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Driven: Kia Picanto X-Line. Image by Kia.

Driven: Kia Picanto X-Line
The Picanto city car gets some off-road machismo, even if it doesn’t actually gain any 4x4 ability.

   



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Kia Picanto X-Line

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We really like the latest Kia Picanto, which is a handsome and appealing city car - especially in top-level GT-Line and GT-Line S guises. But now here comes a version with some crossover chic: it's the Picanto X-Line and it slots in between the aforementioned models. With its rugged looks and slightly taller stance, is this the Picanto Mk3 you should be heading for in Kia's showrooms?

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Kia Picanto 1.25 X-Line manual
Pricing: Picanto range from £9,450; X-Line from £12,595 as tested (GT-Line S13,950)
Engine: 1.25-litre four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: front-wheel drive, five-speed manual
Body style: five-door crossover hatchback
CO2 emissions: 106g/km (VED £140 annually)
Combined economy: 61.4mpg
Top speed: 107mph
0-62mph: 11.6 seconds
Power: 84hp at 6,000rpm
Torque: 122Nm at 4,000rpm

What's this?

A Kia Picanto X-Line, a micro-hatch which looks like it could take on the combined weather hell of the Beast from the East and Storm Emma with little difficulty. Which is handy, because we drove this latest addition to the engaging Picanto's line-up right in the middle of the meteorological madness of these twin storms at the end of February.

What you get with the X-Line is the sort of visual stuff you'd see on a crossover estate like an Audi allroad, so clock the black trim enhancing the wheelarches, sills and lower bumpers, silver 'skid' plates front and rear, some 16-inch alloys and discreet 'X-Line' badges. Kia has decided that the colour of adventure and off-roading activities is lime green, so you'll pick up these coloured highlights around the radiator grille, front fog lamps and defining the pinstripe in the lower rear bumper, certainly if the car in question is Titanium Silver (+£515 as a premium colour; Blue Breeze is the standard shade). But if you're feeling particularly bold, there's a body finish called Lime Light that's also £515 - it tones down the aforementioned lime green highlights somewhat by, er, making the entire car lime green.

Actually, it might sound like we're against that, but if you see a Picanto X-Line in Lime Light, it looks really good. Less good, however, are those same lime green flourishes on a white background in the cabin. We can see why Kia has done it, to give the cabin a youthful and zesty air, and with lime-green stitching proliferating throughout it does at least make the X-Line's cabin look notably different to the interior of, say, a Picanto 3. But those green-and-white details contrast harshly with an otherwise drab grey/black colour scheme for the main fascias.

Nevertheless, the Picanto has an excellent interior for this class. It feels well-built and there are some nice touches, like the upright air vents at the outer edges of the dash and that big chrome strip which links the whole console together. And as the X-Line (£12,595 as a manual, another £650 on top of that for a four-speed auto version) sits between the manual variants of the £12,450 Picanto GT-Line and the £13,995 Picanto GT-Line S - both of which use the same normally aspirated, 84hp/122Nm 1.25-litre four-cylinder petrol engine - then the crossover city car's kit list is generous. The X-Line enjoys items like a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system with satnav, DAB, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, cruise control with a speed limiter, keyless entry, climate control and Autonomous Emergency Braking, making it feel supermini-like in terms of its tech.

How does it drive?

Kia is very honest about the X-Line's actual capability as an off-roader, as 'it has none'. The car is 75mm longer, 30mm wider and rides 15mm taller on its suspension to increase ground clearance when compared to a regular Picanto, but it is resolutely front-wheel drive. There are no special off-road or bad weather driving programmes, and about the only concession it has to any difficult motoring situations comes in the form of Hill-Start Assist Control (HAC).

Still, with the likes of the Suzuki Ignis and Vauxhall Viva Rocks on the scene and the explosion in consumer interest in crossovers over the past five to ten years, making a Picanto that looks tough but isn't actually any more capable than its 'city' brethren is an understandable decision on Kia's part. And as we think the car looks good on the outside, as well as having a nicely equipped and largely decent cabin (don't look at those gaudy door cards...), then the execution of the X-Line looks to be exemplary.

Except... the ride is strangely sub-par in comparison to the rest of the line-up. Having driven a Picanto GT-Line S, which also wears the same size of alloy wheels, we were expecting the 16-inch-shod X-Line to ride a little more comfortably, thanks to that 15mm jacking of the ride height and presumably softer, longer-travel suspension. Yet, strangely, the opposite is true. The X-Line, for whatever reason, feels more unsettled and clunky on mediocre road surfaces than a regular Picanto, which will be annoying if you want the rugged looks but you're going to use the car exclusively in city suburbs. Furthermore, tyre noise was noticeably elevated compared to the GT-Line S, while there was a touch more ruffling of wind around the body's enlarged proportions.

Despite this, though, the Picanto X-Line remains a fine little contrivance. The ride settles down at higher speeds and on better surfaces, so much so that the car is a decently convincing companion on motorways. That 1.25-litre engine lacks for torque, as it does in its other applications in the Picanto family, but it's smooth and mated to a well-spaced five-speed 'box. Kia's steering gets better with each passing day, while the addition of Torque Vectoring on the Picanto X-Line means it handles in a game fashion, resisting understeer well and not providing much in the way of body lean. All in all, the X-Line feels like precisely what it is - a slightly taller Picanto that's mechanically identical to its siblings.

Verdict

If the Kia Picanto X-Line had a slightly better ride, we'd be calling this the go-to model of the Korean city car line-up. But thanks to its slightly crunchy comportment, we still think the GT-Line or GT-Line S variants are the better choices. Nevertheless, if you are totally won over by the aesthetic improvements the X-Line specification brings to the Picanto's appearance, then you'll see the crossover for what it is - a worthwhile and amenable addition to a truly excellent machine.

4 4 4 4 4 Exterior Design

4 4 4 4 4 Interior Ambience

4 4 4 4 4 Passenger Space

4 4 4 4 4 Luggage Space

4 4 4 4 4 Safety

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Comfort

4 4 4 4 4 Driving Dynamics

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 2 Mar 2018



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2018 Kia Picanto X-Line drive. Image by Kia.2018 Kia Picanto X-Line drive. Image by Kia.2018 Kia Picanto X-Line drive. Image by Kia.2018 Kia Picanto X-Line drive. Image by Kia.2018 Kia Picanto X-Line drive. Image by Kia.

2018 Kia Picanto X-Line drive. Image by Kia.2018 Kia Picanto X-Line drive. Image by Kia.2018 Kia Picanto X-Line drive. Image by Kia.2018 Kia Picanto X-Line drive. Image by Kia.







 

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