Driven: Kia Picanto X-Line

Calvin spent the day finding gravel around the Cape Peninsula to dirty the underside of Kia’s tiniest crossover

Look, I didn’t find much – but the pleasant ‘crunch crunch’ the little tyres made on the short gravel network I found around Simons Town was all I needed to hear to justify the intro. There’s much to talk about though, such as the marque’s new logo, a lesson in minimalism with a sci-fi tilt. It coincides with a new ethos, ‘movement that inspires’ and dare I say they’re anticipating many will move off-road. Case in point, the X-Line derivative of the beloved Kia Picanto. Ja, beloved – the second-biggest seller in Mzansi. Note, Rio is 4th, Sportage 8th – how’s that for brand equity? But before we delve into the littlest crossover you ever saw, we have to touch on some Kia points. Such as the brand is about to lean heavily into electrification, automation, and purpose-built vehicles. I’m not saying tiny robot cars. But, I sort of am (and I’m thrilled for all the sci-fi reasons. It’s all tidily placed under the umbrella known as Plan S and we’re looking forward to seeing where this goes, but if you’d like a clue, check out the new Kia CV concept EV which furthers signals the next style language. You’ll notice in the visuals alone that the brand is placing new emphasis on lifestyle over metal. Good. back to the X-Line.

The Kia Picanto is small, we know this – but in (32% stiffer) X-Line trim becomes an A-segment crossover, one that will most likely compete with B-Segment stalwarts such as the Renault Sandero Stepway and Ford Figo Freestyle. So punching above its weight as usual. It makes a compelling case for why your first car could be a crossover, instead of the current trend of waiting for reaons of affordability to purchase one down the line. Small, yes, but packing a 1010 litre luggage capacity with the with seats down, 255l with them up.

Styling-wise, the tyke gets a bespoke radiator grille and bumper treatment, 15′ inch alloy hoops in each corner, new headlamps and rear clusters. It’s available in 10 colours including Honey Bee, Lime and Orange. Under the silver bonnet of my test car resides the familiar 1.25l petrol engine, good for 61kW and 122Nm. You can have one in 5-speed manual or 4-speed auto and either way, you’ll be wringing its neck at the reef, but around the coast, I was laughing. Especially around Chapmans Peak where I get to stretch its tiny, but entertaining legs. Its 962kg kerb weight makes for a chuckable platform.

The cabin is great, covered in cowhide and full of toys such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto via an 8″ inch touchscreen. It feels upmarket and roomy, the perfect venue for city driving and the odd sojourn onto the dirt. Tech further includes a 4.2inch supervision cluster (cockpit instruments), and a reverse camera. All of this for an R237,995 price, including KIA’s unlimited kilometrm/5 year warranty and 2 year/30,000km service plan. Compelling indeed.

The rest of the range gets ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ changes ie the Start, Street and Style models, starting as low as R187,995.

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