Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Review: Kia Picanto Domino

Kia is hoping to take advantage of the Domino effect with its latest Picanto special edition. Steve Walker takes a look.

Kia Picanto Domino

Dominoes don’t really capture the imagination of the British like they do peoples from other parts of the world.

Visit Latin America or any Caribbean island and bar rooms reverberate to the triumphant thwack of spotted tiles being slammed onto tables and hum with the bravado of high stakes domino matches in full swing. On these shores, we’re more inclined to line them all up on their ends and knock them over again. Of course, the novelty of the ‘domino rally’ soon wears off once the family cat has intervened for the umpteenth time, prematurely triggering your painstakingly assembled display. Perhaps the special edition Kia Picanto Domino will catch on more strongly than its namesake from the compendium of games.

The Picanto is Kia’s citycar, an honest and straightforward small car from the lower end of the market that attracts customers with its keen pricing. The Domino is a special edition version of the Picanto that’s so called because of its distinctive Black and White colour scheme. There’s more than monotone to this little Kia, though. Increased specifications and decreased prices bring the value for money angle into sharper focus.

It’s the 1.1-litre engine takes pride of place in the Picanto Domino: that’s as opposed to the entry-level 1.0-litre unit. This might be the most powerful unit Kia offers with its citycar but don’t watch the rear view mirror for twin lines of flaming tarmac as you scorch up the road. The 64bhp engine can get the Picanto to 60mph in 15.4s, with a 96bhp top speed attainable with the right prevailing wind. It’s not fast and there’s an automatic gearbox option which slows the 0-60mph stroll to 17.9s. It’s best to avoid that unless your driving takes place exclusively in the grip of the worst city traffic.

"it’s still a functional and appealing vehicle, particularly at the prices Kia is asking"

The Picanto is nimble enough to cope in heavily congested areas with light steering and a good turning circle. On the open road, the questionable ride quality is exposed by flaws in the road surface and the engine does grow a little noisy when worked hard. Take to the motorway and you’ll need to work it hard as well, though the little Kia can cope with longer journeys so long as you’re not expecting the last word in comfort.

The point of the Domino models is the distinctive black and white colour scheme but which bits are black and which are white is entirely up to the buyers. The basic Picanto Domino can be ordered with metallic white or metallic black paint then there’s the option of a roof stripe in black or white to contrast with the bodywork.

As befits a car with a high roofline, the Picanto’s headroom is an impressive 1,003mm up front and 996mm in the rear which means that there’s ample space for taller drivers. Front legroom is also very good thanks to the compact engine, with 1,041mm up front and up to 872mm in the rear. With 19 storage areas dotted about the cabin, Kia did its homework when it comes to sheer utility, learning lessons from its popular MPV models.

It would be unreasonable to expect a huge amount of luggage space given the car’s urban remit, and the 157 litres of available room won’t make the Picanto your first choice for a trip to IKEA. Fold the seats flat and there’s a reasonable 882 litres of space but you’ll struggle for length. The 60/40 split rear seat back offers a little extra carrying space if you’re travelling with three on board.

The equipment list for the Picanto Domino doesn’t put you in mind of a £8,000 city car: it’s far more salubrious than that. The special edition is based on the ‘2’ trim from the everyday Picanto range and includes air-conditioning, an iPod connection for the stereo, remote central locking and leather coverings for the steering wheel and gearknob. Total up all the equipment and other extras and the Domino represents a 400 saving over a standard 1.1-litre Picanto 2.

Kia haven’t cut any corners when it comes to safety, the Picanto featuring not only anti lock brakes but load sensitive electronic brake force distribution as well. ABS and EBD can only do so much if the brakes themselves aren’t up to the task, but rather unusually for this class of car, the Picanto features disc brakes all round. It’s also equipped with steel side impact protection beams in the doors, reinforced rear bumpers, child locks on the rear pair of doors and five three-point seat belts. The crowning glory is the ESP stability control that’s now standard on all models.

One of the biggest draws attracting customers to any Kia product at the moment is the manufacturer’s outstanding seven-year warranty package. It’s a remarkable offer on a low budget car like the Picanto Domino and should bring advantages in terms of peace of mind as well as tangible financial gains. It’s also a mark of the faith Kia has in its model range.

Economy is obviously far more important than raw pace in a car of this nature and the 1.1-litre model’s 58.8mpg is a decent showing. With its 35 litre fuel tank, the car will manage up to 435 miles between refuels and given the typically short journeys that many citycars undertake, you’ll remain a stranger your local petrol station.

One of the strengths of Kia’s diminutive Picanto citycar is its diminutive price tag but in special edition Domino form, it gets even more affordable in combination with a trendy black and white colour scheme. Equipment levels are enhanced as well, giving the car a more upmarket feel and with Kia’s seven-year warranty thrown in, the Picanto package has rarely looked more appetising.

The Picanto might lack many of the bells and whistles found on modern citycars and some of the design flair too, but it’s still a functional and appealing vehicle, particularly at the prices Kia is asking. The engines lack punch and the ride can be unsettled over bad surfaces but the car’s roomy five-door body is a bonus for passengers and it couldn’t be much easier to drive.

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