Although most of the units sold in 2004 are likely to go to the retail sector, Kia has a longer-term aim of targeting the fleet market.
Kia managing director Paul Williams said: 'We plan to sell 6,000 units in the UK this year, 1,000 of which are expected to go to fleets. Most of our business is in the retail market and although our retail share is good we eventually want to have a long-term market plan and move into fleet.'
Williams isn't afraid of the bigger players either and believes the Picanto could even eat into the larger B-sector.
He added: 'There is an opportunity to sell in the B-sector, looking at the Picanto's specification and price.'
Starting at £5,495 on-the-road for the entry-level 1.0-litre GS, the Picanto is one of the cheapest cars available in the UK.
Equipped with a CD/MP3 player, ABS brakes, central locking, front electric windows and three-year unlimited mileage warranty as standard, value for money certainly springs to mind.
Three models are available, 1.0-litre and 1.1-litre five-seaters and a 1.1-litre four-seater – the same as the five seater, but with one less seatbelt in the rear.
There is an automatic version available on the 1.1-litre LX five-door and Kia is planning a 1.1-litre diesel for 2005.
The price jumps to £6,245 OTR for the 1.1-litre LX but so does the specification with additional air conditioning, front and rear electric windows, remote central locking, perimeter alarm system and electrically-adjustable door mirrors as standard.
Fleets can expect to pay £6,995 for the top-of-the-range 1.1-litre SE which has 14-inch alloy wheels, front fog lights, six speaker hi-fi system and metallic dashboard for the on-the-road price.
All Picantos come with driver and passenger front airbags and front seatbelt pre-tensioners as standard.
Williams said: 'The Picanto is the best in its class for roominess and is bigger than most A-class cars but safety is a big factor for us and the Picanto comes with twin air bags as standard.'
An affordable price tag and high specification list, backed by a combined mpg figure of 57.6 for the entry-level model, makes it likely to be a contender for pool fleets, local authorities or cash-for-car buyers looking for something small, cheap and well-stocked with equipment.
Behind the wheel
WITH a price tag of just over the £5,000 mark the Picanto is surprisingly well-built and engineered.
I tested the 1.1-litre SE version and was pleasantly surprised. It does have a kind of cuteness about it which will appeal to the female market but for a city-dwelling youngster it is perfect.
The 1.1-litre engine is well suited to stop-start city traffic. Once up to the 70mph mark, it cruises nicely although moving from city to motorway speeds takes an age and I wouldn't feel too comfortable overtaking as it's slow to pick up.
Moving away from junctions, I had to really hit the high end of the rev counter before changing up a gear but the five-speed transmission is smooth and runs without glitches.
Engine and tyre noise is loud at high speeds, though this size of car often suffers from that. Considering its size, though, the suspension on the Picanto is great and smoothes out most of the lumps and bumps in the road.
Legroom both in the front and back is good, considering it is a supermini, although boot space is lacking as there is only room for one small suitcase.
Overall, the interior is quite funky, with two-tone fabrics, quality plastics and the metallic dashboard making it feel a lot more expensive than £5,495.