Kia Considers Turning The Picanto City Car Into An Affordable EV

The new Kia Picanto city car might morph into an electric vehicle if the Korean automaker can find a way to make it affordable.

A small battery-electric city car is going to be “a big challenge”, according to Emilio Herrera, Kia Europe’s COO to AutoNews. “But sooner or later, we will have to do it.”

The industry is currently trying to figure out their small-car strategy in Europe as emission regulations get tougher, forcing car makers to add expensive new technology to cars with already small profit margins. Ford has already announced that they will stop offering the Ka+ in the region, while Opel is axing the Karl and Adam models from its range.

Also Read: New Kia Seltos SUV Filmed In The U.S. But Local Launch Remains Uncertain

VW Group is reportedly going to replace the VW Up-Skoda Citigo-Seat Mii trio of city cars with battery-electric models only. Seat is responsible for the development of small EVs within the Group that will cost under 20,000 euros ($22k in current exchange rates). VW’s boss Herbert Diess admitted that their most affordable EV model is unlikely to arrive before 2023.

Renault is also working on an entry-level electric vehicle with a target price of 10,000 euros ($11k in current exchange rates), hoping to launch it in the European market within the next five years.

Herrera however remains sceptical of Renault’s ambitions. “I think that is a very bold statement because one of the most challenging things we have is to make all EVs profitable. And the smaller the car, the more complicated it is. So to have a 10,000-euro EV in that time frame, I see it very challenging and not very realistic,” he said.

Nothing is decided yet about a battery electric Picanto but Kia is actively looking at it, added Herrera. If it gets the green light, the Kia Picanto EV must will target a price tag of between 16,000 to 17,000 euros ($17.600 to $18.700).

As for why would Kia take up such a difficult challenge, Herrera said “Because mini and small cars are so important in Europe. In countries such as Italy they account for 50 percent of the market, so I think we will have to have a battery electric minicar”.

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  • designer_dick

    I wouldn’t bet against Renault finding a way of making their proposed €10,000 European EV work. They’re well ahead of pretty much every major mainstream rival when it comes to where they are with their battery electric vehicles, given that they’ve been selling the Zoe for the better part of a decade, and they’ve launched the K-ZE in China, priced from the equivalent of $9,000.

  • Stephen G

    “Because mini and small cars are so important in Europe”. That’s crap! What’s important is a decent car with a 17K EU price tag. That doesn’t mean “mini”. Stop f**king around with crap like this and make your profits in volume. A 20K EU EV Niro would sell circles around this.

    • Joe

      I dunno where your observation is coming from, the biggest selling models in markets such as Denmark and the Netherlands are from the same class (Peugeot 108, VW Up, etc.), and these models are popular elsewhere too, but in most Euro markets the next size up (Fiesta, Clio, etc.) are the giant sellers. The smallest cars are very difficult to make a decent profit on. People will always prioritise a car they can afford to tax and can physically drive through European city streets, rather than something larger, if they even own a car – think of how narrow the streets are in the medieval European city… small cars are definitely important in that context. So many of these small cars are also now becoming part of car-sharing schemes also. More and more Europeans (particularly city-dwellers and the young) are realising that car ownership is not as necessary as it maybe used to be.

      • Stephen G

        My observation is coming from the cost of the car not the size. These tiny cars are 50% of the market, not because everybody loves a tiny car, it’s because they can’t afford anything else. If Hyundai put a decent 17K EU Tuscon on the market, nobody would take a second look at these crap cars. It would save billions in development costs and standardize assembly.

        • jfalckt

          Your observation comes from a place where space isn’t a premium. I’d happily spend 17k on a well thought out mini car

        • Joe

          Ok, I accept that cars are more expensive now, but so is everything else (food, housing, leisure). I doubt it’d be possible to offer a Tucson for €17000 that has all the safety kit, environmental kit, and tech that consumers expect and want in a new car of that size. For example, the Dacia Duster is cheap (and granted, is popular as a result), but to be cheap it uses an old platform, older engines, comes with less tech and much less safety kit, and this is backed up by things such as worse NCAP ratings.

          Also, I still maintain that for a lot of drivers, something the size of a Tucson is absolutely unnecessary, and (sadly) a lot of people now look more for brand image, styling, personalisation, and in-car tech than practical needs like visibility, storage, passenger room, etc. There’s a reason why the Audi A1 and Mercedes A-Class are wildly popular right now and the Opel Insignia and Renault Talisman aren’t. Most cars spend the majority of their time on the road occupied solely by the owner/driver, and maybe a singular other passenger. Having something large and spacious does not make sense for this purpose.

          An example might be Japan, where congestion is insane, the biggest selling segment is the “tall” kei car, such as the Honda N-Box, Daihatsu Tanto, etc. Mixing all the values above in a tiny package (visibility, storage, passenger room, personalisation, cutting edge safety and in-car tech, fuel efficiency, etc.). I’d hardly call them a waste of development.

          I’d be interested to know where you’re from, as a reason to think all small cars are “crap” because in my experience (I’m young, have lived and studied across the EU, and have never been able to afford anything more than a used small car) it’s the most important segment of the market. There has to be a reason why the premium brands are pushing their smallest models so hard and putting so much effort into developing them.

          • Stephen G

            It’s not about car being more expensive now, it’s about affordability. And what’s wrong with an “older platform and older engines”. Are you buying a new mini car ever two years? My newest car turned 11 this year. There’s nothing wrong with driving 5 year old technology. If someone gave you a 1965 Ferrari 350 GT, you’d take in a split second and not worry about “old technology”. The premium brands are pushing minis because they make boat loads of money on them. I believe if you could get a used Tucson for in the same shape as your mini for the same price you would even consider the mini. Again…minis are a big part of the market because people can’t afford anything else.

          • Joe

            Ummm I run an older small car because I can’t afford to run something large like a used Tucson, which uses vastly more fuel, is more significantly polluting, and is therefore taxed significantly higher on usage than a newer, more efficient model. I also have no need for something of that kind of size. I’ve cycle-commuted more in the past few years than I’ve driven.

            The problem with older platforms and therefore older engines is less structural rigidity etc so therefore a worse driver experience and worse safety, plus worse fuel-efficiency, therefore worse economy, worse emissions, higher taxation, and higher fuel/running costs. Affordability isn’t only about the absolute cost of a brand new car before any usage starts.

            Yes, they make a ton of money on premium small cars, but they are also exactly what people want to buy. The people buying a top spec Mini or Audi A1 could also afford a low end Honda CR-V or a gigantic top spec Ssangyong Turismo at the same list price, but those aren’t the kind of cars those consumers want or need, and it’s significantly cheaper to run an expensive small car than it is to run a cheap giant. I reiterate, in many European and Asian markets, physical space is at a premium and it makes no sense to have something larger than a small car. The whole “my car needs to be huge” mentality is a very American (and increasingly, Chinese) thing.

          • Stephen G

            It’s not about size but practicality and comfort. Method of transportation has to be affordable, practical and comfortable. Mini’s are neither practical nor comfortable. If you own a mini you could probably live without a car. Who are you kidding with “structural rigidity”? You have zero idea of where your car fits into that statistic and I’m sure it wasn’t a consideration when you bought your car. No doubt first on the list “How’s it look”, second “What’s it cost”, that it. Also, Electric Tucson…no emissions…no tax.

          • Joe

            Ok… when I bought my car, I picked the newest and safest I could afford at the time. I definitely thought about safety, and structure comes into that – don’t tell me what you think I don’t know about and tell me I have “zero idea” when you’ve shown consistently that you have no idea what you’re talking about. I actually know what I’m talking about, but I know you don’t want to see that. You’ve seemingly ignored every time I mentioned practical considerations like passenger room, storage, and visibility… and yes, your arguments seem to be consistently about size, hence you keep banging on about something the size of a Tucson. You can actually have comfort and practicality in a package smaller than what is considered here as a lower mid-size CUV/SUV, no matter how much that may surprise you.

            The car we chose at the time (2009, still have it) was the safest and most fuel-efficient we could get. Since we weren’t carrying cargo or tons of people, we didn’t need acres of empty wasted space (since there’ll be no people or cargo in it) that you seem to think everyone needs to be comfortable. The car is comfortable, a decent drive, economical and still going strong (so therefore reliable). It’s a small car. I didn’t need it at all when I lived walking/cycle distance from everywhere I needed to be. Nobody needs a car in a city but I need it again now I’m back in the rural area I grew up, where public transit doesn’t exist.

            Also, OH YES please, by all means, show me the used EV SUV that was available in 2009 to a pair of teens for very little money, and then show me all the rural charging infrastructure I could’ve used back then.

            First of all, the Tucson (being as pedantic and specific as you think you are being about what I’ve said) has never been offered as an EV to the public. It was briefly an FCV in some markets, none of which were here. A fully-loaded Mini or A1 is still much cheaper at list (about £25000) than a base model Kona Electric, Niro PHEV, e-Niro, Leaf, etc. (over £31000) and about level with a base model Prius. At this point in time now, because of how taxation and incentive systems are set up, it’ll still take time for the cost differences to give any of the cheaper in-your-terms-comfortable EVs a cost advantage over the Mini or A1 in question, and even longer vs a Clio or 108. I would absolutely choose an appropriate EV if I had the need for it, could afford it, and there was the infrastructure that I could count on that my government is slow to implement. Also, I thought the 1st-gen Leaf that is now available used but obviously wasn’t a decade ago had the least comfortable driver’s seat/position I’ve ever sat in – if I were to pride comfort above all else, I would never pick that car.

            You have a distinct, pathological, irrational hatred of small cars (in your words, “crap”) that cannot be justified using your now overly-personal argument. Have you actually bothered to have a look in person at a current, well-appointed European small car? I doubt it. “Who are you kidding?” “You have zero idea” of what is most important to the majority of the planet when they consider a vehicle. Most people don’t want or need a giant car, nor can they park a giant car with extremely limited physical space. That’s why there’s such a huge market for small cars in so many markets, and why manufacturers offer them in such a wide range of specs, because they are no longer just basic transportation. Those market constraints don’t exist in places such as the US, hence they have ridiculous vehicles like the Suburban. The constraints are even tighter in places such as Japan, hence they have ingenious vehicles like the N-Box.

            I’m done.

          • Stephen G

            So you totally lied about structural rigidity being a consideration when you bought your car. I don’t know where you’re getting the idea that a Tucson is a “giant car”. Maybe you should reread the article then reread my first post. I stand by my original comment.

          • Joe

            I never lied. Structural rigidity comes, in this context, under the banner of safety. I also never said I specifically considered it, just that it’s something that generally improves with newer models and platforms, and various agencies and tests have proven that. Therefore it is rational to expect with newer models, they will have increased structural rigidity than the model they replace, because this has proven true.
            I get the idea that the Tucson is large – I literally and specifically said that where I’m from it “is considered here as a lower mid-size CUV/SUV” – from its physical size relative the everything else you’d usually see on the road, the vast majority of which are smaller than it. I never referred to it specifically as “giant”, I said that markets like the US tend to like giant cars, I was using it in a hyperbolic sense when interpreting your rather narrow idea of what comfort is.

            But your original is comment is still wrong. You claim the idea that small cars are important in Europe is “crap” – you are wholly, undoubtedly wrong. Sales figures suggest they are one of the most important classes of all, and that by selling these small cars they are managing generally to make profits in volume, since they sell a lot of them and they’re still on the market. You then picked 17k up from the article, which gets you a mid-range Fiesta or basic Focus (right in the heart of the best sellers to be fair), and then complained that that amount should get you a Tucson, out of absolutely nowhere. You also state 20k should get you an EV Niro – for a Niro it’s a lot more than that precisely because of the high costs of the technology, technology which you say nobody needs because everyone should be happy with and wants a 17k Tucson that, inferred from other comments, uses 5 year old engines and platforms (that still wouldn’t take it to that price since they cost more than that 5 years ago anyway, we’d be going back to the early 2000s for that, which is where the 1st Duster’s platform, tech and engines came from). You also stated “nobody would take a second look at these crap cars”, which is demonstrably untrue since people actively choose premium small cars rather than a large mainstream SUV the size of a Tucson for the same price, shown with sales figures that can be found everywhere for the success of the A1, Mini, A-Class, etc.
            You doubled-down on this further and sprinkled in some attacks on my character, perceived stupidity, claimed I had “zero idea” about what I said and then called me a liar.

            As you can see, I reread everything. I stand by my comments, because I haven’t said anything wrong. You’ve also still never given any explanation as to why small cars are pointless and bad other than physical attributes such as space and size that you incorrectly perceive as comfort and practicality, because believe me, you can have practical and comfortable tiny cars, and impractical and uncomfortable large cars. One further note – the article unfairly characterises the EU regulations as the reason the Ka+, Karl and Adam are being cut. The Ka+ was never designed for Europe, is poorly reviewed, and priced too close to the Fiesta, so buyers shunned it. The Karl and Adam are GM leftovers at the end of their lifecycles, and weren’t strong performers either.

            Yes, I agree, a 20k EV that offers what people want would run circles round competition. That’s why Renault and PSA and other such brands are launching them. It’s also why Kia is aiming to sell an EV Picanto for 17k. It would be appropriately priced compared to the competition, coming in less than the VW Group are asking for the EV Up/Mii/Citigo and larger rivals. The Renault Zoe starts at £21220 in the UK, but the battery is leased separately. The e-Corsa and e-208 are aiming for the low 20s price range. The expectation that a Kia Picanto EV could cost so little is currently, based on the competition, wildly optimistic but perhaps in a few years the cost of the technology will come down. That’s still reasonable for an EV small car, based on what Honda’s announced for the e. But I guess because they’re small, they’re automatically “crap”.

          • Stephen G

            You can do all the fancy dancing you want. Your early post clearly said you bought your car with structural rigidity in mind and then turned it around by writing you didn’t but it falls under the safety banner, which it does not, so you lied. You can twist words all you want it just makes you sound like an idiot. Have a nice life.

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