Road test: Kia Picanto GT 2019 review

Moving Well | Greg Hill | Posted on 30 May 2019

Greg Hill tests Kia’s sporty new Picanto GT variant.

  • Thumbs up

    An engaging drive, with spirited performance and agile handling. It’s affordable and well presented.

  • Thumbs down

    The cost of using the extra performance is higher fuel consumption, there is no automatic available and it only carries a space-saver spare.

  • Perfect for

    The buyer wanting a tiny micro-class car that is more involving and enjoyable to drive than its peers.

  • Verdict

    Picanto GT’s improved performance and sharper dynamic brings an interesting touch of sporting flavour to the budget-focused micro-car class.

Side view of white Kia picanto GT 2019 with red trim, driving on bridge with storm clouds


Kia Picanto already dominates Australia’s micro-car class with around 80 per cent market share, and the recently released new GT variant further broadens its appeal. In fact, the Picanto GT is a niche model that is likely to attract a slightly different type of buyer and may even create its own sub-class.

Traditionally, micro cars have been all about affordable, city-focused motoring for budget-conscious buyers. The tiny Picanto GT maintains all these core values and adds another ingredient – an exciting fun-to-drive nature.

The recipe is simple. Take a very basic but successful micro car. Dress it up with a body kit, twin-exhaust tip and body accents to further complement the mid-level GT-Line’s smart-looking 16-inch alloy wheels, premium red-accented sports seats, alloy pedals and chunky steering.  

Then, most importantly, add a smaller-capacity but more powerful 1.0-litre, three-cylinder, turbo-charged, direct-injected petrol (GDi) engine that produces 74kW at 4500rpm and 171Nm from 1500 to 4000rpm. Offering it in manual form only is designed to enhance the sporting image, with a five-speed gearbox delivering drive to the front wheels. Steering and suspension upgrades improve the on-road dynamics and a GT badge on the back rounds off the package. Job done!

Kia already employs disc brakes all round with autonomous emergency braking (AEB) and forward-collision warning standard across the Picanto range, whereas most other micro-class cars, and many in the light car category, have stuck with the older-style front disc/rear drum combination.

The standard equipment is similar to the GT-Line, and better than most would expect in this category. While the Picanto’s suite of advanced safety features is one of the best in the class, its safety-assist score fell just short of the requirements to meet the revised ANCAP for vehicles released in 2017 to achieve the latest five-star rating.

Kia Australia has kept the GT affordable with a drive-away price of $17,990, while the seven-year unlimited-kilometre warranty adds to the value.

front view of white kia picanto gt with bare-branched trees in background
Front seats of kia picanto gt showing steering wheel and dash, and red-trimmed seats


Parking at the local shopping centre next to a Mazda2 was a reminder of just how small the Picanto is, as it made the Mazda look like a much bigger car. For its size, however, the Picanto’s limited interior space is used efficiently.  

The front seats provide better-than-expected comfort and support. Instrumentation is basic but clear and easily read, while the controls are all conveniently placed and simple to use. Seating three across the back, even if they are quite small children, is going to be a real squeeze. Adults will find the rear leg room is tight, but there’s good head room.   

Boot space is also modest, however the split-fold rear seat adds versatility. It was disappointing, although not surprising, to find the Picanto carries only a tiny temporary-use space-saver spare wheel.  

On close inspection there is some evidence of the budget focus, but for the class, it's solidly constructed, and the trimming looks smart and durable.

Spirited performance and involving on-road dynamics are key to the GT’s appeal, and the level of enjoyment this brings will depend on the driving environment. It is more of a warm hatch than a hot hatch.

The tiny lightweight body, excellent response of the 1.0-litre turbo engine when working in its broad peak-torque band and a background of engine and road noise – along with the agile, almost go-kart-like handling created by the sharp steering and a firm but controlled ride – tends to magnify the feeling of speed. Keeping the car flowing smoothly in stop-start traffic, however, requires frequent gear swapping and focus on the throttle response and clutch engagement.

Official fuel consumption is a pleasing 4.8L/100km. Operating in its natural environment, mainly around the city and suburbs, our car averaged a disappointing 8.5L/100km. That said, the GT’s fun-to-drive nature does not really encourage the light throttle use conducive to good fuel economy.   

For many more vehicle reviews, including the Mazda3Renault Megane and Toyota Corolla, go to royalauto.com.au

KIA PICANTO GT

PRICE

Price as tested: $17,990 drive away.
Model range: $14,990 to $17,990.

STANDARD SAFETY

Four-star ANCAP rating, six airbags, AEB, rear-view camera, reverse-parking sensors, hill-start assist.

STANDARD FEATURES

Cruise control with speed limiter, seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system, Bluetooth connectivity, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, power window front and rear, dusk-sensing automatic headlights.

DRIVETRAIN

1.0-litre turbo, six-speed manual, front-wheel drive.
Power: 74kW@4500rpm.
Torque: 172Nm@1500 to 4500rpm.
Wheels: 195/45 R16, temporary-use spare.

FUEL

91 RON petrol, 35-litre tank.
Consumption: 8.5L/100km (RACV test); 4.8L/100km (government test).

WARRANTY/SERVICES

84 months/unlimited-kilometre warranty; 12-month/15,000-kilometre services.