The Kia Picanto, which celebrated its 19th birthday in May 2023, has surpassed a significant milestone reaching a quarter of a million cumulative sales in the UK.

The Picanto, Kia’s current A-segment contender, has been a consistent class favourite in the UK and is the lowest priced brand-new car on sale, starting at £13,665 and available from Shelly Motors. For this value, customers can purchase a brand-new Picanto ‘1’ – smartly styled, competitively equipped and protected by Kia’s famous seven-year/100,000-mile warranty.

The Picanto is not alone in its celebrations, as this month the Kia Niro passed 100,000 cumulative UK sales.

The first generation: laying the foundations

The first generation of the Kia Picanto went on sale in the UK on 25 May 2004, the 60th anniversary of the founding of the South Korean manufacturer. From launch, the Picanto turned heads offering a competitively priced package in the form of a vibrant and youthful city car.

Right from the outset the Picanto offered best-in-class space, a generous specification list packed with high-quality materials and advanced technologies for the time. Adding to the package, a five-door configuration was standard with a well put-together and refined driving experience, reminiscent of a much larger car.

Aimed at ‘the Sex in the City and Friends generation’, the Picanto was positioned as the ideal car for singles and couples in their late twenties and those after the perfect small car for urban driving.

In 2007, the Picanto underwent a minor facelift that saw the A-segment model receive new front and rear light clusters, a new bumper and a new front grille. On the inside, the Picanto remained largely unchanged, although the indicator stalk switched from the right to the left of the steering column.

The first-generation Picanto was retired from duty in 2011, and achieved a total of 83,935 UK sales in its lifetime. During this time, it was a notable favourite among customers trading in older cars as part of the UK’s 2009 scrappage scheme, proving instrumental in introducing thousands of motorists to the ascendant Kia brand for the very first time.

The second generation: building on a strong foundation

The second-generation Picanto made its debut at the 2011 Geneva Motor Show, and went on sale in the UK on 17 June 2011. The Picanto took a significant step forward in design, abandoning ‘cute’ design cues used on its predecessor and instead featuring Kia’s newly introduced ‘tiger nose’ grille.

The new Picanto also received Kia’s new generation of Kappa engines; designed from the ground-up to reduce CO2 emissions and improve overall efficiency. Improved interior specification and safety features, as well as the availability of a new three-door Picanto, all added to the model’s existing appeal.

The second-generation Picanto also started to sweep in the motoring awards, impressing several UK publications with its low starting-price, efficient powertrains, and refined driving experience.

In April 2015, the second-generation model received a minor facelift, which raised levels of standard equipment and introduced an 11-model range, with a trim level to suit all customer needs. In its lifetime, the second generation Picanto sold 82,407 units in the UK – building on the success of its predecessor.

The third generation: taking the lead

By the time the third-generation Picanto made its way to the UK, Kia had already established itself as a major player in the UK automotive landscape. Arriving on-sale in the UK on 1 May 2017, the Picanto once again took a major leap forward in design, with significant enhancements to both the exterior and interior.

The most technologically advanced, most stylish, most refined and sportiest small car that Kia had ever produced, the third-generation Kia Picanto introduced the ‘GT-Line’ grade for the first time. This was equipped with a sporty exhaust, bold front- and rear-bumpers, an aggressive front grille and ‘GT’ inspired red body details. Coupled with these was an all-new 1.0-litre turbocharged engine producing 99bhp and, paired with a six-speed slick-shifting manual transmission, it became an instant favourite with UK drivers.

The Picanto replaced the mature and handsome look of its predecessor with a slightly more aggressive and modern appearance. With the third-generation Picanto, Kia began to stretch its legs in the A-segment as the model grew more and more popular. A minor refresh in 2020 added to its appeal.

Since the start of 2023, the Picanto has consistently been one of the top performing models in the A-segment, popular with retail and fleet customers alike. Year-to-date, it is the second-best selling model in its segment overall – and the best-selling in the retail market.

Dominance in its class combined with glowing reviews and a series of high-profile UK awards have helped the third-generation Picanto to a lifetime count of 84,762 sales. In total, the Picanto has passed the hugely significant quarter of a million mark, now sitting on 251,104 lifetime sales in the UK – a big achievement for such a small car.

The 250,000th example of the car sold in the UK was a Picanto ‘2’ in Silver Frost, with a 1.0-litre, three-cylinder engine and five-speed automated-manual transmission.

The future

Kia remains committed to the A-segment, with the Picanto being the latest recipient of a major facelift – unveiled on 4 July 2023, and that will go on-sale in the UK in early 2024. The newly updated Picanto will feature a striking re-design, giving the third-generation Picanto an entirely new EV9-inspired face, as well as a re-structured specification line-up. Further information on UK specification and pricing for the updated Picanto will be revealed in due course.

To find out more about the Picanto and why it’s one of the UK’s favourite city cars, contact Shelly Motors.

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