Inside, there's generous space for two full sized adults at the front and enough legroom at the rear for two more adults to fit in comfortably. A third rear passenger might be a tight squeeze though, so better watch your weight. Thanks to some clever design shapes, the Picanto manages to maximize interior space, which makes the interior feel much roomier than it really is. Exploring a bit more, I found a lot of pockets, storage holes, and cup-holders that fit all my knick knacks. But as expected for a car of its size, the boot is a bit small, but should at least be enough for a weekend bag. So if you're planning to carry more cargo, just fold the rear seats down and get more than triple the cargo volume.
When it comes to entertainment, the Picanto comes with a four-speaker 1-DIN Pioneer sound system with AUX and USB input. Sound quality, however, can be improved.
On the go
Driving around town, acceleration is surprisingly brisk and not the expected snail's pace I've experienced in some other small cars. The three cylinder 1.0L engine produces 69hp of power - not much compared to the massive SUV threatening to run me over from behind, but enough to keep me ahead of him with the Picanto's accelerator floored. Through light city traffic, I simply left the shifter in “D” and enjoyed the rather surprising smooth shifts. By this point, the engine is just audible inside the cabin, but nothing anywhere near what can be considered noisy - quite surprising, as small cars I’ve driven in the past tended to be as noisy as a busy roadside machine shop inside with all the engine and road noise.
With ECO mode switched 'on', the Picanto felt sluggish and did a disappointing 8.5 km/L in the city according to the on board computer. But when we switched ECO mode 'off', not only did the engine became more reponsive, but fuel efficiency figures also ironically jumped to an acceptable 11 km/L.
The ride though is a touch on the firm side, but still comfortable overall, even when running over the occasional small pothole and road imperfection. Visibility from the driver's seat is good all around. The steering wheel feels a little over-boosted, which results in less road feel than I prefer. On the up side, steering this car around the corners is practically point and shoot, which makes parking a total breeze, with space to spare on all sides.
Given everything that comes with the 2011 Picanto, I did notice a few things lacking on its features list which I now take for granted in other cars. Most noticeably, the Kia Picanto doesn't come with airbags and anti-lock brakes. Despite this, the car still felt safe, plus comes equipped with 3-point seat belts and has a Euro NCAP safety rating of 4 out of 5 stars.
By the end of my drive, my opinion of small cars had changed. Small sub-compact cars such as the 2012 Kia Picanto 1.0L EX A/T have improved so much over time that they are actually practical, of good value, and even (God-forbid) a little fun to drive. For a list price of P599,000, it's definitely worth every centavo.