Road Impressions – Kia Picanto 1.2 Smart

As one of its most successful models ever – with the outgoing generation having sold more than 1,4-million units worldwide – the Kia Picanto is something of a stalwart in the ‘A’ segment of the market and the new, third generation, ups the ante.

As with all Kia new model designs since Peter Schreyer took over as head of design, the look has concentrated on a global appeal – and the latest generation is a collaboration between the design centres in Korea and Germany.

With the wheelbase extended to 2 400 mm (an increase of 15 mm), the wheels have been pushed further out to the corners for a 25 mm shorter front overhang, making the car look more planted on the road. Strong, straight lines run horizontally across the front of the car, emphasising the ‘tiger-nose’ grille and angular new wrap-around headlamps. Vertical lines that encompass the side intakes and lower grille enhance the Picanto’s more confident new ‘face’.

In profile, the new Picanto is characterised by distinctive lines running along the side skirts, shoulder and around the wheel arches, although, at 3 595 mm in length, the Picanto is no longer than the outgoing model.

Exterior styling needs to complemented by underbody engineering and I, fortunately, have an intimate knoweldge of this from the previous generation after being involved in a violent crash in a rented car when a ‘bakkie’ pulled out suddenly from a side road, leaving me no room or time to avoid T-boning him.

Other than monstrous bruising and aching muscles from the safety belts, neither of us in the car at the time had knee contact with the dashboard or head contact with any part of the car. The Picanto was a write-off, but the impressive part was the fact all doors opened – ie the safety cell did its job properley.

This happened at a time when perceptions tended to go against the build quality of Korean vehicles on the South African market compared to more established Japanese offerings.

It certainly changed mine.

With a stronger body than ever before, 44% of the new Picanto’s bodyshell is cast in AHSS (up from 22%), while improving tensile strength by 12%. The new, stronger steel has been used to reinforce the floor pan, roof rails and engine bay, as well as the A and B-pillars, strengthening the core structure of the car.

The new bodyshell also uses more than eight times the quantity of structural adhesive found in the outgoing model (67 metres of joins throughout the structure are now reinforced with the adhesive). Overall, static torsional stiffness has been improved by 32%.

With the new car,  the suspension – independent by MacPherson strut at the front and torsion beam at the rear – changes were made to reduce the body roll angle under cornering by up to 1° and enable more immediate reactions to steering inputs.

The Picanto’s anti-roll bars are 2% stiffer and mounted slightly lower at the front and 5% stiffer and slightly higher at the rear. The Picanto’s revised dimensions – with a longer wheelbase and slightly shorter front overhang – also enable the pitch centre of the car to be placed further towards the rear of the car, helping to naturally reduce ‘nose dive’ under braking without firming up the suspension and potentially compromising ride comfort.

In addition, the longer wheelbase contributes to a natural improvement in ride quality and stability on all roads. The torsion beam rear axle has been reshaped and features newly designed trailing arms, helping to reduce weight by 1,8 kg over the rear axle with no loss in component rigidity.

A new rack for the column-mounted motor-driven power steering means the steering ratio has been quickened by 13% over the outgoing Picanto, from 16.5:1 to 14.3:1. Not only does this enable more immediate responses to driver inputs, but reduces the turns of the wheel lock-to-lock (from 3,4 to 2,8 turns).

The nett result of this is a a much more go-kart type of feel along with more solid high-speed cornering and a genuine point-and-squirt going through the twisty bits. Front end ‘plough-on’ is reduced and there is less feel – fear! – the shortish wheelbase might inspire unexpected end swopping.

Inside, the dashboard is now more centrally aligned, with a large ‘floating’ HMI (human-machine interface) sitting at the heart of the centre console and moving many of the car’s controls further up into the driver’s line of sight.

The base of the dashboard has been moved upwards by 15 mm for greater knee and leg space for front passengers.

High specification models, such as our top of the line Smart,  are fitted as standard with two-tone black and grey leather upholstery.

The boot grows from 200 litres (VDA) to a maximum 255 litres and is available with a two-step boot floor, which can be raised or lowered by 145 mm to create additional space as required, as well as create an under-floor storage area.

The rear seat bench can be folded down with a one-touch lever for maximum ease of use, boosting cargo capacity to 1,010 litres.

Powering the Picanto Smart is a four-cylinder 1,25-litre MPI engine that produces peak power of 61 kW and 122 Nm of torque.

While not designed to break land speed records, the Picanto is more than just a city car and the willing engine will hold its own on any highway, cruising comfortably with far fewer downshifts needed to cope with undulations than some other vehicles in this class.

Using similar materials to those found in the luxury Optima, the Picanto seats are now more comfortable and more supportive, making long journeys much less intimidating.

With anti-lock braking as well as a driver and passenger air bag,  the Picanto is also safer than ever before!

Top of the range Picanto Smart models have bi-function projection headlights, LED daytime running lights, LED rear combination lights, electrically-folding, heated side mirrors with integrated LED indicator lamps, aluminium pedals, two-tone cloth and leather upholstery, a leather-upholstered steering wheel and gear knob, the 7-inch full colour infotainment system, Bluetooth with Voice Recognition and a Rear Park Distance Control system with integrated Reverse Camera with dynamic guidelines.

It comes with a 5-year / Unlimited Kilometre Warranty, inclusive of 3-years / Unlimited Kilometres Roadside Assistance, as standard. A service is available as an option through KIA Financial Services.

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RoadImpressions – Kia Rio 1.4 TEC

Possibly the most excruciatingly boring drive in the country is the 600-odd kilometres between Durban and Johannesburg on the N3, monitored as it is by 35 or so fixed camera speed traps, a herd of ‘average speed camera zones’ at least five manned radar gun traps and an ever-increasing stretches limited to 100 km/h or less.

I fully understand the notion when people do not want to save themselves; sometimes you have to do it for them. Equally, I fully support road safety and, given the parlous state of many of the trucks on our roads, recognise the need to have huge restraint on Van Reenen’s Pass, Field’s Hill and Town Hill.

However, the rather hefty toll fees paid for the privilege of driving on what is supposed to be the premier arterial motorway in the country is losing its lustre as it is no longer seamless, swift or pleasant – I mean, 100 km/h all the way from Warden to the other side of Harrismith!

Worse still are the manned speed traps – offering nothing whatsoever to the notion of road safety, these are nothing more than money earners. The fixed traps should release traffic officers to patrol the highway and to mitigate incidents by stopping unroadworthy vehicles before they barrel down one of the hills destroying everything in their path.

Armed with a Kio Rio 1.4 TEC manual, I drove up the hill from Durban to the heady heights of Johannesburg at 1 753 metres above sea level and then back down to sea level again with the cruise control activated wherever possible.

It simply is impossible to modulate control of the throttle to keep within the limits of the law for such long periods – cruise control is a must. Also, with the sound cranked up it alleviates some of the tedium with games such as ‘when will that truck pull out to overtake the other one moving at walking pace and how many gears will I need to drop down’ also taking up some of the slow-passing time.

The sound system in the Rio TEC is up to the task with six speakers in play. Not quite concert levels but enough to blow the cobwebs away.

Since the trip is almost an enforced economy run, consumption watching forms part of the mix and the 6,5 l/100 km achieved on the uphill run at an average of 94 km/h was only marginally more than the 6,2 /100 km recorded on the downhill return at the same average speed.

The new, fourth-generation Rio is defined by straight lines and smooth surfacing, giving the car a distinctive new look and more mature character than its predecessor.

At the front is the latest evolution of Kia’s ‘tiger-nose’ grille, now thinner in height and wider across the front of the car, with a gloss black grille mesh and surround. The grille is integrated with the newly designed headlamps, featuring a new U-shaped LED daytime running light signature.

In profile, the lengthened, more balanced stance is achieved with a long bonnet and longer front overhang, a 10 mm longer wheelbase (up to 2 580 mm), a thinner, more upright C-pillar, and a shorter rear overhang. Overall, the new car is 15 mm longer than its predecessor (4 065 mm in length) and 5 mm lower (now 1 450 mm tall). Straight, clearly defined lines run down the full length of the car’s shoulder and along its doors, further stretching the appearance of the car for a more confident look.

The rear section of the Rio is now more upright, with a near-vertical rear windscreen. The straight line that runs from the grille, through the headlamps and along the top of the doors, continues around the back of the car, paired with thinner, more sculpted rear lamps. High specification models are available with LED taillights with a new arrow-shaped light signature.

Inside, the dashboard is angled towards the driver. At the centre is a ‘floating’ HMI (human-machine interface) with a new 7-inch Touch Screen infotainment system. Below the infotainment system, the driver-oriented centre console features fewer buttons, with more ergonomic, concave switches and rotator dials below to control the heating and ventilation.

Convenience items on the TEC include power windows, electrically controlled door mirrors, automatic headlamps, rain-sensing windscreen wipers and a Rear Park Assist System with reverse camera.

New dashboard soundproofing materials have been adopted to reduce engine noise levels in the front of the cabin, while a stiffer front sub frame minimises vibrations from poor road surfaces.

In the silences between songs, I was impressed with the low levels of travel noise intruding into the cabin.

The Rio’s 10 mm longer wheelbase and 15 mm longer body contribute to larger cabin and cargo area dimensions. Legroom grows to 1 070 mm in the front and 850 mm in the rear, achieved with a series of changes to the Rio’s packaging. These include re-profiled door trims, the adoption of new headlining materials and changes to the shape of the dashboard.

Luggage capacity is increased by 37 litres to 325 litres. The uphill journey involved both a wife and a niece on holiday from the UK – and all the luggage plus laptops and etcetera fitted in the boot, a huge plus for a car in this market segment.

The 1,4-litre engine produces 74 kW at 6 300 r/min and 135 Nm torque at 4 200 r/min driving through a six-speed manual transmission.

Compared to what some other manufacturers are achieving with small capacity engines, the Rio’s power plant comes across as being a tad weak. While never intended to be a robot-to-robot dragster, the engines runs out of breath quite quickly.

Gear ratios inclined towards fuel efficiency also mean it has to be ‘rowed’ up hills with two to three downshifts needed when cruising momentum is interrupted. That said, it is hardly a mobile chicane.

One of the downsides of some cars in this segment is the lack of comfort and support from the seats, usually because of thinner padding and the like to keep the cost down. The Rio is more than comfortable and supportive enough over the long haul to minimise fatigue.

The steering is light enough for comfort but responsive and accurate when needed and does not mind been thrown around fairly vigorously, staying mainly neutral and easing into predictable understeer.

The increased application of advanced high strength steel has strengthened the passenger cabin ‘cell’ for greater occupant safety and more effective distribution of impact forces. The stronger steel has been used to reinforce the A and B-pillars, as well as side sills, roof structure, engine bay and floor pan.

Along with driver’s and passenger’s air bags (including side and curtain air bags in the TEC model), the new Rio features front seatbelt pre-tensioners with load limiters, side door impact beams front and rear, child locks, and impact sensing door unlocking. ISOFIX child seat anchors are standard across the range, as is anti-lock braking.

The Rio sits on fully independent MacPherson strut front suspension and a coupled torsion beam rear axle. It benefits from a revised spring and damper set-up noticeably improving the car’s compliance and comfort at all speeds.

A new front suspension system features a more rigid cross member and struts, while the rear shock absorbers are mounted more vertically, absorbing shocks better to improve ride comfort and stability.

The Kia Rio come with a 5-year / unlimited kilometre Warranty, inclusive of 5-years / Unlimited Kilometres Roadside Assistance as well as a 4-year / 60 000 km Service Plan.

KEY FACTS

 

Engine Type In-line 4 cyl, 16 valve DOHC CVVT
Displacement (cc) 1 396
Fuel supply system Multi Point Injection (MPI)
Max Power (kW @ rpm) 74/6300
Max Torque (Nm @ rpm) 135/4200
Compression Ratio 10.5 : 1
Bore and Stroke (mm) 74 x 74.99
Acceleration (0-100km/h) 11.5
Maximum speed (km/h) 176
CO2 emissions (g/km) 137

 

 

New thinking, really!

SEOUL, Korea– Hyundai is changing. Actually, the change is well under way. Moving from a new automaker bent on building sales in export markets, Hyundai has evolved its thinking to being qualitative rather than quantitative and is no longer chasing a goal of being the biggest car maker in the world – just the best loved.

Enshrined within its current ‘tag line’ of ‘New Thinking. New Possibilities.’ is a broad spectrum of directional shifts not limited only to the cars being produced by the company, but also to the way in which the cars are being manufactured.

As the only motor manufacturer in the world with its own steel plant, the changes – much linked to ensuring environmental concerns are met – are evident in the costly, but effective fully enclosed raw material preparation facilities where the iron ore (10% of which is imported from South Africa) is processed before going to the furnace. Enclosed in massive geodesic domes, the pollution from dust is drastically reduced during the crushing process.

The steel factory also recycles all water, generates its own electricity and has its own sewage plant, converting human waste into industrial use water for the cooling processes as thousands of tons of iron ore is converted into the rolled and sheet steel gobbled up by the manufacturing plants within Korea at Ulsan, Asan and Jeonju.

As a point of reference – the Ulsan plant is the largest single auto plant in the world and produced 1,5-million cars last year.

Total investment in the plant came to $9,48-billion and the new blast furnace due to come on line shortly will increase total steel production from all centres (Dangjin, Pohung and Incheon) to 24-million tons a year.

“We work ceaselessly for customer satisfaction and will open new roads with new initiatives. Hyundai Motor Company will stand at the forefront of the global motor industry,” says Chairman and CEO Chung Mong-Koo.

“New ideas create new values. We will respond to the fast-changing international management environment by constructing a system for organic cooperation between production factory and sales headquarters in each country worldwide, strengthening quality management and expanding research and development in eco-friendly vehicles.”

Hyundai Motor Company was established in 1967 and a year later signed a licensing agreement for the CKD assembly of the Ford Cortina. In 1974 the Turin Motor Show hosted the launch of the Pony, Hyundai’s first proprietary car. In 1986 it entered the US market with the Excel and launched the first generation Grandeur (Azera) in Korea, followed by Sonata two years later.

The company’s first in-house engine was launched in 1991 and the same year it developed the electric Sonata. In 1996 the Asan plant came on stream, the Tiburon was launched and in 1998 it acquired Kia Motors leading to the formation of Hyundai Motor Group in 2000. In 2002 the Irvine, USA, design and technical centre opened followed in 2003 by one in Russelsheim, Germany. In 2008 the Tau engine was launched along with the Genesis, a second plant in India and in 2010 it achieved more than 5% of global market share.

A new plant is under construction in Brazil and, while consideration for a South African facility is not on the cards, it certainly is not off the list of future possibilities. Hyundai in South Africa is distributed by Hyundai South Africa, part of the AMH Group, but Hyundai has distributor agreements in all African countries with a small SKD plant in Egypt.

Hyundai’s growing spread of vehicle offerings from passenger cars through SUV, MPV and commercials (including its own specialist luxury brand, Equus) face tough competition in a world gripped by eco-fever where more for less is paramount, safety and low emissions absolutes.
Hyundai has established R&D centres at various places around the world, but this does not stop the ongoing work at Namyang, which features a 70-kilometre test track, 34 types of road and 71 different road surfaces from undertaking extensive new product development, engine design and safety testing.

The Namyang facility includes a complete production facility where vehicles can be built from scratch, tested and sometimes destroyed in the massive crash test facility where I witnessed a brand new Azera take on a 50 km/h side-impact.

On site is a huge wind tunnel along with rain/snow/heat chambers, acoustic testing and electronic interference testing and laboratories for the development of new in-car systems, infotainment and safety items.

Part of this includes development of hybrid vehicles, electric vehicles and fuel cell vehicles – some of which Hyundai has already released into world markets with the infrastructure capable of sustaining them and, should South Africa move towards making recharging facilities available, it would also become a consideration for Hyundai South Africa.

“South Africa is an important market for Hyundai even though it currently accounts for only around 1% of our global sales,” says William Lee, Executive Vice-President of Overseas Sales. “We see the market in South Africa growing and Hyundai wants to be a big part of that.”

For South Africa, managing director Alan Ross is confident Hyundai can increase its footprint during 2012 providing world demand (and Hyundai is expecting to sell more than 4-million units this year) does not limit stock availability to our market.

“There were some stock issues last year and we could certainly have sold more,” he says.