs made for near constant acquaintance with the 5 speed gearbox. There’s not a lot go in the Picanto. Nevertheless there is a certain satisfaction to maintaining momentum in it. It feels light and agile, and even if the steering doesn’t exactly offer the last world in feedback it’s weighted nicely and does always put the Picanto exactly where you point it.

   The GT-Line S’s styling helps when you’re pushing on too. Kia have made an excellent job of making their little city car look sporty, almost aggressive even, by adding a deep lower front intake, flashes of red on the grille, bumpers and flanks, and 16-inch alloy wheels. You even get twin tail-pipes and a flat-bottomed steering wheel. Viewed in a rear-view mirror this little car could almost be called intimidating.

    What you won’t get however is anywhere close to Kia’s claim of 61.2 mpg. Whilst I’ll readily admit my drive to Goodwood wouldn’t win any podium places in an economy contest, and Mrs B and I did load the Picanto’s boot –255 litres capacity incidentally - and cover the backseats with bags, coats and vintage clothing, but during our time with the Picanto we never bettered 48.1. If only there was a sixth gear to aid more relaxed cruising and the tiny fuel tank means your range is limited to around 300miles or so. That said, that’s about the same as you’d get in an Aston Martin.

    Whilst I’m being picky I should also point out perhaps that Kia haven’t entirely lost their penchant for hard and scratchy plastics yet either, especially so lower down. Seats aside there’s not a great deal that’s soft to the touch in the Picanto’s bijou cabin. There’s no spare wheel either, not even a space-saver. That's something that could prove a bug-bear, especially so for those “putting in the miles”.  Fortunately there was no call for one ths time, or for the bottle of goo and dinky compressor Kia provide instead.

    Grand Tours and longer journeys are then perhaps, despite the grandiose boot badge, not the Picanto GT-Line S’s forte. But that’s not to say it’s not capable of them. Like many a city car the occasional foray out of town is well within its remit. At £13,950 it faces some stiff competition: Peugeot’s 108 feels like it would appeal to a younger market and VW’s up! feels far more sophisticated (and better built) than both.

    At least that is until the Picanto with the turbo arrives. Maybe that will redress the balance a little. Who knows with a little extra performance the Picanto GT-Line S might prove perfect for those of us that like a day or three at the races but sadly lack the funds for a genuine GT.

   

Kia Picanto GT-Line S

Engine: 1,248 cc 4Cyl, 12V, petrol

Transmission: 5 speed Manual, front wheel drive.

Power:  83 bhp @ 6,000 rpm

Torque: 122 lbft @ 4,000 rpm

0-62MPH: 11.6 Sec

Max Speed: 107 mph

CO2: 106 g/km

MPG: 61.2 (combined)

Price: from £13,950

 

Many thanks to Moyosola at KIA’s UK press office for the loan of the Picanto

www.liam-bird.com

@bird_liam

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Liam Bird Liam Bird

I'm Liam Bird, a freelance Motoring Writer based in the South Shropshire Marches. I currently write car reviews and road tests for a number of regional lifestyle magazines and newspapers which are distributed throughout Cheshire, Herefordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Worcestershire, most of Wales and beyond.

As a member of the Welsh Group of Motoring Writers I'm as happy behind the wheel of a super-mini as I am in the latest super-car. I have press accreditation with most of the major motor manufacturers, meaning that as well as always being on the look out for further commissions, I always have a number of cars arriving each month ready to review.

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