Home' Open Road North Shore : OR0317 Contents AS THE ENTRY POINT into the new car market, the micro car
class is all about affordable city-focused motoring for the
budget-conscious buyer. The Kia Picanto Si five-door hatchback
epitomises this. It’s small, affordable to own and operate, easy
to drive and, importantly, has a five-star ANCAP safety rating.
The Picanto gets the jump on its competitors in value, with an
attractive drive-away price of $14,990, low insurance costs and
a class-leading list of standard features. It is a single-spec
model only, with a four-cylinder engine, whereas some others in
the class employ three-cylinder powerplants. An automatic
transmission is standard, rather than an extra cost option.
The value and reassurance of Kia’s lengthy seven-year/
unlimited-kilometre warranty and emergency roadside
assistance, as well as low servicing and repair costs, should not
be underestimated either. If you decide to sell the car after five
years, however, you may lose a little more on the Picanto than
others in the class, based on Glass’s Guide predictive values.
The combination of Kia’s 1.2-litre engine and conventional
four-speed automatic delivers a pleasing mix of relatively nippy
performance and fuel economy that’s well suited to the
everyday requirements for this type of city car. And even on the
open road at 100km/h, it’s a competent enough performer,
given the modest power and torque output.
With European-tuned suspension, the handling around town
is nimble and the Picanto is fun to drive. Its ride quality is also
one of the best in class. Kia employs disc brakes all round,
whereas most other micro class cars, and many light cars, have
stuck with the older style front-disc/rear-drum combination.
In keeping with others in the class, you can see a few signs that
this smart-looking, Euro-designed and Korean-built car has been
manufactured to a price, but overall it’s solidly constructed and
the trim has a neat and durable appearance. Interior space is
used efficiently, with the front seats providing better than
expected comfort, while all the controls are conveniently placed
and simple to use. Of course, seating three across the back, even
if they’re children, is a real squeeze. Two adults, however, will find
there’s more rear leg room than you’d imagine and the head
room is also quite good. Boot space is modest, though, and it’s
disappointing the Picanto carries only a space-saver spare.
While it’s new to the Aussie market, the Picanto is a proven
package that has been on sale overseas for a few years. As
such, the older design is not as high-tech as some might expect,
but it has all the right ingredients for this budget-focused area.
Mitsubishi Mirage ES
Although it had an upgrade in early 2016,
the Mirage faced stiff new competition
this year and slips to second place. While
no longer class-leading, there’s still
plenty to like about the Mirage. It’s
affordable to buy, economical to run and
has a five-star ANCAP safety rating.
As well as a minor facelift smartening
up its appearance inside and out,
revisions to the steering and suspension
provide a more precise steering feel,
less body roll, better handling and
improved ride comfort. While the
changes are noticeable, they’re not
massive and the newcomers to the class
have raised the bar in vehicle dynamics.
However, it has an edge over the other
finalists in usable cabin space – handy if
you need to carry three or four people.
Best Micro Car
A solid all-round package puts the Kia Picanto Si at the
top of a class that’s going from strength to strength
Engine: 1.2-litre four-cylinder Transmission: four-speed automatic
Power: 63kW Torque: 120Nm Fuel consumption: 5.3L/100km (claimed)
ANCAP: HHHHH Price: $14,990 (indicative drive away)
3RD PLACE Holden Spark LS
Holden has transformed the Barina
Spark from a cheap and cheerful ‘buzz-
box’ into a micro car with real substance.
Stronger performance from the new
car’s larger capacity 1.4-litre engine
and localised steering and suspension
treatment give the Spark an edge in on-
road ability. Good seat comfor t, well laid
out controls and a slick five-speed
manual gearshifter (with light clutch
action) also make it the most enjoyable
car in the class to drive.
Build quality has improved and the
presentation has a more upmarket
appearance than most of its peers, while
its MyLink infotainment system with
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is a plus.
But it’s all reflected in a considerably
higher purchase price, which is a problem
in this budget-focused category.
The Mirage (above) the Spark (below).
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