Kia’s new Picanto, unveiled at Geneva and on sale in late spring, will boast one of the most fuel efficient engines on the market, putting low emissions in reach of all motorists not just those who can afford hybrids, according to Joachim Hahn, head of powertrain engineering design and testing at Hyundai and Kia’s European technical centre in Germany.

The new one-litre three cylinder engine is based on the group’s familiar 1.2-litre four-cylinder Kappa engine. CO2 emissions are as low as 90g/km with start-stop and, for Europe, the Picanto will also be available with a bi-fuel option, running on LPG and petrol.

“Most cars spend 90% of their time with very little fuel in the tank, and most LPG vehicles are retrofit conversions,” said Hahn. “We developed this as a bi-fuel engine from the outset.

“In Picanto we have used a small 10-litre [petrol] tank and fitted a 33-litre LPG tank so the petrol becomes a get-you-home device if the LPG runs out.”

Europe took the lead in the LPG development and, with LPG cheaper than petrol, it’s a timely launch.

Hahn believes that the Hyundai-Kia approach helps democratise low emissions. “You can’t have a small hybrid and charge an extra EUR5,000 for it because people won’t be able to afford it,” he said.

Instead, developing an affordable new engine “is an excellent compromise” to get an entry level car with low fuel consumption.