Kia offers real value for money
The new Picanto is set to arrive here in June and looks set to be another winner in the mini segment for the Korean company, writes Martin Brennan
DURING the heady days of the Celtic Tiger, the concept of value for money slipped below the radar when shopping for new cars. The higher the cost, the greater was the buyer's boast, as common sense took a back seat.
Now, due to the recession and restrictions on credit, value for money is the mantra once again, as sales head to a respectable 100,000 units for this year.
Kia is well placed to take advantage of the improving market. All of its models are covered by a bumper-to-bumper seven-year warranty, which ticks an important 'value-for-money' box by way of residual values.
Keep your car for four years and when you sell, the new buyer gets a full three-year warranty, which is as good as other manufacturers offer on a new car -- or even better, in some cases.
Which second-hand will sell best? A Kia of course.
Kia also has an enviable reputation for build quality. The Koreans are up there with the Japanese and that is even before the Japanese image was dented by some manufacturers having major recalls.
Throw in keen pricing across the range and it is little wonder that the Kia/Hyundai marques sell 5.6 million units a year worldwide.
That makes it the fourth-biggest manufacturer, ahead of Ford, Nissan, Honda and Peugeot/Citroen. Kia accounts for 2 million of these sales, up from 1 million just seven years ago.
Against this background, the company has a number of new models coming to the market this year. A Picanto will arrive in June, a new Rio with an ultra-economical diesel engine is coming in the autumn to take on the Ford Fiesta and a new executive model, the Optima, will be here by the end of the year to rival the Ford Mondeo, VW Passat and Toyota Avensis.
The Picanto has been a steady seller in the young-buyer, young-family and second-family segment, so the new model is an important event in the mini segment.
It retains the old traits of being light on fuel and easy to park. Both of these features have been considerably improved and it now has a more grown-up look, with more interior space and specification.
The new look is more muscular, lower and wider, with a strong grille and front light cluster. So there is no hint of a girlie car here. In fact, Kia marketing people boast of the "beefy sporty look that women drivers like".
Peter Schreyer, ex-Audi and now Kia design chief, has also added fresh touches to the Soul, Sportage, Venga and Cee'd. Picanto is now 16mm longer, with a 60mm longer wheelbase, which makes for more leg room.
The boot is now 200 litres (up almost 30 per cent), extending to 870 litres with the rear seats down. That makes it big enough to take a washing machine.
The Picanto shares the same platform as the Hyundai i10. Although it is larger, it is 10kg lighter than the outgoing model.
There will be two trim levels, LX and EX. Specification has not been finalised but expect to find air conditioning, steering wheel controls, iPod and USB connections.
Power will come from a three-cylinder, 69bhp engine with six-speed transmission. The 0-100 km sprint takes 14 seconds and the top speed is 152kmh.
According to Kia's figures, the combined fuel economy is excellent at 4.2 l/100km (68 mpg).
Kia plans to sell 230 of the old model Picanto and 80 of the new models this year, with 300 sales next year.