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Picanto 1.2 Smart Manual | Kia

Date of Release: December 2017
Number of Reviews 1

The 2017 Kia Picanto 1.2 Smart Manual is a compact city car with a big personality and is the top-spec model in the Picanto range. Built on the same platform as its predecessor, all the small changes Kia has made result in a much better car.

The Torque Rating:  



Hatch Lifestyle

City slicker
Boot/seat versatility
Still looking cool
Robot racer


On the outside, the Picanto is a very likeable city car. Characterised by funky, but practical styling elements, the Picanto’s design is all about function over form.

Like most compact cars, the emphasis is on space and comfort in the front. The top spec model comes standard with a 7-inch floating touchscreen infotainment system, Satnav, Bluetooth, DAB, Apple Carplay and Android Auto.


Powered by Kia’s naturally aspirated 1.2 petrol engine. It produces 61kW and 122 Nm of torque and is mated with a 5-speed manual transmission. The steering is light, it handles well and overall ride comfort is firm.


In terms of safety features, the flagship model comes standard with ABS, two airbags and ISOFIX child seat mounts. In addition, it’s also equipped with smarter innovations like rear park distance control with reverse camera.


Out of all the cars we have recently tested, there’s one car brand that consistently impresses us; particularly in terms of good value for money. It’s the Korean automaker, Kia. “The power to surprise!” – very apt. It’s a brand we are simply loving at the moment.

We love the stylish nature of the Sportage (click here to read our full review), the “big car” features of the Rio (click here to read our full review) and now, that same solid build quality, combined with a stylish design inside and out, has been squeezed into the Korean manufacturer’s A-segment car, the 3rd generation Kia Picanto. Hats off to Kia for ensuring great brand continuity throughout their range. It offers up a similar package that costs even less. In other words, amazing value for money. It’s for that very reason, that we’re not the only ones loving this great little city car… Our colleagues from the South African Guild of Motoring Journalists think its tops too – which is why it is was a 2017/2018 Car of the Year finalist; an achievement in itself.

Launched in the middle of last year, this car still oozes freshness and even though the chassis size hasn’t actually changed, the car somehow looks and feels bigger. All Kia has done, is lengthen the wheelbase, effectively pushing the wheels into the far corners of the car, giving it better stability and ride comfort. Starting from the outside, exterior styling highlights include:

  • Stylish lights! On the front side, your eyes will be drawn to large sweeping headlights, complete with a thick U-shaped, LED daytime running lights. In the centre sit large, round LED projector headlamps. One can fool themselves into thinking they look a bit like Tiger’s eyes, which sit on either end of Kia’s signature “tiger grin” grille. We love the striped detail at the top of the lights too. Overall, very attractive!
  • On the rear end, you have those beautiful, matt red LED lights that maintain a similar shape to the 2nd gen Picanto. On the lower side, the bumper is dominated by a black plastic insert, similar in a way to the bumper on the Suzuki Ignis (click here to read our full review). It’s not our favourite look…
  • Staying true to the brand continuity we spoke about earlier, the fog lights sit in similar panels to what you will find on the Rio and Sportage.
  • LED indicators located on powered side mirrors.
  • The black lined windows work well with the two-tone mirrors – black on the bottom, colour-coded on the top. The door handles are also colour-coded.
  • Finally, there are bold looking 15” mag wheels that have a unique, Christian crucifix look to them.

On the inside, you can’t help saying “WOW” as you climb in – and to think this car costs less than R200k – at least for the moment. As a full auto importer, Kia is heavily influenced by the exchange rate. For us, if R200k is just out of your reach, rather wait and save. The infotainment system which is found exclusively in the Smart spec and trim is worth paying for.

Interior styling highlights include:

  • A leather-covered multi-function steering wheel, leather gear lever and super comfortable two-tone leather seats.
  • A good looking dashboard with a long, horizontal brushed metal strip for an added touch of class.
  • The centre of the attraction in the floating infotainment system, that looks great and works even better (it’s Apple CarPlay and Andriod Auto compatible). It also works with the rear parking sensors and acts as a screen for the rear camera. One can connect via Bluetooth, USB or an audio jack.
  • Super clever cup holders that flick out by pressing a button (it’s small touches of innovation like this that make us really love this brand).
  • Considering it is an A-segment car, one would expect rear passenger space to be horrendous. Fortunately, it’s not (other than legroom for taller passengers). The rear seat also features those all-important ISOFIX mounts.
  • The boot is also not tiny (it’s actually 50l larger than its predecessor) and features a double shelf, meaning you can hide valuables like a laptop etc. under the boot floor. Total space comes in at 255l but can be boosted to a whopping 1010l by folding down the rear seats in your usual 60:40 fashion.

The biggest reason we love this car is the sense of premium quality you get from the cabin. It’s an attractive, comfortable place to be. We also loved the ride. The new Picanto carries over its two existing engines – a 1.0l petrol and a 1.2l petrol are on offer. Our car featured the tried and trusted 1.2l petrol engine, which produces 61kW and 122Nm (doesn’t sound like much but remember this little car is light). It is mated to a 5-speed manual gearbox; which to be honest, felt a little clunky. Ride comfort is fair to forgiving and we were impressed with the handling characteristics – good sideways grip enables you to have some fun in the corners.

The engine never really felt like it was trying too hard – in fact, we found driving at 50% - 75% on the accelerator pedal to be the best. It’s only when you try going flat out, does the car feel a bit slow. It handles normal driving with ease. It’s really fuel efficient too! Claimed fuel economy comes in at 4.6l/100Km with our own average coming it a very respectable 5.2l/100Km.

We enjoyed driving this little legend for a week, but let’s try to imagine what it would be like to live with on a daily basis – this is how the MY17 Kia Picanto 1.2 Smart (Manual) ranked up against our hatchback lifestyle criteria:

  • City Slicker (5 out of 5): Is parking a breeze? Can you whizz through traffic etc.? Yes, yes and yes again! Perfect little city car with all the creature comforts to ensure you enjoy your daily drive. Auto gearboxes are nicer in heavy traffic but we were still happy with the 5-speed manual.

  • Boot/Seat Versatility (4 out of 5)The boot isn’t massive but this is partly due to the hidden compartment under the floor. For everyday use, we found it to be adequate. If you’re someone who likes to do a big monthly shop, it’s probably best you don’t bring rear seat passengers as you’re going to want to flip down the rear seats – which is really easy to do by the way. The rear bench does properly cater for 3 passengers and also features ISOFIX mount points.

  • Entertainment (5 out of 5): Biggest strength by far and it’s the reason we would suggest that the Smart trim is the only real model you should consider when buying this car.

  • Still looking cool (4 out of 5): Up close this car looks really good and doesn’t seem too small. However, from a distance, it’s clear it still is a very small car and for some reason that gives it a somewhat feminine look.

  • Robot Racer* (3 out of 5)Racing off from a standing start is not what this car is about. Kia does make a 1 litre, 3-cylinder turbo-petrol, but unfortunately, it never made its way to South Africa. That said, there’s less that can wrong in the simple 1.2 petrol engine – so you should have many miles of incident-free driving ahead. Kia’s impressive 5-year/unlimited warranty and 3-year/unlimited km roadside assistance plan adds further peace-of-mind.
    *THE TORQUE encourages responsible, law-abiding driving.

In conclusion, the baby hatchback market is highly competitive with price being a major factor for most. The new Picanto range starts off at a really affordable R134 995, but we wouldn’t recommend that car as it doesn’t have ABS brakes or dual airbags (only driver-side airbag). Nope, we say, rather save for the Smart models (1.0l @ R183,395 or 1.2l @R199,495). While R200k is on the higher side of the segment, we personally love the cabin so much, we think it makes the price worth it.

The WesBank 2018 Car of the Year winner was announced a few nights ago with the 2nd generation Porsche Panamera taking the top spot. That said, the Kia can still be proud that it made the Top 10. So, if you’re in the market for a stylish, modern yet affordable hatchback, you can’t go wrong with the new Kia Picanto 1.2 Smart. We highly recommend test driving one today!


  • Infotainment system! This attractive looking system is top class, enabling you to bring your personal online life into your daily ride.
  • Interior and exterior styling. Lots of sexy looking LED lights combined with a well-built, quality interior. We also loved the Celestial Blue colour our car came in.
  • Parking is a breeze. Due to its compact size, driving into a parking pay is really easy. And then, reversing out is even easier thanks to the rear park-distance-control sensors and a rear-facing camera (with guidelines).


  • Boot dimensions – a note to all expecting moms. Be sure to purchase your pram after buying your car. Most prams won’t fit properly into this boot. You will need to buy a fully collapsible pram instead.
  • Grille ­– the squashed cigar pattern in not our favourite.
  • Gearbox – the gear lever had a little too much play for our liking. It felt a bit loose in the various gear slots.

Do you own or regularly drive the all-new Kia Picanto? Tell SA what you love about your car by quickly rating it on THE TORQUE. Register today!


THE TORQUE is an independent platform dedicated to car reviews. Instead of judging a car based on one or two people’s opinions, THE TORQUE allows you to see what like-minded, real people, who actually own or regularly drive the cars have to say about them.

 In addition, THE TORQUE team shares their own ‘lifestyle orientated’ and easy-to-understand reviews on selected cars. Combining the two, gives one the ability to make a truly informed purchasing decision on what the best car for you is. After all, buying a car is a big decision! Register today and tell SA what you love about your car! 


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