THERE’S no doubt that Kia owes much of its success in the UK to its larger vehicles – namely the Sportage and Sorrento – but its portfolio of smaller cars continues to impress.

The second-generation Picanto – the company’s smallest car – certainly raised eyebrows when it was launched in 2011 through its dramatic styling and improved performance.

Now it has taken another leap forward with some big improvements in quality and a wider choice of engines.

It also rides on a new platform featuring twice as much high-strength steel to increase strength and safety and has what Kia calls a “more youthful and emotional” design.

There’s also a new 99bhp 1.0-litre petrol engine – the most powerful ever offered in a Picanto – to supplement modified versions of 1.0-litre and 1.25-litre petrol engines from the previous version.

Inside, you get more connectivity and driver assistance features, too.

Oh, and one more thing. The three-door version has been kicked into touch. From now on the Picanto is a five-door only.

The addition of a more powerful engine will no doubt appeal to those looking for a more sporty ride, but the majority of buyers will still probably plump for the three-cylinder unit offering 66bhp.

That’s partly because that’s probably all you need in an urban runaround but also because the average fuel consumption figure of 64.2mpg makes this a compelling purchase.

Cute, cheeky and now with a bit more space inside, the Picanto will fizz around quite happily at speeds up to and above 60mph but its no motorway dweller.

It still measures 3,595mm in length and 1,595mm wide – exactly the same as the second-generation model – but is 5mm taller with a slightly longer wheelbase and has gained a squatter stance.

The really clever bit in the new design is the increase in luggage space, up from 200 litres to a class-best 255 litres, and now 1,010 litres with the rear seats folded. You even get a bit more leg, head and shoulder room upfront.

Although not radically different to look at on the outside, there are – depending on which version you opt for – key changes to the headlamps technology, plus a more assertive bumper, a lower waistline and new larger rear light clusters.

There are the familiar Kia trim levels badges 1, 2, 3, GT-Line and GT-Line, and you will have to fork out for the higher specification to get the seven-inch centre-mounted navigation/infotainment/connectivity touchscreen that make the regular dashboard seem rather dated and dull.

However, even the entry-level Picanto gets electric front windows, remote locking, tinted windows, a radio with USB and aux ports, automatic headlight control, hill start assist and 60/40 split folding rear seats.

Grade 2 versions come with air conditioning, rear electric windows and electric heated door mirrors, Bluetooth with music streaming, a leather trimmed steering wheel and gear lever, four-speaker rather than two-speaker audio, some extra trim touches and 14-inch alloys.

Further up the chain you will be tempted by larger wheels, autonomous emergency braking, the touchscreen, six-speaker audio, a rear parking camera, LED daytime running lamps, electric sunroof and faux leather seats.

The tested Grade 2 turbo-charged 1.0-litre 66bhp version proved as much fun to drive as it was to behold, accompanied by the trademark three-cylinder thrum, but I would have to recommend the higher trim levels costing at least £1,200 more.

Kia continues to expand its range with increasing confidence, and the Picanto is yet one more example of just how good this company is at providing cars for all tastes and needs.