PRETORIA - While driving in and around Pretoria at the launch of the New Kia Picanto X-Line my thoughts turned to my father teaching me to drive in my mother’s old VW Beetle all those years ago.
I reckon many people of a certain age have memories of being behind the wheel of a Veedub and as we drove around I noticed a lot of Picantos of various vintages on the road. Also, many people I know own a Picanto or have family that do, so years from now there’s going to be a whole lot of people recounting tales of their first time on the road in a Picanto.
The difference being that the Picanto is a whole lot better looking, so much safer and the 1.2 litre engine substantially more powerful than a 1.3 litre 1970s air-cooled one.
Kia has over the years built itself a solid reputation of reliability and value for money products and the Picanto X-Line adds a hip bow into the existing Picanto quiver. It’s easy to tell it apart from the rest of the range with the addition of some funky colours like Honey Bee yellow, Alice Blue and Pop of Orange and exterior add-ons.
The front bumper has a more rugged appearance, there’s a silver skidplate,15-inch dual-tone alloys with black wheel arch mountings finishing off the look.
It’s a fresh update inside as well with partial leather upholstery, aluminium pedals, and a high-gloss central fascia with an eight inch touchscreen infotainment system that’s Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatible. The X-Line also gets manual air conditioning, a sunroof, multi-function steering wheel, electric windows and rear park distance control with a rear-view camera.
It’s powered by the same 1.2 litre normally aspirated engine as the rest of the range that gives you 61kW and 122Nm coupled to either a five speed manual or four speed automatic transmission.
We drove the manual version at its launch in Pretoria where I chose the Alice Blue which is a little more understated than the rest of the colours, plugged in my phone for Waze or Google Maps and punched in the first waypoint.
The day’s route was a combination of suburban and highway driving, exactly the kind of terrain where the Picanto would spend most of its time.
Even though the cars had only a few hundred kilometres on them, I found the 1.2 litre engine pleasantly free-revving and on the leafy Waterkloof hills it easily maintained its momentum although with kids and school kit loaded you'll probably do a few more gear changes.
It may be the capital, but most of the suburban streets are well potholed not helped by the recent heavy rains but the 15-inch wheels make a big difference in ride quality while negotiating them.
The suspension is well set up so those “calming restrictions” or speed bumps of different sizes and angles shouldn’t be too much of a problem either. Driving the twisty roads up to Fort Klapperkop also showed its nimbleness around bends and sharp corners.
Gear changes were smooth and effortless and the clutch light and easy to depress. There’s not much feedback from the steering wheel but the Picanto wasn’t designed for its handling characteristics and your average owner probably doesn’t care too much anyway.
At highway speeds there’s very little road or wind noise and it feels solidly planted even if you push the needle a bit more than a speed trap would allow so I wouldn’t hesitate to throw some luggage in the 255 litre boot and head out of the city.
The Kia Picanto X-Line manual retails for R237 995 and the auto for R251 995 and I reckon it’s going to make it even more popular than it already is.
It’s backed up by a five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty and a two-year/30 000km service plan.