Thursday, 30 May 2013 8:24 AM
There is a common thread in literature, art and design. That is that ideas are borrowed and then reinvented, sculpted into a new and unique offering.
Artists are a good example of this. Take Robert E. Wells and David Farren, for instance. They both paint landscapes, cityscapes and street scenes in a similar impressionistic style.
Their work draws inspiration from the great French painters like Monet and Renoir, who introduced this approach in the 19th century. Clearly, the actress Felicity Kendal appreciates this style because pictures by both Wells and Farren can be found in her private collection. So it goes to show that just because that genre already existed it is perfectly acceptable to revisit and craft it into something equally, if not, more appealing.
This approach is popular in car design, too.
Look at the side of the new Kia Picanto, city car. What do you see? It’s an Alfa Romeo, surely. The whole design reminds me of the Alfa 147. Chrome door handles, favoured by the Italian manufacturer, further add to this opinion. Like with my thoughts about art, this is no bad thing. The Alfa 147 was an attractive little car but it was a temperamental Italian. It was calling out to be rediscovered and enhanced. This observation goes to show how far Kia has come in the space of a decade. Consider that this Korean car maker produced the bland and characterless Kia Pride between 1986 and 2000 with hardly a change in its styling (if you can call it that) during that long period and it is surprising and welcoming to see the change that has taken place.
The tiny Picanto is up against tough competition from the Smart Car and the Renault Twingo. In this sector though, it’s all about the money and Kia blows the competition away with its £10,245 OTR price, which includes air conditioning, electrically operated windows and wing mirrors as you can see in the video at testdrives.biz. The piece de resistance is a seven year 100,000 mile warranty. You only get four years with a more expensive Renault.
An attractive vehicle, the Picanto is sure to melt even the coldest heart. Distinctive alloy wheels, again reminiscent of designs favoured by Alfa Romeo, set it off, adding to the sense that there is something a little different about this car.
Alfas have always liked their juice and so Kia drivers will be pleased to know that not only can they enjoy its attractive looks but the Picanto returns around 50mpg. Its five speed manual gearbox is pleasant enough and the one litre engine doesn’t complain when driven hard, which is necessary if a decent pace is required.
City cars are all about ease of parking and the Picanto doesn’t let the side down. It’s a cinch to squeeze into the tightest of spaces, helped by the reversing sensors. Inside, there has been an effort to make the cabin as welcoming as possible, which in this price range is a distinct bonus. The seats are reasonably supportive and thought has gone into the design of the dashboard, with all controls easy to find and operate.
It is such a compact car though, that it really is aimed at the young free and single. I didn’t even attempt to get my two daughters in their cumbersome car seats in the back because there just is not room. But the boot is large enough for a light shopping trip.
Design is critical to success and motorists have voted with their wallets, pushing global sales at Kia up 2.7 per cent in the first quarter of 2013.
Top speed: 95mph
Urban economy: 52.3mpg
By Tim Saunders