Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Cheeky Picanto's a Champ

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Cheeky Picanto's a Champ

Article excerpt

Having dethroned the Citroen C2 as the Auto Express small car champion, the Kia Picanto is the surprise package of the 2006 Used Car Honours.

Its cheeky good looks, spacious interior and strong residual values made it first past the post in a close-run finish ( and it's a deserved champion. So tough was the competition that last year's victor didn't even make it to the shortlist, which shows how busy these 12 months have been.

Citroen's C2 is still a worthy contender, but our judges ruled it out because of its relatively high running costs, increased depreciation and flimsy build quality.

The Picanto, meanwhile, comes loaded with kit, has been a hit with new car customers, and is cheap to buy and run.

However, compared with mainstream rivals, sales volumes are modest, so used prices are holding up well. That means resale values will not be ruined by oversupply.

And if you do decide to take the plunge, you'll get a roomy cabin, five doors, strong reliability and plenty of goodies. The Picanto handles well, with decent ride and refinement for a city car. It's not as competent or involving as a Ford Ka, but what it lacks in fluency it makes up for in practicality.

Better still, with many former MG Rover outlets having swapped to the Korean brand, there is a rapidly expanding dealer network, so looking after a Kia has never been easier.

Of the two engines available, the 1.1-litre unit is preferable. It's more powerful than the one-litre alternative, yet returns up to 50mpg. With such economy, there's no need for a diesel version, so Kia doesn't offer one.

The Picanto is an unusual sight on used forecourts, so franchised dealers are the most likely source of high-quality cars. And, when it comes to negative points, availability is the only major drawback with this model.

However, that wasn't enough to put off the Auto Express judges.

"We're looking for the best second-hand motors money can buy," says former used-car trader Mike Brewer. …

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