Kia’s sales have steadily increased year on year as the “cheap and cheerful” tag gives way to a“quality and value” moniker. Although the micro car segment has been stagnant, some passenger car sectors have gone backwards in a dramatic turn to SUV preferences. Kia’s growth puts it ahead of 10th place holder, Subaru, and is now in 9th place with 16,993 vehicles sold this year. The industry is down slightly overall. 83,135 sales last month is down by 4,436 vehicles this time last year. Picanto is the top selling micro car with 985 sales this year, which is a huge 40.7% of the market. Kia introduced their mirco car near the end of its life cycle to test the waters, and hasn’t it done well?

all-new-KIA-Picanto-GayCarBoys (1)This bring us neatly to the local launch of the new model.

Kia chose the sunny Queensland seaside resort village of Noosa Heads to debut their new baby city car.

This new offering closely follows the lines of the outgoing model. It makes current owners a bit less down-hearted to see the exteriors looking so similar, until they look inside where it is all shiny and new. Kia has done this before, with both SOUL and Optima looking more like a natural evolution of the previous models, rather than radical new directions. The new interior however, is a complete rethink, and is a cracking effort.

Picanto has grown slightly to increase cabin space without drastically sacrificing one of the things people would by a city car for: diminutive external proportions. Although the length and width are the same as the old model, the new car is 5mm higher and has an extra 15mm in the wheelbase. Along with an extra 10mm of rear overhang, the cabin feels roomier because it is. The luggage space is now 255L, up 55L, and the max cargo space will carry an extra 140L with the seats down. 1010L is a big ask for such a small car, and is an awful lot of Boxing Day shopping.

It sits on a brand-new platform which is lighter, and tighter. Its added rigidity means it has roller-skate-like handling even when pushed hard. Although the aging engine/transmission has been around for an age, the suspension has had the laying-on of hands by local Guru, Graham Gambold. The previous model was pretty good, but had inherited the overseas handling setup, which apparently, is too soft for harsh antipodean conditions. The ZF Sachs shockers do a decent job of soaking up years of neglect on the Aussie backroads.

They’ve fiddled with the electric steering to improve the 32bit processor’s response. That means a better steering feel.

The 62KW power plant pumps a palm sweating 122Nm through the (revised) 4 speed auto, to bring the Picanto to 100kph before you can say “John Robinson,” and all the other names of those on board the Jupiter II. Speed is not her forte, but it isn’t meant to be, so calm down! I’d get the utterly delightful 5-speed manual if I was buying one with my own money. It is so light and easy, it almost feels like an auto.

Kia claims the new look is more youthful, but that marketing is wasted on me, so let’s get to the meat and potatoes.

A few key points come in the form of cabin design and appointments.

With extra soundproofing, more adhesive, and improved welds, the passengers will notice less noise. The HVAC system is quieter too. Kia has even changed the engine mounts to isolate the cabin even more. Keep in mind, this is Kia’s cheapest car. Kia didn’t exactly shout it out loud, but you should be able to get the manual on the road for about 14 grand with some judicious bargaining. Won’t the salesmen just love that?

The 7” tablet-style centre screen floats gently on top of the centre of the dash board. It has a nice look and feel and comes s