Kia Picanto (2011-2017) Review

The Kia Picanto is stylish city car with plenty of equipment and a good warranty

Strengths & weaknesses

  • 7-year warranty
  • Comfortable and easy to drive
  • Solid, spacious interior
  • Noisy at high speed
  • Slow to accelerate
  • Small boot
Kia Picanto prices from £5,300.
Finance from £98.08 / month.

The Kia Picanto is the smallest Kia on the market, offering transport that’s fairly basic but well-built and - importantly - cheap.

Since it was replaced by an all-new Kia Picanto in 2017, the cost has fallen further, and you can pick up a three- to four-year-old example for under £5,000, or £90 per month. These cars also continue to be covered by Kia's seven year new car warranty unless they have coverd 100,00 miles, which provides more pease of mind than most rivals.

It's a key selling point because there are some excellent city car rivals to consider.

The Picanto is focused on simplicity. Its suspension is soft, helping it to cushion the harsh impact of potholes, but this does result in the car bouncing gently down uneven roads, and leaning in corners. Visibility is good and the steering is light, so parking and u-turns are effortless. But you don’t get a sense of how much the wheels are turning, so you can’t thread through city traffic as precisely.

Petrol engines provide plenty of power in town, but it's best to opt for the larger 1.25-litre model if you can stretch to it, as it's genuinely nippy at slower speeds and is considerably faster when you accelerate to motorway speeds.

It would be going too far to say that passengers in the back have room to stretch their legs, but you could fit two adults in there without them feeling unbearably cramped, which is good for a car this size. New cars are now only available as five-door versions, so the back seats are easy to access.

Unfortunately for Kia, the VW up!, Skoda Citigo and Seat Mii are also spacious for their size, but have more of a nippy, energetic feel, thanks to their responsive steering, and higher-quality interior materials.

The Hyundai i10 has more room for passengers and a bigger boot (252 litres compared with 200 for the Kia). It also offers a long warranty - five years with no mileage limit - and an interior that feels more upmarket. The Kia’s interior does seem well-built but also cheap and plasticky - very much the budget choice.

But as a budget model, the Picanto makes a strong case for itself. The cheapest 1 Air model has air conditioning, Bluetooth for wireless phone connectivity and front electric windows. If you opt for a better-equipped model, you’ll find yourself paying sums that could buy a better VW up! or even a Fiat 500. It also brings the Picanto into competition with models that are more economical. The most frugal car has an official mpg figure of 64.2mpg, which drops to around 45mpg in real-world driving - no better than average.

Unsurprisingly, for a city car that went on sale in 2011, the Picanto isn’t at the cutting edge of safety. It does have Isofix points to securely attach child seats in the back, but it only received a four-star safety rating when it was crash-tested by Euro NCAP in 2011: the Skoda Citigo got five stars in the same year.

Since then, the tests have become much tougher, so city cars that were awarded four stars more recently, are likely to be safer. These include the Hyundai i10, Toyota Aygo and Vauxhall Viva.

But if you've got a limited budget, then the Picanto is an excellent option, thanks to its low price and reassuring warranty that will help to protect you against some expensive failures.


Video review published in 2011 by our sister site

Key facts

Warranty 7 years / 100,000 miles
Boot size 200 litres
Width 1595mm
Length 3595mm
Height 1480mm
Tax (min to max) £0 to £110

Best Kia Picanto for...

Best for Economy – Kia Picanto 1 Air 1.0

If you’re on a budget, the cheapest Picanto is your best bet. The most frugal engine might be the 1-litre ISG car in SE trim, but that’s only 1.5mpg more efficient - and almost £2,000 more.

Best for Families – Kia Picanto Chilli 1.25 ISG

Special edition Chilli cars came packed with equipment, including sat-nav, reversing camera and imitation-leather seats, and were also fitted with the most powerful engine, which comes in handy when he car is fully loaded.

Best for Performance – Kia Picanto Sport 1.25

Sport trim makes the car look faster, with bigger alloy wheels and chunkier bumpers, but there’s no performance improvement. You'll notice this on faster roads where acceleration can require patience.

One to Avoid – Kia Picanto Sport 1.25 automatic

The Picanto works best as a budget car. The most expensive Sport version is loses value quickly, making owning or financing the car expensive. The automatic car uses considerably more fuel and is jerky.


  • June 2011 Kia Picanto goes on sale
  • September 2011 Three-door version added to the range
  • April 2014 Picanto 4 added to the top of the range with more equipment, including heated seats and automatic air conditioning
  • April 2015 Updated Picanto goes on sale with new grille, added chrome inside and a upgraded sound system with fewer buttons. '4' specification cars gain cruise control.
  • July 2015 Kia Picanto Chilli special edition added to the range with sat-nav, touchscreen and imitation leather seats
  • July 2016 Trim levels revised so that the range begins with '1 Air'. SE replaced SR7 and '2' trims; Sport replaced '3' and '4'.
  • April 2017 The Picanto is replaced by an all-new version

Understanding Kia Picanto names

Engine 1.0 ISG

The engine size is given in litres - here it’s 1 litre. ISG means that it has intelligent stop and go: the engine switches off when you’re stopped at traffic lights, for example, and then restarts as you move off.

Trim level 1 Air

The trim level indicates how much standard equipment is included with the car. The cheapest version is 1 Air, followed by SE and then Sport.

Kia Picanto Engines

1.0 & 1.25

There are just two petrol engines available in the Kia Picanto. The smallest engine is a 65hp 1-litre unit, which doesn’t feel very powerful because it’s slow to accelerate, taking 14.4 seconds to go from 0-62mph. It will make steady progress in town, but gets noisy at higher motorway speeds.

With SE trim, the engine is fitted with stop-start (Kia calls it intelligent stop and go - ISG), which automatically switches the engine off when you stop - at traffic lights for example - and then restarts it when you begin to move off. Fuel economy improves by just 1.5mpg, so the extra cost of SE trim won’t pay for itself in fuel savings.

The other option is a 1.25-litre petrol engine. It’s around 20 horsepower more powerful than the smaller engine, so feels nippier in town and its performance doesn’t suffer as much when the car is full of passengers and luggage. The engine is still noisy at motorway speeds but doesn’t need revving as much as the 1-litre car.

The 1.25-litre engine comes with ISG if you have a manual gearbox, but it’s also available with an automatic gearbox. But like most city cars, it’s not an appealing option: fuel economy drops by more than 10mpg and it’s not particularly smooth.


Fuel economy



Top speed




0-62mph: 14.4 sec


1.0 ISG



0-62mph: 14.4sec





0-62mph: 11.4 sec


Kia Picanto Trims

1 Air, SE, Sport

It’s important to ensure that you buy your Picanto with a trim level that includes all of the equipment you’re looking for, as you can’t add on most items individually.

Used buyers will find a wide range of trim levels, which came with different levels of standard equipment, but the choice has been simplified for the latest Picantos, which come in only three versions.

The first is 1 Air, which includes air conditioning, front electric windows, Bluetooth to link your phone wirelessly, and a USB port. This trim level is the cheapest and only comes with the least powerful 1-litre engine.

The mid-level SE car costs around £2,000 more, and adds plenty of equipment that’s nice to have, including electrically-adjustable mirrors, rear parking sensors, 14in alloy wheels, steering wheel audio controls, rear electric windows and automatic air conditioning, which keeps the interior at a set temperature.

You can only get Sport trim with the more powerful 1.25-litre engine. It’s a combination of the older '3' and '4' trims, and was the most expensive version when new. It adds a dashboard touchscreen with sat-nav, part-imitation leather seats, cruise control and larger 15in alloy wheels

Kia Picanto Reliability and warranty

Kia owners reported that the Picanto is only average for reliability: it was placed 78th out of 150 in the 2016 Auto Express Driver power survey.
But the car’s seven-year warranty - limited to 100,000 miles - will give you some reassurance that you’re covered for any expensive failures.

The overwhelming complaint from owners is that the car rattles - particularly over rough roads. Although it might result in few failures, it’s an irritation.

Used Kia Picanto

There’s a large - and often confusing - choice of used Kia Picantos. The current trim levels are extremely straightforward, but these have been slimmed down. The range used to start with the Picanto 1. This is the least attractive model because it wasn’t fitted with air conditioning. You should be able to find a better-equipped car that will keep you cool in summer for only a small premium.

The Kia Picanto 2 offers a good level of equipment, including all-round electric windows, Bluetooth for wireless phone connectivity, and steering wheel audio controls.

Three-door models, with two front doors and a hatchback boot used to be available, but these required some flexibility to squeeze into the back seats - the five-door cars are more practical.

Whichever model you go for, it’s likely to be cheap. Low list prices mean even cheaper second-hand deals. You’ll also benefit from that seven-year warranty which is transferred to subsequent owners - as long as the car has been serviced at the correct times.


Prices below show typical BuyaCar discounts for used models.





Kia Picanto 1 Air 1.0 Best for economy





Kia Picanto Chilli 1.25 ISG Best for families





Kia Picanto Sport 1.25 Best for performance





*Equivalent model

Other Editions

Picanto (2017)

Stylish and well-equipped, the Kia Picanto stands up well against the best city cars in its class