Grab it while it lasts. Sadly, that is the situation for the pocket-sized 2023 Kia Picanto GT. In its current form, the sporty variant of the micro-car will be the last, as Kia Australia announced there is no direct replacement for the 1.0-litre turbo-triple GT for the MY24 facelift.
So, we are performing a final lap in the GT to find out whether it will be missed, or remembered as another pint-sized pretender.
2023 Kia Picanto GT: Specifications
Engine: 1.0-litre turbo three-cylinder
Output: 74kW@4500rpm / 172Nm@1500-4000rpm
Gearbox: Five-speed manual
Drive type: Front-wheel drive
Wheels: F & R: 16×6.5, 195/45
ANCAP: Four stars
Tare weight: 1012kg
Power-to-weight: 13.67:1 (kg:kW)
Official consumption: 5.2L/100km
Our consumption: 5.2L/100km
Fuel tank/Fuel type: 35L/91 RONPower efficiency: 14.23kW:L/100km
0-60km/h: 4.76 seconds*
0-100km/h: 10.75 seconds*
60-110km/h: 7.93 seconds*
1/4 mile: 17.56 seconds at 131.1km/h*
Max acceleration: 0.597g*
100-0km/h braking: 39.13m in 3.01 seconds*
Max deceleration: -1.127g*
Decibel at idle: 41*
Peak decibel at 60-100km/h: 76*
Starting price: $20,790
*Figures as tested by Driving Enthusiast on the day. Manufacturers’ claims may be different
2023 Kia Picanto GT: How much does it cost?
Starting from about $4k more than the base model Picanto, the GT manual struts an affordable price for those who want something with a little more zest and character. It retails from $20,790 (excluding on-road costs).
It is the only variant that scores the fun-filled 1.0-litre turbo three-cylinder engine. In fact, the Suzuki Swift’s turbo three-cylinder is the only other offering with similar credentials. Though, it is $9k more expensive.
The Picanto’s common competitors are the Suzuki Swift, MG3 and Mazda2. The base models of all are a similar price to the top-spec Picanto GT. We think it represents great value.
2023 Kia Picanto GT: Interior & packaging
Slipping into the Picanto GT’s cabin feels like squeezing into your favourite pair of jeans – snug, but with a sense of familiarity. The interior, though not too opulent, exhibits a commendable level of quality for its class. Sporty touches, like contrasting red stitching and red panels on the seats give the GT a distinct edge over its more mundane siblings.
However, there is an obvious caveat to this compact charm. If you’re generously proportioned or planning a weekend road trip with friends, the Picanto’s snug dimensions might leave you longing for more breathing space. Surprisingly, there is a practical centre console layout for its size. Cutouts are moulded into the plastics so items can be stowed.
Rear-seat legroom is best described as cosy, though, with generous head room thanks to a tall roofline. Boot space is modest width and breadth ways. But it is deep and tall, due to that upright rear. At 255 litres, it makes for a bigger boot than the Mazda2’s 250L, the Suzuki Swift’s 242L, but smaller than the MG3’s 307L. Folding down the 60:40 split rear seats will open your space to 1010L. The size will either be a sacrifice you make for the compact footprint, or a perfect match for city dwellers where small cars are an advantage.
Externally, the facelift is due. The design has dated a tad, but it still gets away with some contrasting black and polished silver look surrounds, a GT-exclusive bodykit, twin exhaust tip style diffuser section, eye-catching fog lights and four-prong LEDs in the headlights, and that cute upright and petite silhouette.
All Picantos come standard with a six-speaker stereo, an 8.0-inch centre touch-screen with wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, a partially digital 4.2-inch instrument cluster, cruise control, auto headlights, auto emergency braking, forward collision warning, rear parking sensors, and tiny 14-inch steel wheels with a space saver spare.
Upgrading to the GT not only rewards you with a spicier engine, but you also receive that front centre armrest, LED taillights, electric-folding and heated side mirrors, sports tuned suspension, and 16-inch alloy wheels. There are a number of important safety features omitted, resulting in a four-star ANCAP safety rating. Higher levels of safety are expected to come through in the facelift.
All Picantos are sold with Kia’s famous seven-year, unlimited kilometre warranty, and 12 months of free roadside assistance. Servicing is required more regularly than most, at 10,000km or 12 months, whichever comes first. Capped-price servicing is also available when you service the Picanto at a Kia service centre. The first seven services will cost $287, $469, $365, $513, $323, $610, then $591
2023 Kia Picanto GT: Powertrain & handling
The sad aspect we say goodbye to is the unique 1.0-litre, turbo three-cylinder petrol engine. It squeezes out 74kW at a low 4500rpm and 172Nm of torque from 1500rpm to 4000rpm. Those outputs don’t seem like much, but with a weight of only 1012kg (tare), getting up to speed is a fun, spirited and lively feeling.
Being a three-cylinder, the magic spot is in a different place to where you might think it is. It feels torquey right from the get-go and the angry sound of three explosions per revolution makes you feel you’re going places with haste. Getting the revs higher only brings out more sparkle. We tested 0-100km/h in a best of 10.75 seconds, but we have tested 9.7 on the old PD channel.
Exclusively matched to a five-speed manual gearbox gives the Picanto GT a wonderfully interactive and down-to-earth driving feel. It’s a great feeling to get back into a car where you feel so connected to the road again. Six gears are usually the standard nowadays, but the five gears offered here blend with the engine well; and with one less interruption to power flow. Because there are only five gears, each gear feels quite tall. But given there is access to full torque low in the range (from 1500rpm), lazy gear selections are more forgiving. The operation of the gearbox and clutch feel is delightfully smooth.
Your hip pocket will thank you if you own a Picanto GT. It officially burns an average of just 5.2L/100km. It is also one of the few cars that gave us the same average as the advertised number during our real-world testing. Add to that, it does not require the more expensive 95 RON fuel, either – it happily runs on the cheaper E10 ethanol blended fuel. A perfect match for drivers who have a tight budget.
Life is easy behind the wheel of the Picanto GT. Because of its size, parking it or navigating through a tight city street is a breeze. The steering is also light but direct, and appropriately weighty at higher speeds.
MacPherson struts make up the front suspension, and a coupled torsion beam axle is set up at the rear. We think the ride is fairly well cushioned to remove the sudden jarring of sharp bumps. But you do feel plenty of shake-up inside due to its tiny wheelbase, minus the sudden jolts. Handling is not ground-breaking to the levels of a hot-hatch label, but it goes far enough to match the same level of sportiness and fun as the powertrain.
2023 Kia Picanto GT: Key attractions/reasons to buy
- Powertrain: Fun, down-to-earth, and interactive
- Small proportions: So simple to drive and park
- Economy: Affordable to buy and low fuel consumption
- Surprisingly practical: Even though it’s a micro-car, it’s still easy to live – taller headroom than most, and practical centre console.
- Connectivity: Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
2023 Kia Picanto GT: Key considerations before you buy
- No auto: The amount of learner drivers not opting for a manual licence is sadly high and growing, limiting the GT’s market reach.
- 4-star ANCAP: Safety features list and related technology need replenishing
- Gone: GT grade soon to be phased out in Australia – there is likely only a limited number still available
2023 Kia Picanto GT: Video
How does it rate against its rivals?
We wish it weren’t the case but the Picanto GT is being phased out as we speak. It is a brilliant little budget car with enough added pep to encourage you to go for a drive just for fun. Yes, it’s small. But most buyers will be buying this car as they want something cheap, fun and easy to manoeuvre. And it executes those traits wonderfully.