Kia Picanto is still a top safety pick

The latest batch of EuroNCAP safety ratings are out and there is one surprise – the superb new Kia Picanto city car was awarded a four-star rating.

With the tests becoming more difficult each year, manufacturers have worked hard to ensure their cars gain a five-star rating from the most respected safety tests in Europe.

A little more on the tests can be found in our guide to the EuroNCAP tests, but simply put, a car with a four star rating, although completely safe for the road (the tests are designed to go above and beyond legal safety criteria), is seen as a failure by many in the tests.

However, in the case of the Kia Picanto city car, this is not the case – and here’s why.

The Kia Picanto achieved excellent scores in adult and child occupation tests, where Kia was praised for protecting adults of different sizes even when sat in different positions.

In the child test, a dummy representing a three-year old was declared to have five-star safety protection during the tests and the car was praised for being able to disable the passenger airbag to accommodate a child seat.

Overall, the small Kia car did well in the tests, and would have got a five-star rating had it not been for the lack of Electronic Stability Control (ESC) across all variants.

As described here, ESC has become a large part of the EuroNCAP criteria. Providing more stability when cornering, it is impossible for a car to receive a five-star rating without ESC as standard.

This led Michiel van Ratingen, Euro NCAP Secretary General, to say: “In 2011, consumers should expect this critical safety equipment to be part of any offering regardless of car size or price.”

However, for UK customers, Kia has a strongly-worded response.

“Kia Motors (UK) Limited would like to clarify that all versions of UK specification Picantos are fitted with Electronic Stability Control as standard.”

While UK customers will receive ESC when they buy a Picanto, some European versions are not fitted with the technology and as a result the car was incapable of receiving a five-star rating.

This highlights the importance of checking a car for its safety rating before buying, but more importantly checking where it was penalised and if that applies to the version you were buying.

For UK customers, the Kia Picanto will be as safe as many other cars, with six airbags, ABS, hill assist, side impact protection system, three-point seatbelts and child rear door locks as standard.

And, for all UK customers, the new 2012 Kia Picanto will boast ESC.