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New Picanto has real style and substance

FIAT 500 be afraid - be very afraid.

Yep, that was the chilling message coming from Barcelona last week as Korean car giant Kia launched their all-new Picanto.

The A segment runaround is now a real contender for the title of King of the City Car and its rivals had better sit up and take note.

Under the watchful eye of German design guru Peter Schreyer (the brainchild behind the Audi TT and the VW Beetle) the cheeky little imp we all know and love as cheap and cheerful has just grown up.

With some a coming of age like this invariably means the car loses some of its character and therefore appeal.

Not here. The redesign, from the ground up, has given it a while lot of sophistication and coupled it with smidgeons of fun.

Take the chiselled, muscular front with the massive wrap around bumper which gives the car a more robust feel and the scooped out fog lamps perfectly compliment what Kia calls the Tiger nose grille.

Quality

At the rear, the bracket style tail lights with LED format really give it a stamp of authority and you could be forgiven for mistaking it for a much bigger hatchback.

But as your mum would always say it's on the inside that counts. And she's right. Climbing into the Tardis-like cabin you will be very pleasantly surprised.

First thing to hit you is the funky layout which starts with the steering wheel and the sporty 'smiley in-lay' which matches the flowing line scooping around the dash.

Secondly is the build quality and premium feel of the materials used both in switchgear and fittings and thirdly the simplicity of the design tricks you into thinking you're actually in a bigger car.

Drive-wise, the three cylinder 68bhp petrol, although a little noisy, is punching above its weight and managed as well through city streets as it did on long stretches of motorway.

Now, it won't set the world on fire but what you lose in poke you more than make up for with economy.

Because it generates just 99g/km, it is in the greenest tax band and costs €104 a year to tax while returning an awesome 66mpg.

Pound for pound the Picanto is a fine little car and nearly every fault is compensated for. Take the stingy amount of boot space? This is offset by fold flat rear seats and this has been tested to the limits, so much so, that you can now fit a washing machine in the rear!

You better not be fibbing Kia, coz you know we're gonna try it. On sale later this month, the Picanto will cost around €11,000.


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