Used Kia Picanto (TA) for under RM 25k, common issues and repairs?
Arvind · Sep 16, 2021 03:00 PM
Until the introduction of the current Perodua Myvi, the second-generation Kia Picanto (TA) was the only car in its price segment that offered a full complement of 6-airbags, ABS, EBD, vehicle stability control, (4x) seat belt reminders, and rear disc brakes.
Today, with prices under RM 25k, it still represents superb value for money, better safety levels and more power than a new Perodua Axia 1.0E, which sits at a similar price point.
The Kia Picanto is the company’s take on a global small car, and thus is also well-engineered and offers impressive refinement levels, a pleasurable driving experience and steadfast reliability.
The Kia Picanto TA range sold in Malaysia
The second-generation Picanto TA was first introduced in Malaysia in 2013. Just two variants were made available at the outset:
Picanto MT: RM54,888
Picanto AT: RM59,888
In period, the top-spec Perodua Myvi 1.5 Extreme (AT) retailed just over RM59k and therefore, the asking price of Kia Picanto wasn’t cheap, plus it was smaller and less roomy than a Myvi given it conforms to a global A-segment (supermini if you’re in Europe) size.
Under the hood, the Kia Picanto is powered by a 1.25-litre Kappa engine which produces 86 PS and 120Nm of torque. As per the variants, the engine was paired to either a 4-speed automatic or 5-speed manual transmission.
Both variants got LED DRLs, rear proximity sensors and auto headlamps as standard.
The AT variant added steering wheel-mounted audio and phone controls, keyless entry, start/stop button, 15-inch rims and front foglamps.
The facelift model was introduced with little fanfare in 2016, mostly because its successor had already been launched in other markets.
In addition to redesigned front and rear bumper and a new wheel design, the facelift model received small updates on the inside, namely the newly-designed instrument cluster and revised gear lever gate.
Which variant to buy and how much to pay for it?
Early 2014 models are advertised for as low as RM 20k, and later 2015, and 2016 models hover around the RM 25k, however, these are advertised prices so a prospective buyer can still strike off 5 to 10 percent of that price with some clever haggling.
Given there are only two variants, picking between the two is pretty straightforward.
Choose the automatic if you require the additional features and the ease of two-pedal driving, or, go for the manual because they cost less, offer better driving engagement, and better economy given its five forward ratios and lighter kerb weight.
Why should I consider a Kia Picanto?
Well for one, the Picanto does look pretty cutesy and snazzy given its small A-Segment proportions. Therefore, if you’d like to stand out in a sea of Myvis and Axias, the Picanto is a good place to start.
Once you get inside and shut the door, the first impressions are how well built and quiet the cabin is.
Yes, there’s plastic everywhere – however, panel shut lines, and the overall sturdiness of the interior components are great for a small car, better so than the Myvi or Axia in certain cases.
Ergonomics are pretty well sorted too. Steering and seating position (even for taller drivers) is spot on, and instrument cluster readouts are elegant and easily legible.
At the back though, the Picanto is much smaller than a Myvi or even an Axia. The Picanto will seat four in decent comfort over short journeys, but a Myvi would be more comfortable for a longer balik-kampung trip.
The Picanto also offers an accomplished drivetrain. Under the hood lies a 86 PS / 120Nm 1.25-litre four-cylinder engine with variable valve timing that, despite its size, offers punchy performance and decent fuel economy.
The manual Picanto fuel economy ranges from 7.8 to 8.2-litres/100km, whereas the automatic variant will typically deliver 8.4 to 9.0-litres/100km with sensible driving in the real world. Fuel usage is comparable to a Myvi 1.3L.
This little engine likes to be revved and offers very decent torque down low in the rev range to get going in city traffic or uphill.
The engine’s powerband is linear and offers tractable power from just over 1,800 rpm all the way to 6,000 rpm – therefore, even if you are looking for some weekend driving excitement, the Picanto can deliver.
The conventional four-speed auto is smooth and refined; gear ratios are finely matched for city driving and spread out just enough that you can maintain the speed limit on the highway.
The slick-shifting five-speed manual on the other hand offers a more engaging drive as well as better fuel economy.
Downsides of the Kia Picanto TA
For one the Picanto’s fuel tank is quite small, with 35 litres from empty to brimmed, it only offers approximately 340 to 375 km of driving range between fuel stops.
The boot, at 292 litres, is actually bigger than the second-generation Myvi's 208 litres (or Axia's 260 litres). However, the Myvi still beats the Picanto because of its wider and longer boot layout.
Several owners also note that the audio system in the Picanto could be better. Despite having six speakers (in the 1.2 AT variant) small speakers audio quality isn’t as good as one would expect, the cheaper manual variant that relies on just four speakers is even worse.
What to look out for when buying a Kia Picanto TA?
The checklist before purchasing a Picanto is not much different than buying any other A- or B-Segment car.
Pay close attention to the overall condition of the paint and view the car under good sunlight.
With any small car, signs of a prior collision are most easily detected through inconsistent panels gaps. It's normal for these gaps may narrow or widen from point to point, but check to see if it's the same on the other side of the car.
On the inside, the Picanto is pretty much fuss-free, however, do fiddle with the audio head unit, power windows and steering wheel-mounted controls to see If they work well.
The Picanto TA is installed with both an A/C and heater system, therefore twist the thermostat dial to ensure both cold and hot air is blown out of the vents.
Check to see if the A/C system has been serviced as required because A/C compressors are not cheap.
Under the hood, inspect for signs of oil vapour at the valve cover section. Pull out the dipstick and check the colour of the engine oil as well.
At the same time, check for signs of a whitish-green powdery build-up (oxidation) around the battery terminals. This is a sign of an ageing battery as well as an alternator that isn't working the way it should.
The Picanto's electronic power steering system places a high load on the battery, and thus batteries are known to weaken after a year or so.
From personal experience, replacing the battery with a higher amperage battery - such as a 50 Ah or 60 Ah - over the stock 35 Ah solves the issue as it can better handle the car's electrical requirements.
It is also wise to inspect the undercarriage for signs of wear and tear – pay close attention to oil leaks at the bottom of the engine, transmission and between the engine and transmission. These issues are uncommon but it’s best to be sure.
Finally, take a good look at the driveshafts, absorber dust covers and suspensions bushings; these are common causes of creaky noises and reduced ride quality with the Picanto.
Whilst most modern Korean cars are as well built as their Japanese counterparts, there are still some build quality issues that plague the Picanto TA.
The following table addresses these issues and the relative repair costs.
Kia Picanto TA common issues
Repair costs (RM)
Brake pad sensor
80 (x 2)
Check engine light
Jammed carrier / motor
Broken unlock button
Front absorber dust cover
Rear seat hinge
Rear suspension top mounts
There have been cases, though uncommon in the automatic variant, of slippage when changing gears. The culprit is known to be a worn-out clutch retainer ring.
Repairs are known to cost under RM 1,500 in these cases.
Besides that, maintaining a Picanto is not much different in terms of pricing and complexity than a Perodua Axia or Myvi.
Kia Picanto TA maintenance cost
Road tax (RM)
Minor service (10k km)
Major service (50k km)
Regardless if it’s a small or large car, safety should be a primary aspect of your purchase decision. Given its four-star Euro NCAP (and five-star ASEAN NCAP) rating, the Picanto TA is a small car that is big on safety.
Given its relatively cheap prices, the Picanto TA offers a compelling package in terms of safety, practicality and comfort especially for a first-time driver or as a second car for the family.
Besides that, Picanto’s punchy powertrain package and fun driving dynamics also mean it is something even an enthusiast driver can enjoy on a twisty backroad.
Therefore, while it is considered to be a left-field choice, one can appreciate it for the same reasons as a used Perodua Myvi or Axia, and thus should be a viable consideration for any used car buyer at this price point.
Arvind can't remember a time when he didn't wheel around a HotWheels car. This love evolved into an interest in Tamiya and RC cars and finally the real deal 1:1 scale stuff. Passion finally lead to formal training in Mechanical Engineering. Instead of the bigger picture, he obsesses with the final drive ratio and spring rates of cars and spends the weekends wondering why a Perodua Myvi is so fast.