Car Reviews

2019 Kia Picanto GT Review

Toby Hagon’s 2019 Kia Picanto GT Review With Price, Specs, Performance, Ride And Handling, Ownership, Safety, Verdict And Score.

In a nutshell: A turbo three-cylinder engine, manual gearbox and red highlights headline the Picanto GT package that adds some sporty thinking to Kia’s entry-level hatchback, a car that’s all about value.

2019 Kia Picanto GT Specifications

Price $17,990 drive-away Warranty 7 years, unlimited km Service Intervals 12 months, 10,000km Safety 4-star ANCAP Engine 1.0-litre 3-cylinder turbo Power 74kW at 4500rpm Torque 172Nm at 1500-4000rpm Transmission 5-speed manual Drive Front-wheel drive Dimensions 3595mm (L), 1595mm (W), 1485mm (H), 2400mm (WB) Kerb Weight 1007kg Towing NA Boot Space 255L Spare Space saver Fuel Tank 35L Thirst 4.8L/100km

There are small cars and there are smaller cars and Kia’s Picanto unquestionably falls into the latter category, downsizing the basic hatchback thinking into a circa-$15K proposition. As one of the cheapest cars on the market, it’s no-frills motoring done well. Now Kia has tried to add some sizzle to its budget-priced steak with the Picanto GT. There’s more power and some red design touches to add some sporty thinking to the thoroughly affordable Picanto.

What’s in the range and how much does it cost?

It’s one size fits all with the Picanto GT. Whereas the regular Picanto starts at around $15,000 and comes with a four-cylinder engine matched to either a manual or auto gearbox, the Picanto GT downsizes that to a three-cylinder turbo engine that you’ll be changing gears with yourself.

2019 Kia Picanto GT Review

Like the GT-Line (the Line denoting it shares similar looks but without the sporty engine), the GT (with the more powerful engine) gets 16-inch alloy wheels, cruise control, reversing camera, auto headlights and a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It even comes with autonomous emergency braking. Considering the $17,990 drive-away price tag it’s a very generous spread, one made all the more tempting with the backing of a seven-year warranty.

What’s the interior and practicality like?

The Picanto’s cabin is quite narrow, which means you’re fairly close to the person sitting alongside. But headroom is generous and the general adjustability to the driving position fine. The finishes are as you’d expect in a car focused on value, eschewing the finer points for durability and simplicity. Combined with an aesthetically pleasing dash it makes for an honest if unexciting cabin. That said, red stripes and swatches add liveliness to an other dark cabin.

2019 Kia Picanto GT Review

Those in the rear also get decent headroom, although legroom is tight. And having three across the rear will only happen with a trio of narrow hips. Similarly, the boot is compact, with very little distance between the seatback and the back of the car. It’s vaguely deep, although for large suitcase you’re better off utilising the 60/40 split-fold.

2019 Kia Picanto GT Review

2019 Kia Picanto GT Review

What are the controls and infotainment like?

Like the rest of the car, the functionality of infotainment and main controls is about getting basics right. There’s a traditional lever-operated handbrake and a gearstick for changing gears.

A 7.0-inch touchscreen sits pod-like atop the dash and presents a couple of dials and more buttons for adjusting the basics. Then there’s the touchscreen for more detailed functions, including Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.

The sound system is basic with four speakers reproducing sound that’s more talkback-friendly than Bob Marley or Beastie Boys. There are also basic buttons on the steering wheel to adjust audio and cruise control. The trip computer nestled in the analogue instrument cluster dishes up core information on fuel use and projected driving range. Ventilation is also old school useful, with a trio of knobs to adjust air flow. Simple, but effective.

What’s the performance like?

One criticism of the regular Picanto is that performance is not exactly forthcoming. It’s basic motoring and the 1.2-litre four-cylinder engine reflects that. The Picanto GT adds a turbocharger, but on an even smaller 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine. The raw figures are far from scintillating, power peaking at 74kW. That’s a looooong way from hot hatch territory.

But it’s worth keeping in mind that the GT is very light, tipping the scales at just over one tonne. So, there’s not much metal to move. Besides, it’s the torque as the turbo swells that soon becomes the most interesting part of the engine.

2019 Kia Picanto GT Review

From just 1500rpm there’s a meaty 172Nm to play with, something that makes for perky around-town punch. Forget trying to rev the engine too much – the fun is over by about 4000rpm – and instead lean on the mid-rev urge, at which point the GT is vaguely zippy. None of which is going to pin you to the back of the seat, but it saunters along nicely.

The five-speed manual has a light throw and easy operation, although fifth gear is unusually high for such a small car. It means you can’t really use it until you’re travelling 70km/h or higher (it’s best above 80km/h). Fuel use is also fairly low, although you’ll generally use more than the claimed 4.8 litres per 100km.

What’s it like on the road?

So, we’ve established the Picanto GT is no hot hatch in terms of how it accelerates and that translates to its dynamics, too. Steering is light, the turning circle usefully tight and there’s a general sense of agility that comes about with such a light vehicle.

2019 Kia Picanto GT Review

Yet at speed it feels more big car, a sense that things are well sorted, even bowling along at 100km/h. At those sorts of speeds you can expect some noticeable tyre noise, but it’s nothing out of control. And around town it’s the thrum of the engine that dominates.

Running on 16-inch Nexen tyres there’s not an abundance of grip, although it behaves fine at moderate speeds. Considering what the engine is producing, the stuff that attaches it all to the ground is well matched.

Does it have a spare?

There’s only a skinny space saver spare tyre. Given the city car intentions that’s no bad thing, especially as space is at a premium.

Can you tow with it?

Forget it. The 1.0-litre engine is working hard enough to shift the diminutive hatchback body.

What about ownership?

Kia’s seven-year, unlimited kilometre warranty still blitzes its rivals and helps with everything from peace of mind to resale values (buying a car still under its factory warranty is often appealing to used car buyers). It’s certainly a terrific deal. Just don’t go thinking you can drive for Uber or Ola and get the unlimited kilometre part of the warranty. Kia limits any commercial use to seven years and 150,000km.

As for servicing, the Picanto GT is more particular in its requirements than a regular Picanto, requiring check-ups every 12 months and 10,000km (the regular Picanto can go 15,000km between services). For the first seven years or 70,000km you’re looking at $2964 in servicing. For the same seven years in the normal Picanto (with a manual gearbox) it’s $2567, but you can travel 105,000km.

2019 Kia Picanto GT Review

What safety features does it have?

The Picanto comes with the requisite gear on paper – six airbags and autonomous emergency braking (AEB) – but its safety rating by independent crash test authority ANCAP scored just four stars. ANCAP noted there was marginal chest protection for the driver and a six-year old test dummy in the rear. Up to 80km/h the AEB system can perform a full emergency stop, but beyond that it’s a warning and partial braking.

Editor's Rating

How do we rate the interior?
How do we rate the infotainment and controls?
How do we rate the performance?
How do we rate the ride and handling?
How do we rate the safety features?
Practical Motoring Says It’s no hot hatch – a long way from it – and in that sense the GT badge is perhaps pushing things a touch. But the Picanto GT is a fun-to-drive city hatch positively oozing value. If you’re happy to change gears yourself and want something with a hint of pizazz there are worth ways to leave change from $20K. Just don’t think of it as a hot hatch.

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Toby Hagon

Toby Hagon

From Porsches to LandCruisers, Toby Hagon loves all things cars and has been writing about them for more than 20 years. He loves the passion and people that help create one of the world's most innovative and interesting industries. As well as road testing and chasing news he more recently co-authored a book on Holden. These days he crosses the world covering the industry but still loves taking off on the Big Trip in Australia.