2014 Kia Picanto 1.25 Quantum 3-door review – Updated City Car Is a Good ‘Un

Cool design, well made, comfortable & ergonomic cabin, 1.25 engine does the job nicely, lots of electronic safety equipment as standard

Strange feel from MDPS steering at certain speeds, firm low-speed ride

Kia Picanto?

2014 Kia Picanto 1.25 Quantum 3-door review-13

Now on its second generation, the original first-gen Kia Picanto compact city car landed on the scene in 2004. It wasn’t the most appealing of designs, with the front end looking rather nondescript and a bit… melty, shall we say. However, when the newer generation Picanto came about in 2011, the design team was lead by the man who turned Kia’s fortunes around – Peter Schreyer.

It was now far more appealing to the mass market, and even more so with another facelift in 2014. Improved looks are just one element though – how about the rest of the car? We were sent the 2014 Kia Picanto 1.25 Quantum 3-door to find out if it’s any good…

Exterior. Butt ugly or beauty?

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The 2014 Kia Picanto differs so much in looks to first generation version that it’s unrecognisable. Sure, it’s a compact city car but that’s as far as it goes. This second-gen model has a contemporary, aggressive, and sporty front end and appears far more ‘grown up’ than its predecessor. The front end is so big and in-your-face that it’s almost out of proportion with the rest of the car – like it’s had the front of a much larger car transplanted onto its body.

However, the Picanto is a good-looking car – rather cool, in fact. The squared-off front makes the car look bigger than it really is, and features huge front headlights, large fog lamps, and neat ‘honeycomb’ grilles – the upper in the now-familiar Kia signature ‘Tiger Nose’ style.

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The test car sent came in the 3-door “Quantum’ spec, and benefits from a smart 15” alloy wheel design, red-edged upper grille, and front LED indicator lights. Down the side, sharp, heavy swage lines and cutouts are prominent, and the side windows look narrow – although this is a trick of the eye as they’re actually quite large. Even the rear is fairly interesting for once, with its fang-like lights and – on the Quantum – contrasting black lower bumper and twin chrome exhaust pipes.

All said, the ’14 Kia Picanto is a cool looking little car, and it’ll appeal to all ages. In fact, on a design front it quite easily competes alongside the compact city car market with no trouble.

Interior. Neat or nothing special?

2014 Kia Picanto 1.25 Quantum 3-door review front seat drivers steering wheel controls

The interior quality of this second-gen Picanto was a genuine surprise. Firstly, the dash design and layout is very nicely styled. It’s more ‘grown up’ than I expected it would be, and whilst it is simpler than the bigger models, the layout is still definitively Kia – therefore it’s been well thought out, the switchgear ergonomic, and it’s also very neat in its layout.

It doesn’t have quite the youth-appeal of say, the Citroen C1, but its more mature approach will still appeal to a broad age market. There are some really great touches and attention to detail in the Picanto that I love. For example, in the centre console in front of the gear shifter, there’s a decently-sized storage area, but push a button each side of it and out pop cupholders. Okay, they’re not quite spaced far enough apart to slot two medium take out coffees in, but bottles are no problem and it’s still an excellent idea.

Radio with bluetooth link - 2014 Kia Picanto 1.25 Quantum 3-door review


Pull down the driver’s sunvisor, open the mirror cover and three lights each side light up in sets, so it’s kinda like your own little showbiz-type mirror. Before dropping the rear seats for more boot room, you can pull out and fold up the bottom section of them so the rear seats then fold flatter, allowing more space. Simple stuff, but it makes a big difference.

Altogether there are four specs of Picanto, as well as three special editions, but they differ between the 3 and 5 door versions. The five-door gets the 1 – 4 specs plus a VR7 edition, whilst the three-door has the ‘1’, ‘1 Air’, and the VR7, Quantum, and White editions. Aside from choosing accessories (boot organiser, armrest kit, mud guards etc), the simple specs make it easy to know what to go for. You can go from the no-frills ‘1’ up to the loaded Quantum version we tested, which packs in an impressive amount of kit and gadgetry.

As that’s the model we had, I’ll list some of the gear you can expect: engine start/stop button with keyless entry (mucho handy), premium black cloth seats, reversing sensors, electric adjustable and heated wing mirrors, automatic air conditioning, front electric windows, a 6-speaker system with CD, USB and AUX ports, an iPod cable, plus Bluetooth for music and phone calls, along with voice recognition. Safety-wise, on any model of Kia Picanto there are driver, passenger, side, and curtain airbags.

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A couple of points I think need improving: there’s no DAB (Digital Audio Broadcasting) radio, the speakers are okay at lower speeds but once you’re doing the motorway limit a lot of the bass is lost to road and wind noise, so these can be improved. Lastly, an iPod connector is a neat thing to have as it allows you to play your music and charge your player or phone at the same time, but it’d be good if a set of adaptors came with the car so you could plug other devices in. Aside from that it’s all pretty good.

The front seats feel strange at first, as the backrest seems to be rather firm and stick out where it shouldn’t. However, after a while you realise they’re actually surprisingly comfortable whilst supportive in exactly the right places for the natural contours of your back – even after a 3-hour drive I was still fine with no discomfort! There’s even plenty of elbow and leg room at the sides too. Although the rear seating looked cramped it was actually quite decent, offering a nicely-angled backrest and more legroom than you’d suspect.

The steering wheel and binnacle are simplistic but smart – no fuss, just some well thought out controls on the ‘wheel, and three clear analogue dials plus a small information screen.

Boot space is about what I’d expect for this class of car: 200 litres rears seats up, and 605 litres with them folded – 27% more than the first-gen model.

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Overall, there’s not much to complain about the Picanto’s cabin. While it’s more subtle than some of its rivals and lacks personality, I thought it was a nice place to be. The trim, controls, and materials are all well chosen, they don’t feel cheap or tacky, and it’s all solidly put together.

Engine and gearbox

The Picanto comes with a choice of two petrol engines: a 3-cylinder 1.0 litre, or 4-cylinder 1.25 litre. The 1.0 litre version is available with a five-speed transmission, whilst the 1.25 can be had with either that or a 4-speed automatic (depending on spec). The 1.25 we were sent produces 84 bhp at 6,000 rpm, and 89 lb ft (120 Nm) of torque at 4,000 rpm.

2014 Kia Picanto 1.25 Quantum 3-door review engine

The 1.0 three-cylinder version has around 20% less power and torque than the four-cylinder 1.25, and reports are that the latter is the better engine if you’re going to use the car outside of town driving much. However, the engines belong to certain specs of Picanto and only the higher ones get the 1.25 litre.

The manual 1.25 (with Intelligent Stop & Go) we had did 0 – 62 mph in 11 seconds, and 106 mph at the top end. Official UK mpg stats are: urban: 51.4, extra urban: 72.4, combined: 62.8. Real-life economy showed 54 miles-per-gallon over a 300-mile motorway journey, which was good considering the bad weather. CO2 emissions are low at 106 g/km, meaning currently (Nov. ’14) you’ll pay just £20 per year.

Ready to roll? Let’s drive!

Is there such a thing as a ‘city’ car any more? Back in the bad old days, this segment could possibly apply to the small cars with their wheezy engines that’d rev highly and sound like you were throttling the life out of them at motorway speeds. Noise intrusion into the cabin was bad, the speakers tinny – so no relief from the noise there – the seating never particularly comfortable over longer distances, and if it was windy the car would be blown all over the place.

The Kia Picanto 1.25 is a perfect example of a modern ‘city’ car, which will now quite happily – and capably – take its passengers on a journey past the outskirts of town, around meandering country lanes, and up and down motorways.

Let’s take them a segment at a time. City: The Picanto has MacPherson stuts up front and a coupled torsion beam at the rear. Kia state this combination gives improved straightline stability, a supple ride, improved agility, and ride comfort. How is it outside of the press blurb though? Around town, where the road imperfections are really felt at slower speeds, the Picanto does okay but it’s still obviously noticeably firm over the bumps and cracks, and you do pick up on it. It’s not uncomfortable manner though, and as smaller cars do tend to have a firmer ride it’s expected to a degree.

Down country roads at higher speeds and the little Kia handles itself okay. It’s fairly agile round the tighter bends, and the faster-flowing ones give it no trouble at all, and stability is not an issue unless you’re being a complete cretin. However, the Picanto does have a highly impressive level of safety equipment (as standard) in that case, which includes Electronic Stability Control (ESC), Vehicle Stability Management (VSM), Cornering Brake Control (CBC), ABS with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD) and Emergency Brake Assist (BAS), plus Hill-start Assist Control (HAC).

Down motorways, the Picanto 1.25 drives just fine. The engine sounds relaxed enough, it gets up to speed nicely, and didn’t feel strained at all once you’re at the speed limit. In fact it allows cruising at 70+ mph without any issue, and overtakes at those speeds better than I expected. It’s decently stable when the wind is buffeting the car too, and while road and wind noise is higher than you’d generally get in larger cars, it’s not so bad or really noticeable until you’re making a phone call via the Bluetooth system, in which case the volume has to be turned up loud to hear.

An issue I did notice was that the Kia Motor-Driven Power Steering (MDPS) felt strange at around 25 – 30 mph. It was almost like it was caught between whether to be more weighted for higher speeds or lighter for lower. In summary, turning felt a bit like mixing a bowl of porridge – gloopy and heavy at first but lighter as you get going. Weird, but aside from those speeds it’s fine.

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The 5-speed transmission gives good, positive changes and the ratios are nicely spread too. Although the max power and torque are gotten at higher revs, it doesn’t struggle below that and weirdly the engine feels turbocharged in that respect, even though it’s actually naturally-aspirated. Something I was surprised at was the amount of power the all-round disc brakes give. They’re incredibly sharp and keen for such a small car, and while I take into account the light weight (915 – 940 kg’s/2,017 – 2,072 lbs) of the Picanto, it’s not just that – they’re genuinely great, especially compared to small cars that have drums at the rear.

Overall, the 2014 Kia Picanto offers a decent combination of fun handling when you want to play, and a more  grown-up ride when you’ve got some miles to cover. While it’s classed as a city car, the Picanto 1.25 will also munch longer motorway distances rather more capably than you’d first imagine. If you do test one, try to get a section of motorway in to see what I mean.


(prices correct Nov. ’14) Our 1.2 three-door Quantum spec Picanto costs £11,895. The rest are priced between £8,145 – £12,595, although Kia usually do ‘customer saving’ offers, so always check the website and ask at the dealership for these as you can save around £500 in the process, which is the price of a metallic paint option or servicing package. A tasty bonus over the competition is that outstanding 7-year warranty on all Kia’s models.

Against its (many) rivals, it’s competitively priced. The competition consists of the Suzuki Alto, Toyota AYGO, Volkswagen up!, Seat Mii, Skoda Citigo, Hyundai i10, Chrysler Ypsilon, Alfa Romeo MiTo, Nissan Micra, MG MG3, Citroen C1, Fiat 500, Peugeot 108, Renault Twingo.

Kia Picanto 1.25 Quantum 3-door verdict & score

If you’re buying a city car, it’s for a reason: maybe you want something easy to park, your budget restricts you to one, or simply because you like tiny cars. Whatever, the 2014 Kia Picanto fulfils the brief perfectly, and it’s more than simply a car to be used in town. It’s more grown up than most, and whilst that does mean a less funky interior that some rivals, it also means it appeals to a wide spectrum of ages.

The exterior is cool, and the cabin roomier than you’d thing, well-presented, solid, decently-equipped and with nicely-chosen materials. It rides and handles decently and the 1.25 litre does the job well enough, even if you’re using it for motorway journeys, and there’s also a whole hosts of electronic driving safety aids as standard. All said, and as city cars go, the Picanto is a very good one.

Do you own a Kia Picanto? What are your views on it, and what are the best and worst points? Share your thoughts and leave a comment below!

Exterior  7.5
Interior  6.5
Engine (1.25L)  7
Gearbox  6.5
Price  7.5
Handling  6.5
Drive & Ride  6.5
Overall Score  7.0 / 10

Read more of our Kia reviews here


Model (as tested)  2014 Kia Picanto 1.25 Quantum 3-door
Spec includes  15″ alloy wheels, tinted rear glass, premium upholstery, air conditioning, ‘Hollywood’ style vanity mirror, LED running lights, LED front indicators, LED rear combination lights, electric & adjustable side mirrors, 6-speakers, Bluetooth for phone & music, USB & AUX ports, reverse sensors. Safety: ABS with EBD, BAS, ESC, VSM, CBC, HAC, front, side, & curtain airbags. See website for more details
Options you should spec  Armrest kit: £157
The Competition  Suzuki Alto, Toyota AYGO, Volkswagen up!, Seat Mii, Skoda Citigo, Hyundai i10, Chrysler Ypsilon, Alfa Romeo MiTo, Nissan Micra, MG MG3, Citroen C1, Peugeot 108, Renault Twingo
Price  (Nov. 2014) £8,145 – £12,595. Always check the Kia website for ‘customer savings’ discounts
Engine & hybrid  Engine: petrol, naturally-aspirated, 1.25 litre, 4-cylinder, 12-valve
Power, Torque  Engine: Power: 84 bhp @ 6,000 rpm | Torque: 89 lb ft (120 Nm) @ 4,000 rpm.
Drive, Gears (as tested)  Front wheel drive | 5-speed manual (as tested)
Top Speed, 0 – 60 mph, Euro NCAP  Max speed (limited): 106 mph | 0 – 62 mph: 11 seconds | Euro NCAP rating: 4-stars
Fuel economy (UK mpg), CO2   Urban: 51.4, Extra urban: 72.4, Combined: 62.8 | CO2: 106 g/km
Weight (kerb)  Min kerb: 915 – 940 kg’s (2,017 – 2,072 lbs)
Websites  Kia UK, Kia USA, Kia worldwide

Words: Chris Davies | Photography: Chris Davies, Matthew Davies

5 responses to “2014 Kia Picanto 1.25 Quantum 3-door review – Updated City Car Is a Good ‘Un”

  1. graham smith

    Purchased brand-new Quantum in 2014-overhaul-very impressed with the vehicle-and agree with your report. However, since new my vehicle has suffered from `an annoying flat-spot` when pulling away. It is worse when the `stop-start` is engaged. Advised main dealer: Wessex Garages, and they stated:” nothing wrong with vehicle”. But, as an ex-mechanic of 45 years experience- I know a flat-spot! The fault was made `even more obvious` when I was given another Picanto to `test drive`. this 2015 vehicle had just 300 miles- YET, drove perfectly!!! So, whats wrong with my vehicle? I personally think it is `an inherent fault` that KIA are aware of…yet, cant fix…so, they ignor it. Would be interesting to hear from other Quantum owners…who have the same fault….

  2. Bank of Dad (interest free loans)

    Kia obviously got most things right with the Picanto back in 2011. I recently helped my 19 year old daughter purchase her first car and we opted for a 2011 white Picanto 3. The technology was streets ahead of similar offerings from Ford (Fiesta), Vauxhall (Corsa) and Suzuki (Swift). Projection headlights, DRLs, power fold mirrors with led side indicators, led rear lights, heated front seats, auto lights with follow me home, Bluetooth with voice control, climate control, auto locking doors, power windows all round and the list goes on. 0 to 60 in 11 seconds, 50+ mpg at worst and £20.00 road tax. Also the car wasn’t quite four years old so we had more remaining warranty than a new car from any of the other manufacturers. All this went over my daughter’s head at the time but after a few months she appreciated every little feature. I’m 6ft and 17 stone (should be 15, still working on that) and space is very reasonable, I can sit behind myself after I have set the driver’s seat. A year on and no issues. The car still looks fresh which is testament to Kia’s chief designer Peter Schreyer.

  3. Bank of Dad (interest free loans)

    Me again, just read the ‘flat spot’ comment by Graham Smith. In my opinion the Picanto 1.25 petrol engine has been tuned for low down torque, you can easily pull away in second gear. It’s more than happy to take 5th gear at 30mph on the flat and will pick up nicely from there. The ‘flat spot’ may be the hand over from torque to power in the rev range. If you rev the butt off the thing it takes off with gusto but you need to keep high up on the tachometer. So you have the choice of low down torque with short gear changing for economy or you can go full ‘Hamilton’ if your not worried about your average MPG. Not a technical observation with any data just my humble opinion 🙂 Was the loaner a 1.0 litre, three cylinder model?

  4. graham smith

    To the `Bank of Dad`- yes the loan vehicle was the 3 cylinder model- which KIA have `sorted` as it drives perfectly! However, I have just had my Picanto Quantum `diagnostically tested`by an independant expert (who contributes to a famous motoring mag` on diagnostic issues) and he concludes: ” found the engine would initially become very lean in fuel mixture during certain throttle angles”…and goes on to say.. “due to closed loop fueling ther are no adjustments that could alleviate this condition as the overhaul software map would need to be altered to improve drivability. I suspect as the engine covers more mileage, the symptoms of flat-spots and light throttle stumbling could in fact become worse”. Therefore, it appears `low down torque` and safe drivability has been sacrificed for `low emissions` and a low tax band! N/B if you drive it “like Hamilton” will KIA honour their warranty? `when you burn-out the clutch` to compensate for an inherent software fault that `makes the car unsafe`….twice- I have someone nearly rear-end me when I have `pulled-away`…despite sufficient revs…the engine has stalled!!! On a final note KIA UK and the Garage conceerned have been “made aware” of this inherent fault (as they have a copy of the Report) but, so far are refusing to do anything about it (?) Would you let your daughter drive a vehicle- that can stall at any time?(despite ample revs) Especially when pulling out in to `fast moving traffic`??? Believe me…..its bloody scary! And this has been `a problem since new`. Would you `put-up-with-it` -when you have paid over £12,000 for a brand new car?

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