For those who aren’t sure if they need a city car or small SUV, Kia has come up with the Picanto X-Line
The new-model Kia Picanto is one of the best city cars out there. It combines a super drive with plenty of room and equipment and pleasingly low running costs.
This sounds like a good basis for the new X-Line trim, which aims to cash in on the craze for small SUVs by, well, looking like an SUV. It’s not really an SUV if your definition of genre includes all-wheel-drive – that’s not available – but new bumpers, plastic arch mouldings and skid plates, plus a small 15mm hike in the ride height, do a reasonable job of conjuring up the SUV feel.
This idea isn’t new. Fiat, Vauxhall and Suzuki have similar offerings in the Panda City Cross, Viva Rocks, and two-wheel drive versions of the Ignis. Kia’s variation on the theme can only be had with the company’s 83bhp 1.2-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, which is perfectly acceptable as it’s a nicer and more responsive unit than the 1.0-litre three-cylinder.
There are choices on the transmission, though. Many will welcome the availability of an automatic, which along with the manual is a five-speeder. We tried out the manual version, and would go for that over the auto as it’s a lot more efficient in CO2 emissions.
You do have to keep busy with the gearstick to get yourself up to motorway speeds or pass slower vehicles, but the Picanto is far from being in a class of one in terms of city car performance. Plus, there’s no hardship involved in operating Kia’s speedy manual gearshifter and the 1.2-litre keeps its composure even when revved hard.
That hike in the ride height hasn’t compromised the Picanto’s handling. It’s more wieldy than the Fiat Panda, Vauxhall Viva and Suzuki Ignis on faster roads, rewarding the driver with its precise steering and agility. In town you’ll enjoy its light steering and usefully small turning circle.
The ride comfort has taken a slight hit, possibly as a result of the X-Line being fitted with the sporty GT-Line’s 16-inch alloy wheels. The Hyundai i10 beats it on comfort, but the difference is less obvious when the Picanto is sitting on 15-inch wheels. At least those bigger wheels and raised stance haven’t affected CO2 emissions, which in manual X-Line form are identical to those of the standard 1.2-litre cars at 106g/km.
Inside, the X-Line’s lime green motif continues. Other standout features include a squared-off steering wheel, leather-look seats and stainless-steel pedals. Well-textured plastics and damped switchgear generate a cabin ambience that, while short of luxury, is more satisfying than any of its three main rivals.
In common with 3 and GT-Line S trims, the X-Line has a smashing seven-inch colour touchscreen, with DAB radio, sat-nav and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring all thrown in. It’s an easy setup to use thanks to intuitive menus and a fast-response screen. Only the Hyundai i10’s very similar version matches it in this class.
The standard Picanto characteristics of an excellent driving position and great all-round space for both passenger and luggage have not been lost in the X-Line transformation.
At prices starting from £12,595, the X-Line plonks itself between Kia’s ‘2’ and ‘3’ trims, but has its own model-specific equipment list which picks features from the more expensive models in the range. Along with the 3’s bigger seven-inch infotainment screen and automatic emergency city braking safety tech, it gets the better headlights and tail lights from the sporty GT-Line.
Even so, we’d go for Kia’s 1.2-litre manual petrol in 3 trim. That’s just £155 more expensive than the X-Line, hardly anything in PCP terms. The 3 does have a plusher ride and has cruise control, climate control and a reversing camera too.
Still, in isolation the X-Line is a good-value choice, and a superior drive to those three models from Fiat, Vauxhall and Suzuki – and it has Kia’s class-leading standard seven-year warranty to boot.