Review: Kia Picanto (2004 – 2011)

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Great value small car that is cheap to buy and run. Seven-year warranty on all new models from January 2010. Good rear passenger room. Much improved interior on facelifted cars from 2007.

Tiny boot with the rear seats in place. Ride is unsettled on rough roads.

Kia Picanto (2004 – 2011): At A Glance

The Picanto may be one of Kia's older models, but until the launch of the new Picanto in 2011, it remained Kia's best selling car in the UK. Launched in 2004, it helped change the way car buyers thought about the brand - and not just because it's such good value for money and cheap to run. It's genuinely a great small car that has five-doors as standard, good handling and a practical, well built cabin. It was facelifted in 2007 with a smoother look complete with rounder headlights, but the big changes came inside where the cabin was given a major overhaul and is now far better.

Of course, value for money remains a key strength and the Picanto list prices manage to undercut most other small cars, particularly when you take into account standard equipment levels. Features such as a CD stereo and electric windows are standard while all models (apart from the base version) get air conditioning. It's pretty refined too with comfortable seats and decent sound insulation - there's even a useful boot.

On the road it's safe and easy to drive, rather than entertaining, but it does at least manage to cope in all conditions. Obviously it's most at home in town and city driving, thanks to its small size and light steering, but it isn't overawed by motorways and will happily cruise along at 70mph all day long with no fuss. There are just two petrol engines available - a 1.0-litre and a 1.1-litre - both of which are economical and quiet on the move. A diesel was expected to be introduced but never arrived, however considering how frugal the petrols are it's no surprise.

If you buy new Picanto you'll also get a great seven year/100,000 mile warranty which replaced the previous three year/60,000 mile one. This not only gives good peace of mind should anything go wrong, but it can also be transferred to subsequent owners - a great selling point on the second hand market.

Kia Picanto 2004 Road Test

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What does a Kia Picanto (2004 – 2011) cost?

List Price from £10,220
Buy new from £9,374
Contract hire from £118.43 per month

Kia Picanto (2004 – 2011): What's It Like Inside?

Length 3495–3535 mm
Width 1595 mm
Height 1480 mm
Wheelbase 2370 mm

Full specifications

Pre-facelifted versions of the Picanto felt well built inside, but weren't exactly stylish. However Kia did an excellent job in redesigning the interior when the Picanto was revised in 2007. It now feels more upmarket than before and while the plastics are still a little on the hard side it certainly doesn't look or feel like a budget car. The only real criticism is that the ventilation controls are placed low down.

With 157-litres of luggage space the Picanto has a useful boot but that's only half the story. It's not overly long, but it's wide and user-friendly with a low lip and wider opening so getting shopping in and out is easy. In fact, for a city car there's a surprising amount of space in the back. Legroom is good and even taller adults won't struggle with head space. The initial model line-up had five-seater and four-seater options (in the SE model) and the four seater offers better comfort with two in the back.

Facelifted models also get a new steering wheel, while the instrument dials are backlit in orange, like the newer Cee'd. The driving position is good too, so although the steering wheel can only be adjusted for height, the driver's seat has height adjustment so it's easier to get comfortable. Elements like the gear lever and handbrake also feel good quality. There's also plenty of stowage with twin cupholders and decent door pockets.

Equipment from launch (May 2004):

1.0 GS is the base model and gets five seats along with body colour bumpers, mirrors and door handles, central door locking, front electric windows, tinted glass, a JVC CD Audio with MP3 player plus remote fuel flap and tailgate releases.

1.1 LX adds remote door locking, perimeter alarm system, four electric windows and door mirrors, a leather steering wheel and gear knob, a storage tray under the passenger seat and a sunglasses holder (above the driver's door).

1.1 SE has four seats, seats and door trim with two-tone variations matching the exterior colour, alloy wheels, front fog lamps, metal grain centre fascia, rear spoiler and sill extensions.

Facelifted models (from November 2007):

Picanto is now the entry-level version and gets front electric windows, power steering, tinted glass, anti-lock
brakes with electronic brake-force distribution, two airbags, variable intermittent front wipers, 60/40 split rear seats and integrated CD audio with MP3 player. Thirteen-inch steel wheels are fitted and there are body-coloured
bumpers, mirrors, door handles and internally-adjustable door mirrors.

Picanto 2 adds a height-adjustable driver's seat, leather trim on the steering wheel and gearlever knob, tilt
adjustment of the steering column, 14-inch steel wheels, a tachometer and digital clock, full cloth colour trim,
remote central locking and an alarm. The rear headrests are height-adjustable.

Picanto 3 is the sports-luxury model in the range and has electrically-operated and heated door mirrors with integral side repeaters, an iPod connection socket, 15- inch alloy wheels, front foglights, alloy pedals and chrome-ringed instruments. There are also black bezel headlamps, chrome exterior door handles, rear electric windows, a rear spoiler, sporty side sills, air conditioning and chrome interior trim.

Child seats that fit a Kia Picanto (2004 – 2011)

Our unique Car Seat Chooser shows you which child car seats will fit this car and which seat positions that they will fit, so that you don't have to check every car seat manufacturer's website for compatibility.

Which car seat will suit you?

What's the Kia Picanto (2004 – 2011) like to drive?

The Picanto is designed mainly for driving in towns or cities, so the steering is light, it has a tight turning circle and good all round visibility too. It's a bit of surprise then that while the ride is good on smooth surfaces it gets unsettled by rough roads and doesn't deal particularly well with potholes -  hardly ideal for a city car. That said, the steering is positive so nipping in and out of traffic is a doddle as is slotting the little Picanto into small parking spots.

It's also very capable on open roads. The skinny tyres provide decent grip and although body control isn't kept in check as some other small cars, it feels competent even when pushed hard. It's also stable at motorway speeds but wind noise can be a little intrusive. Just two engines are available in the Picanto - a 1.0-litre and a 1.1-litre - both four-cylinder petrol units that are quiet enough in everyday driving. The 1.0-litre is only available in the base-level versions and with 61bhp it's not bad and is okay if you're driving is mainly in built up areas, while average economy is 57.6mpg.

However, most Picanto models come with the 1.1-litre engine. It may not look that much more with an equally modest 64bhp (pre-facelift models had 62bhp) but it has 97Nm of torque - 10Nm more than the smaller engine and this is noticeable on the move where it feels livelier and more willing to pull in gear.

When the Picanto was facelifted in 2007 this engine was also tweaked to be more economical and it now averages 53.3mpg if you have a model with 15-inch wheels . Both engines have to be worked hard in order to get decent pace but at high revs they do lack refinement and aren't particularly pleasant to use with an overly sensitive throttle. However they are both quiet both at idle and on the move in relaxed driving.

Engine MPG 0-62 CO2
1.0 55–59 mpg 16.4 s 114–123 g/km
1.1 49–59 mpg 15.1–17.9 s 114–137 g/km

Real MPG average for a Kia Picanto (2004 – 2011)

Real MPG was created following thousands of readers telling us that their cars could not match the official figures.

Real MPG gives real world data from drivers like you to show how much fuel a vehicle really uses.

Average performance


Real MPG

32–55 mpg

MPGs submitted


Diesel or petrol? If you're unsure whether to go for a petrol or diesel (or even an electric model if it's available), then you need our Petrol or Diesel? calculator. It does the maths on petrols, diesels and electric cars to show which is best suited to you.

What have we been asked about the Kia Picanto (2004 – 2011)?

Every day we're asked hundreds of questions from car buyers and owners through Ask Honest John. Our team of experts, including the nation's favourite motoring agony uncle - Honest John himself - answer queries and conudrums ranging from what car to buy to how to care for it as an owner. If you could do with a spot of friendly advice before buying you're next car, get in touch and we'll do what we can to help.

Ask HJ

What automatic car should I replace my old Kia Picanto with?

I'm looking to replace my 2005 Kia Picanto (automatic) with something similar, but more up to date. My budget is up to £8000 and a torque converter would be preferred. I'm only doing 4000 miles a year. Any recommendations?
It might seem like the obvious choice but another Kia Picanto would be a really good option. There aren't many small cars available with good torque-converter autos, but the Picanto is one of them. Your budget will get you a good 2015 or 2016 example. Also consider the very similar Hyundai i10 or, if you'd prefer something a little bigger, a Hyundai i20 or Vauxhall Corsa.
Answered by Andrew Brady
More Questions

What Cars Are Similar To The Kia Picanto (2004 – 2011)?

Key attributes of the this model are: Economical, Easy to park and City car.

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What do owners think?

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