Pictures don’t do justice to the Kia Picanto GT Line. It’s much more good looking in real life. The aero kit fits nicely on the compact body, adding more pizzaz on an otherwise fine shape. We were lucky enough to be handed the keys to the top of the line GT, and honestly, I couldn’t wait to drive it.
It has a smaller wheelbase as compared to regular sized sedan. The tall roofline give a wide commanding view of the road. Traffic was a cinch, weaving thru tight spots, thanks to the ultra-light power steering. You could literally steer with one finger. At first, I thought that it was too light for a compact car, where a power-assist would suffice. It came clear later, on a Saturday afternoon gridlock in downtown Manila, that the benefit of light steering became came clear; maneuvering on side roads and tight turns were a cinch! And with the small turning radius and size of the Picanto, it can pass thru tight spots and narrow roads easily. Truly, an urban warrior. With a frugal 1.2 liter engine and a 4-speed automatic transmission, you are relieved of the stress that comes with the perennial traffic jams of Metro Manila.
Of course, small displacement in small cars offer a different equation in long, straight journeys along major highways like the NLEX. Usually, small cars are pushed around by bigger vehicles airflow, which sometimes make the trip worrisome, typical small displacement engines cannot hack it. Not so with the Picanto. Cruising speed is 95kph at a leisurely 2900rpm. The 1.2 liter, 89hp, DOHC engine has enough power to propel the Picanto to 100kph, and short burst to 130kph when overtaking. The potent engine is capable of higher speeds, but I chose to keep it under 100kph, mainly to conserve fuel. Remember, my photoshoot destination was Subic Bay and Mt. Samat Memorial (about 150km). I also wanted to find out the actual fuel consumption under normal driving.
After lunch in Bataan, I proceeded to Subic Bay via Dinalupihan entry of SCTEX. It was the perfect stretch to test the stability of the Picanto. Crosswinds usually buffer the car when travelling at 90kph, and with few cars rolling, there was little chance of tailwind. The Picanto still picked up speed, even at the long ascending art of the SCTEX. The aero kit served its purpose. The firm suspension took the varying road conditions like a pro. No evidence of body roll, although ride comfort was a tad hard. The 15in wheels are sporty but the hard sidewalls make a stiff suspension. Shorter overhangs in front and back, gives this version a more assertive stance. It also means that a little more legroom will be available to the passengers, which is nice on longer rides.
Arriving at Subic Bay, I scouted for additional pictorial sites around Argonaut Highway. I’ve also noticed that the engine now is more responsive; maybe because the long highway travel gave the car a chance to stretch its legs, so to speak. The AC performed flawlessly despite the hot summer sun, even if the thermostat level was only at half.
Pictorials included scenic sites like the Lighthouse, the Subic Bay Yacht Club and finally, the wharf for a beautiful sunset setting.
Early evening drive home was made easy by the Projection headlamps with DRL, Projection fog lights illuminated the dark highway. Not only they look good, they light good!
Early next day, I proceeded to the Mt. Samat Memorial Museum 36km away. I picked this site because of the 11km uphill path, complete with tight turns and steep inclines. This is the way to test engine torque, transmission shifting, suspension play, as well as fuel consumption. I also noted that I was driving alone, so load factor was not on the list. Nevertheless, it was the best way to test the performance of the Picanto as a whole.
I tried both auto and manual shifting. During steep and tight turns, (there were three of these) it was best to manually shift. Shifting at higher RPMs was more beneficial to the small engines, reaching maximum torque range, avoiding engine bog down.
Going back to Manila, I’ve noted the gas consumption via the electronic meter in the dash. average highway consumption was at 15km to 17km/liter. With a high of 23km/L to a low of 12km/L. City driving resulted in an average of 9-10km/L. (Heavy traffic). Note that 30 liters of Shell Regular unleaded was filled up after I picked up the car. I racked up about 400kms on the whole trip, and there was still fuel left from the 30 liter fill-up. Overall, the Picanto averaged 14km/L. Not bad for a peppy 1.2 liter car.
The interior compliments the white exterior. Gray fabric and leatherette with red stitching lend a racing look. Dual cupholders in the middle console is a nice touch. The luggage floor acts like a cover for a second level storage space, and the rear seats fold down for additional luggage space. The only thing that marred the otherwise smart interior was the unique protruding head unit; the sound was below par, the display was below satisfactory, and chance of replacing it is close to nil. Helping this a bit is the available USB and auxiliary ports.
Verdict: The Picanto GT Line is the most sporty looking compact hatchback in the market today. Even the regular Picanto has an aggressive shape.The whole package, which includes the White exterior with red accents, aero kit, 15in wheels and dual chrome exhaust makes this the Picanto a sexy compact. That’s what we all need today. Frugal but sexy.
Words and pics by Earl Manalansan