Kia has pulled the wraps off the all-new Picanto – the third-generation JA, which replaces the outgoing TA, receives a new engine, a more spacious cabin and a range of new technologies and safety features.

The new car certainly looks more mature, ditching the cheeky styling of its predecessor with a stronger, more assertive aesthetic clearly inspired by the new Rio. At the front, there are U-shaped LED daytime running lights that are now a solid strip rather than the current individual diodes, while the upper grille has grown wider to meet the headlights. The downturned lower grille also gives a more aggressive look.

Down the sides, the previously straight window line is now upswept at the front and rear, while the reduced character lines provide a more minimalist look; the wheel arches have also been emphasised to give the illusion of a stronger stance. The rear design is more angular as well, with larger tail lamps.

Buyers can opt for the Art Collection in Korea (GT Line in other markets), which provides a more aggressive appearance similar to the current car’s Sport Pack – including twin exhaust exits – as well as a choice between black, silver, red and lime green exterior accents. There are also a range of 14-, 15- and 16-inch wheels available.

The interior, meanwhile, has been made noticeably more upscale than the one in the TA, which was already several steps above the A-segment norm. There’s now a dual-tier dashboard with a Rio-style floating head unit sitting above the twin centre air vents, while the corner air vents are now vertical and in an unusual lozenge shape, giving the cabin a quirky spin on things.

The current two-spoke steering wheel with a grin-like decorative trim piece has also been switched out for a three spoke item from the Optima. Below, the climate control switchgear has gained a concave shape, while an armrest with a storage console makes a welcome appearance between the seats. The Art Collection colour highlights can be seen here too, such as on the door cards.

Infotainment-wise, the new Picanto is offered in Korea with the Kia T map service, which links a smartphone’s navigation app with the infotainment system via MirrorLink – the system optimises menu configuration, position, font size and more to make the use of navigation safer and easier. Apple CarPlay connectivity is also available, along with a reverse camera with guide lines linked to the steering.

Measuring 3,595 mm long, 1,595 mm wide and 1,485 mm tall, the new Picanto retains mostly the same dimensions as its predecessor, although it is 5 mm lower and its 2,400 mm wheelbase is 15 mm longer. Despite this, the car is claimed to offer more headroom, shoulder room and legroom both front and rear, and luggage space has increased from a minuscule 200 litres to 255 litres, thanks to a more efficient design.

In Korea, the sole engine choice is a new 76 PS/95 Nm 1.0 litre Kappa Eco-prime petrol three-cylinder, which has been significantly revised to improve fuel economy to 15.4 km per litre combined. Although transmission options have yet to be revealed, it will likely be offered with the same four-speed automatic and five-speed manual. Expect other engines like the current 1.2 litre four-pot to soldier on in markets.

Under the skin, the new Picanto is built on an all-new platform for small cars, utilising 44% of advanced high strength steel – up from 22% on the current model. Impact-resisting structural adhesives have also been applied to the main impact area to improve deformation in a collision, while a hot stamping method has been used to improve roof strength and torsional rigidity.

As before, the new Picanto comes with up to seven airbags (including one for the driver’s knee) and Vehicle Stability Management (VSM), but adds torque vectoring by braking and Straight Line Stability (SLS) to keep the car straight and true under braking. Also available is autonomous emergency braking (AEB) and a forward collision warning system (FCWS), along with a tyre pressure monitoring system (TPMS).

Prices in Korea start at between 9,500,000 and 9,700,000 won (RM35,400 to RM36,200) for the Basic Plus variant, rising up to 9,900,000 to 10,100,000 won (RM36,900 to RM37,700) for the Deluxe, 11,800,000 to 12,000,000 won (RM44,000 to RM44,700) for the Luxury and 12,650,000 to 12,850,000 won (RM47,200 to RM47,900) for the range-topping Prestige.

There’s also a 12,200,000 to 12,400,000 won (RM45,500 to RM46,200) Lady variant with items like an illuminated vanity mirror, heated steering wheel and AEB, which will surely raise more than a few eyebrows. Sales in Korea kick off on January 17, before the car is offered in the rest of the world starting in the spring.