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By Charl Bosch

Motoring Journalist

Kia Picanto goes aggressive with Sportage derived refresh

An announcement regarding the updated Picanto's South African future is expected within the coming months.

UPDATED: Kia South Africa has confirmed that the Picanto will become “available in in due course” , but didn’t specify as to exactly when.

Marking its sixth birthday in 2023, Kia has taken the wraps off of the updated Picanto to reveal the most dramatic revision ever applied over the city car’s three generations.

Sportage touch

Showcased in South Korea just over two years after its initial mid-life overhaul, the Picanto now conforms to the Opposites United styling language and although dimensionally unchanged, mirrors the new Sportage from a design standpoint.

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Unveiled in range-topping GT Line guise, the external revisions comprise a reshaped tiger nose grille, L-shaped headlights fitted with LEDs as an option, a new front bumper and on base models, 14-inch steel wheels replaced by new 15-inch alloys on higher-end derivatives.

Turn-of-face updated Kia Picanto revealed
Rear facia has also received a number of tweaks. Image: Kia.

At the rear, the wraparound effect continues as the taillight clusters have been reworked to include a LED light bar beneath the window line. A redesigned bumper completes the updates.

As before, the GT Line receives sportier bumpers and extended door sills, a first time faux rear diffuser, model bespoke 16-inch diamond-cut alloy wheels, chrome detailing above the grille between the headlights, a rectangular lower air intake and body coloured inserts on the bumper itself.

Small changes inside and underneath

Inside, the adaptions take a keener eye to spot as the overall design and layout of the cabin appears unchanged on first glance.

The new additions come in the shape of the eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system that receives both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and the replacing of the analogue instrument cluster with a new digital arrangement on pricier models.

Turn-of-face updated Kia Picanto revealed
Interior has not been as extensively updated as the exterior. Image: Kia

On the safety side, and again depending on the trim level, the Picanto’s available items comprise upgraded Forward Collision Avoidance Assist and Blind Spot Collision Avoidance, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Driver Attention Warning, Lane Keep Assist, Leading Vehicle Departure Alert, Lane Following Assist, Cornering Brake Control, Hill Start Assist and torque vectoring, the latter another Picanto first.

Somewhat surprisingly, Kia has also made several changes to and underneath the Picanto’s skin, namely strengthening the B-pillar and sub-frame using hot stamped metal, and tweaking the electronic power steering for improved feedback and response.

Petrol and petrol only

Up front, Kia has opted against introducing any kind of electrification most likely as a result of the Picanto’s platform not being able to accept it without a complete redesign.

As such, both the normally aspirated 1.0-litre three-cylinder and 1.2-litre four-cylinder petrol engines are carried over paired to either a five-speed manual gearbox, or a five-speed automated manual (AMT).

While Kia didn’t release any technical details, apart from confirming improved efficiency thanks to better exhaust gas recirculation and improved intake valve timing, expectations are the former will continue to produce unchanged 49kW/96Nm and the latter 62kW/118Nm.

Still to be confirmed is whether the GT Line will keep the 1.0 T-GDI still being used in the sister Hyundai i10 rated at 74kW/172Nm.

Equally as unknown as whether Kia will retain the crossover-inspired X-Line aimed at the new Toyota Aygo X.

South Africa awaits

Going on-sale in Europe before the end of the year, the facelift Picanto hasn’t yet been confirmed for South Africa, but expect it to debut either before year-end or in early-2024 as a result of its importance to the marque’s local subsidiary.

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