After years of domination by major players and witnessing the formation of a monopoly, the Pakistani automotive industry, at last, has new competition. Kia Lucky motors has established itself and they will be launching no less than four new models in 2018 and 2019.
But before they actually deliver the goods, let’s take a look at the US and Euro spec versions of the Picanto, Rio, Sportage and Grand Carnival. Check the tech, the promise and get an idea of how they will fare in the Pakistani market and most importantly look at how they compete with rival models from Suzuki, Toyota and Honda.
The vehicles I will be talking about today are EU and/or US-Spec models and may differ from the ones sold in Pakistan.
- Engine: 1.0L Naturally Aspirated MPI Inline 3
- Power: 66 HP
- Torque: 96 Nm
- Fuel Economy: 17.5 km/l
- Estimated Price: PKR. 1,250 000 – 1,450 000
The Kia Picanto is 3595mm in length and just 2400mm between the wheels. The Picanto shares a platform with the Hyundai i10, which is not a bad thing. The EURO-6 compliant engine, quick and responsive but never fast as the 66 HP figure suggests, it is more refined and less noisy as compared to its rivals. The NEDC rates the Picanto for up to 23 km/l. It clearly shows that Kia is competing with Suzuki, as it’s competitive set could be stretched to include anything from Mehran to the Swift although Wagon-R and Cultus, are seen as the main targets. Kia clearly has a leg up in both interior and exterior styling, the materials are expected to be superior to its PKDM rivals as well. Not to forget, the fuel economy figures are also in its favour.
The Picanto is surprisingly fun and comfortable for a small car, the 5-Speed manual gearbox would be my preference for its crisp shifts, better fuel economy and performance. A 4-Speed Automatic is also available if you have a little extra cash and a lazy left leg, at the expense of performance and efficiency. Later this year, Kia will launch a model of the Picanto that will feature a 1.0L Turbocharged and Direct-Injected engine with 100 HP and 172 Nm of torque! Though in all honesty, I don’t expect it to be seen here.
Kia Rio Hatchback
- Engine: 1.4L Naturally Aspirated MPI Inline 4
- Power: 98 HP
- Torque: 133 Nm
- Fuel Economy: 14.5 km/l
- Price: PKR 1,750 000 – 2,000 000
The Rio is my personal favourite in Pakistani Kia line-up, though that may change if they bring the Stinger GT here. In all likelihood, the Rio we receive will be the sedan variant. However, in my opinion, the hatch is more practical, sporty, better looking and overall a better choice. The hatchback will undoubtedly be a huge investment in a category that is not well received here, but the Rio is certainly one car that can change minds even when pitted against big guns like the Honda City and Toyota Corolla. It will be interesting to see how things go as mindsets aren’t easy to change. With that said, one thing is absolutely clear about the Rio it is one seriously capable vehicle, the engine is smooth, punchy and efficient. It is available with 5-Speed Manual, 4-Speed Automatic, 6-Speed Manual or a 6-Speed Automatic. Modern tech like Lane Departure Warning, Autonomous Emergency Braking, Apple Carplay and Android Auto are available on higher trims but may not be available here. A 1-litre turbo engine much like the Picanto’s 1.0L Turbo is offered here as well. Though, it will not be available in Pakistan. The interior design is a notch above its local rivals, but the build quality can only be assessed when the car comes out. Lastly, the ex-Audi designer Peter Schreyer has designed a masterpiece here. No compact hatchback looks this good. Sporty, composed and good looking, the Rio is destined for success if consumers clear their mind and Kia meets production demand without sacrificing the quality.
- Engine: 1.6L Naturally Aspirated MPI Inline 4
- Power: 130 HP
- Torque: 161 Nm
- Fuel Economy: 12.5 km/l
- Price: PKR 3,500,000 – 4,000,000
Kia’s lineup would be incomplete without a crossover. We all know crossovers generate a lot of revenue for car makers as they are large volume sellers and simultaneously very profitable. The Sportage is a welcome addition to the most crowded of Kia’s competitive set, it goes head to head with the Toyota C-HR, Honda Vezel, Audi Q2, BMW X1 and Suzuki Vitara (well you can ignore the Vitara for obvious reasons). A 1.6L four-banger beats at its heart and is responsive to inputs, but in a vehicle like this and of this price, it certainly seems under-powered especially compared to the competition. For it to be an enticing option, Kia needs the turbocharged and direct-injected version of this engine with 177 HP and 265 Nm, which makes it the most powerful among the pack and gives the fuel economy a jump to 14 km/l, which is still fairly short of the competition. It comes with either a 6-Speed manual or a 7-Speed Dual Clutch Automatic Transmission. And again I will have to praise the designers here: It looks bold, tall and imposing as a crossover should and still retains that signature Kia look. The ride is comfortable and handling is more than acceptable for this class. Kia’s cabin and safety tech need no introduction. The Sportage scored a 5-Star rating in the EURO NCAP crash tests. Apple Carplay, Android Auto, Auto-Emergency Braking, Lane Departure Prevention and Blind Spot monitoring are also available, but just like the Rio, they might not make an appearance in Pakistan. It will be interesting to see how the Koreans compete in this segment with the Japanese and German alternatives. It certainly appears to be a big deal for Kia, whether it is a successful big deal remains to be seen.
Kia Grand Carnival/Sedona
- Engine: 2.2L CRDi Turbocharged Inline 4 Diesel
- Power: 147 HP
- Torque: 440 Nm
- Fuel Economy: 16.5 km/l
- Price: PKR 4,500 000 – 5,000 000
The Carnival (Or Sedona in some markets) is an unconventional story, a biggish MPV or a minivan designed to carry up to 8 people in comfort.The cavernous interior offers plenty of space for both people and cargo. I know I have said this a lot during this review, but the stylists have proved yet again that the mission of the vehicle does not have to impact its styling, the Carnival looks elegant and imposing from every angle. Kia’s usual plethora of technology is present here in abundance as well. A 6 or 8-speed automatic is expected to be mated to a 2.2L turbo diesel. Driving the carnival is easy and comfortable, the low-mid torque of a diesel engine may surprise you if you haven’t driven one, there’s plenty of pulling power for overtaking and tackling bad roads. Today, engines have been thoroughly modernized by the use of Turbochargers and Common-Rail Direct Injection and this help eliminate any concerns one may have over a diesel. Except one, to run this modern engine ULSD or Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel is required, which is not available in Pakistan now. This will undoubtedly cause problems, so in my opinion they will either use a petrol engine from another model or bring the 3.3L T-GDi V6 engine here. Either way, this is a big investment in a market that is non-existent and may account for only a sliver of their sales. Their target audience will be larger families for whom a big, efficient and spacious vehicle is a requirement. If you are one of them, then there is nothing quite like this available here.
The Big Question – Reliability
Not too long ago, the greatest luxury expected from a Korean car was to run two days in a row. If you have any concerns over a Korean car being unreliable, you can be rid of them. In JD Power’s 2017 UK Vehicle Dependability Study Kia came at an impressive number one, tied with Volvo and beating Toyota (at number six) and even Suzuki (at number four). The Kia Picanto was the third most reliable car in the “City Car” category. Hyundai i20, the Rio’s sister car also came third in the “Small Car” category. In Consumer Reports’s 2018 Predicted Reliability Study, Kia came in third place and the Kia Niro Hybrid crossover was given the title of “The Most Reliable New Car”, both are remarkable achievements. Only time will tell about the durability of the aforementioned cars on Pakistani roads, but I am very confident saying that these cars will be among the most reliable cars on the road and have the evidence to back it up as well. Competition is good for the consumer and the industry as a whole.
The return of Kia, Datsun, Hyundai and Volkswagen will open a new chapter in the Pakistani automotive history and the consumer will be the prime beneficiary. After years of idling, Pak Suzuki, Honda Atlas and Toyota Indus finally need to respond.