Kia has released early pictures of the next Picanto which will be seen in the metal for the first time at the Geneva Motor Show in March.

Kia will be hoping that the new car allows it to maintain the market momentum it achieved with the out-going model. The Golf-sized cee'd was probably the first car that allowed the Korean company to compete on truly equal terms with the main European and Japanese manufacturers, but before that, the smaller Picanto was already building a UK following thanks to a quirky and imaginative advertising campaign and strong value for money and economy. The Picanto was also a major beneficiary of the last government's scrappage scheme, which provided incentives to motorists to trade in old cars in favour of more economical and environmentally friendly newer models.

The new Picanto is slightly bigger but a lot sleeker than the old one, reflecting the increased importance Kia has attached to styling since it recruited Peter Schreyer from Audi as its chief design officer. It bears a strong resemblance to the company's Venga small MPV, which was launched last year. The existing car is sold only in five-door form in the UK but the new one will also be available with a three-door option. The next Picanto will be offered with 1.0 and 1.2-litre petrol engines; variants capable of running on bioethanol or LPG will be sold in certain national markets. The precise UK launch date has not yet been determined

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