2021 Kia Picanto S (car review)

DON’T be fooled or think that because small cars are, well small, that they don’t have space, attitude or are terrible to drive. Compact cars dominate the world, and Kia’s pint-sized Picanto is right in the thick of it.

The Kia Picanto is a different sort of small car, and comes in two flavours for 2021; the S variant tested here is the entry level, and the other model, well it’s the top dog, in the form of the GT-Line. The X-Line offering disappears, as does the GT.

In a bid to keep the little Picanto relevant, and stave off the competition as it edges closer and closer to the country’s number one micro car, Kia has given the new model a freshen up as well as rationalising features. It’s now a very good car, made better.

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The Picanto S features an onslaught of safety and technology as standard, including six airbags, city autonomous emergency braking with forward collision warning, electronic stability control, vehicle stability management, hill start assist and emergency stop signal.

It’s a unique looking vehicle, with a style all of its own. Over the years we have grown to like it, nope, make that love it, and the 2021 model raises the bar again. Inside the Picanto S remains well finished and features solid build quality.

Sure, there are some hard plastics throughout, but they still look and feel good. In this variant you don’t get the leather seats like you do in the GT-Line, but the cloth interior is still smart and comfortable.

The seats are a little narrow, but remain supportive. The driving position is well thought out and everything is at your fingertips. Even for this author, with a size 12 boot, the pedal position remains unchanged, so there’s no need to shoehorn that in.

And we’re the first to admin, if you’re looking for a family car to strap a few kids seats into and tour around outside of the city, this isn’t the car for you. But the Picanto still does offer great interior space and storage for short city dwelling drives.

We did manage to fit a rather large child seat into the back with plenty of space and comfort. The only downside, the passenger front seat ends up buried in the dash. But we have seen this happen in larger SUVs, so it’s all relative.

Leg space still remains a slight issue in the back seat, with rear leg room pretty much non-existent, unless you are a very small child, or the driver sits on top of the steering wheel. But you’ve got to remember that this is a compact/micro car after all.

There’s plenty of technology too. Even the base range scores electric windows. None of that wind up rubbish. So, well done Kia for that. Cruise control with speed limiter and a reverse camera have also been thrown in on the S for good measure.

You’ll also find a good air-con, Bluetooth multi-connection allowing you to connect two smartphones at the same time, an 8.0-inch vivid colour touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, 16-inch alloy wheels, and halogen daytime running lights.

It’s pretty jam packed with goodies. Under the hood remains unchanged from previous generations, a 1.2-litre four cylinder petrol engine, which makes 62kW and 122Nm. 0-100km/h is about 11.6 seconds.

Yes, we know it could do with a little more get up and go, but don’t be scared off by the power figures, as the Picanto remains a fun little car to drive, especially in manual form, around town.

Our Picanto S was coupled with a 5-speed manual transmission, and yes, it does require a little encouragement to move it a long, but it’s a perfect combination for city dwelling. A 6-speed stick shift would be nice for the motorway though.

If you don’t want a manual, you are able to opt for a 4-speed automatic, if you feel that way inclined, but we highly recommend the driver managed option. On the road, it’s planted to the ground, with responsive steering and a balanced chassis.

Weighing in at just 993kg, it has a bit of a go kart feel. Fuel consumption is a claimed 5.0-litre/100km, which is good, but not surprising considering the size and the modest power delivery. In the real world we averaged 6.2-litres/100km.

Put the Picanto on the freeway and you will see 7.5 to 8.0-litres/100km. Wind noise at speed on the motorway is definitely noticeable, and you can feel the little Picanto getting pushed around by the wind, similar to being in a mosh-pit at a heavy metal concern.

Around town though, it is quiet and concentrated. Should you be in the market for a car that is small yet reasonably spacious (at least up front), good to drive, cheap to run and looks a little tougher than average, the 2021 Kia Picanto S might just fit the bill.

Pricing for the 2021 Kia Picanto S starts from $16,990 (drive away), with Kia’s 7-year unlimited kilometre warranty, roadside assist and capped price servicing.

This little Kia represents incredible value, and is available in Astro Grey, Aurora Black Pearl, Clear White and Signal Red.

Our test vehicle was supplied by Kia Australia. To find out more about the 2021 Kia Picanto S, contact your local Kia dealer.


Driving Experience
Exterior Styling
Interior Look and Feel
Technology and Connectivity
Family Friendliness
Value for Money


Pros - heaps of tech as standard; zippy engine; great to drive.
Cons - rear leg room; needs a 6-speed manual.
Mick Glenn
Mick Glenn
Mick is a car fanatic, with petrol pumping through his veins. With a deep love for cars, and what makes them tick, Mick likes things that go fast, very fast. But he also appreciates a Sunday cruise in the Rolls...... who are we kidding, he'd drive the wheels off that too.


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<strong>Pros -</strong> heaps of tech as standard; zippy engine; great to drive.<br> <strong>Cons -</strong> rear leg room; needs a 6-speed manual.2021 Kia Picanto S (car review)