Kia Picanto GT coming early in 2019

Get excited, mini-car lovers: it’s coming with a turbo 1.0-litre engine and a manual option.

Kia will bolster the Picanto line-up with a proper GT variant in the first quarter of 2019, complete with a 1.0-litre turbocharged engine and a choice of transmissions.

The car will be joined by another ‘mystery’ variant for the Australian Open, likely the Picanto X-Line, as Kia looks to continue its dominance of the micro car segment.

In Europe, the 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol makes 72kW of power and 172Nm of torque. Although it’s exclusively mated to a five-speed manual in Europe, the Korean version is offered with a four-speed automatic – and both transmissions are looking likely for Australia.

At the moment, the range-topping Picanto is the GT-Line (pictured), which pairs the standard powertrain – a 1.25-litre naturally-aspirated petrol engine making 62kW and 122Nm – with exterior and interior niceties like a tougher bodykit, bigger wheels, red highlights and unique trim to justify its $17,490 list price.

Increases of 10kW and 50Nm might not sound all that significant but, in a car weighing just 995kg, should make a meaningful difference. The availability of a manual is also likely to excite keener drivers, with James Wong describing the four-speed automatic as “only adequate” in his GT-Line review.

As for the X-Line, well, Kia wouldn’t confirm it, but it seems likely to be the Australian Open special we were promised. Earlier this year, a leaked dealer bulletin suggested 800 examples of the itsy-bitsy ‘crossover’ will make their way to our shores around November.

According to that dealer document, the car will feature 16-inch alloy wheels, ‘X-Line’ and ‘AO Edition’ badging, LED daytime-running lights, LED tail-lights, halogen projector headlights, fog-lights, a 15mm taller ride height and tougher body cladding. The manual looks likely to feature, too.

The Picanto has been a runaway sales success relative to its micro car rivals. Where the Holden Spark has faded, and the Mitsubishi Mirage selling around 200 units per month, the Picanto recorded 640 registrations in September, for a 69 per cent market share.

Speaking with media today, Kevin Hepworth, Kia Australia communications boss, said the car has essentially “created its own segment”, arguing the micro car segment dropped down to a combined 300 cars per month before the Picanto’s arrival.