We snub little Picantos yet clog city streets with big SUVs
In an era of increasing urbanisation, with so many people moving into big towns and cities, it is a wonder that so few bother with a city car.
Believe it or not these little motors only account for 3pc of all cars sold each year - totally disproportionate to the volume of people in urban areas. Many of whom, it must be said, prefer to clog our streets with large SUVs. Strange isn't it?
Around half of the relatively few city cars we do buy are accounted for by the excellent Hyundai i10.
Which doesn't leave a lot for the others. Regardless, KIA this week rolled out its newest small car, the 5dr Picanto, in expectation that more people will buy one from now on. While hoping 500+ will do so next year, they expect a good uptake for 172-reg as well.
All sorts of people buy these cars: learner/mature drivers, those downsizing and so on, but there seems to be a culture whereby younger people, in particular, skip the first rung of car size and get into superminis straight away.
They will pay good money for a second-hand supermini such as the Ford Fiesta or Toyota Yaris when around €13,000 will get them a new i10 or Kia Picanto, for example.
And the new Picanto is smarter looking by some distance compared with the current one (the grille/'Tiger Nose' is its dominant visual with front and rear LED daytime running lights). It will cost from €13,295 for the entry-level TX with the 1-litre 3cyl non-turbo petrol engine. A new 1-litre turbo is due in October and there will be a GT Line trim around then too.
The new price is €500 more than the outgoing car and €300 costlier than Hyundai's i10 Classic.
But, KIA argue, the difference with its 'family' rival is obliterated by its additional equipment, which includes Bluetooth, four electric windows as opposed to two, remote audio controls, four speakers (instead of two) etc.
The EX (€14,795) version with air con is also €300 more expensive than the i10's De Luxe model, but again they argue it has 15in allows (the Hyundai has 14in) and rear electric windows. There is also an EX ADAS version (from €15,195), which has Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) as standard. And I think there will be demand for the 1.2-litre automatic in EX trim (€16,495) because we get a fair few enquiries about a small city car in Motors.
I'm glad to see the entry-level TX will be the big seller and that it is not just a price-point jump-on.
Our initial introduction had us fearing the 1-litre engine was unusually coarse. But then we realised we had been revving the hell out of it. The car I drove away in for a week's test was far more to our liking, though I do look forward to the turbo at the end of the year.
Inside, the driver and front passenger get the lion's share of space; the (three) rear seats are less well endowed, but what do you expect in a small car? The two-level boot is up on the old one (from 200 to 255 litres; obviously a lot more - 1,010 - if you fold the 60:40 rear seats).
There is loads of headroom - it is quite a tall little car - and after our initial reservations about the engine we tipped along nicely.
The cabin is straightforward and the seating for me was okay, but my front-seat passenger had complaints about the intrusive nature of the seat-belt socket.
One of the reasons I am baffled by the low uptake of these small cars is how easy they make life around town. You can nip in and park them nearly anywhere. Yet everywhere I go I see drivers of large SUVs making several attempts to squeeze into slots never designed for them.
Maybe it's time these smaller, petrol cars got some sort of tax break? Not a chance, I'd say.
But we will have to do something - be it carrot or stick - to ease the madness of driving big 4x4s on clogged urban roads.