Citroen C3 Picasso | CARkeys

25 Nov 2014 | Author: | Comments Off on Citroen C3 Picasso | CARkeys

Citroen C3 Picasso

Citroen C3 Picasso


Things haven’t quite reached this stage yet, but I can see the day coming when Citroen is better known as a manufacturer of MPVs than of more conventional cars. In a process which started with the launch of the Xsara Picasso back in the 1990s, Citroen has gradually become more and more heavily involved in the design and manufacture of people-carriers, and its latest model of this type is the C3 Picasso, which also happens to be the smallest.

Before driving the car I was already aware of the respect for it that was shimmering through the UK motor media, either in print or in private conversation. None of the positive comments has proved to be exaggerated – the C3 Picasso is in nearly every a splendid addition to the compact MPV segment.

It’s based on an extended version of the platform introduced eight years ago in the C3 hatchback (and more recently in the Peugeot 207), and upon this structure Citroen has effectively developed a cuboid car, though one with enough styling adventurousness to soften what could have been a very austere shape.

This cubishness means that there is a great deal of space inside the Picasso. With all five (or perhaps four and a half) seats in place it has a luggage volume of 500 litres, which is just 42 litres less than that of a Ford Mondeo estate in a car only five inches longer than a Fiesta. Fold the rear seats down – creating a flat load platform in the process – and you increase the capacity to 1506 litres, which is pretty impressive even if a lot of it is due to the Picasso’s considerable height.

Those figures don’t include the space under the false boot floor, which allows for extra storage of items (including, if necessary, of the parcel shelf, in what strikes me as rather a neat touch) to be kept separate from the luggage. You can also mount the false bit lower down if you want, though this does mean that the floor is no longer flat.

If you choose to skip over the lesser VT and VTR+ trim levels and go for the range-topping Exclusive, there is yet more practicality including two underfloor storage compartments, a ski hatch and, perhaps most importantly, the opportunity to fold the passenger seat forward and extend the load length to an impressive 2.4 litres. Citroen demonstrated at the UK media launch that in this configuration the C3 Picasso can store three large boxes which can not be fitted in either the C4 Picasso or the C-Crosser SUV, or at least not without leaving the tailgate open.

On top of all this, there is a lot of room for four large adults plus one much smaller one – or alternatively a child – in the centre of the back row. At six foot three I could have done with an extra inch or so of travel for the driver’s seat, but this does not cause a significant problem, and I could easily sit behind the driver’s seat when it’s as far back as it will go.

Top marks for practicality, then, and reasonably high marks for visibility too (this being something that Citroen knows its customers were hoping for). The frontal glass arrangement is every bit as ingenious as it is in the C4 Picasso; there is quite a large pillar ahead of each front door, but the one on the driver’s side is close enough to be easy to see round, while the one on the left is far enough back not to cause any problems.

Ahead of those pillars are large, unobstructed triangular windows (much better than the too small, too hidden ones provided by other manufacturers) and then come two much narrower pillars on either side of the windscreen. The screen itself is very tall, so altogether forward visibility is excellent.

But an icy hand clutches my heart as I find myself forced to admit that this brilliant execution of a sensible philosophy is completely ignored at the rear, where the gigantic pillars create blind spots in which you could hide a shire horse. In fact I didn’t take a shire horse with me to the launch event to test this (forget my own name next) but I’m sure I’m right – and the serious point I’m making is that it’s a buffoonish piece of design, in a car with such an excellent view up front, to have such a dangerously obstructed one for the times when you have to manoeuvre in reverse.

Citroen C3 Picasso

The little Picasso comes with a choice for 95bhp 1.4-litre and 120bhp 1.6-litre petrol engines and 90bhp and 110bhp versions of the 1.6-litre HDi turbo diesel. The larger ones give decent performance, the sub-100bhp ones are good enough for the job, and all are impressively quiet from inside the car. The 90bhp diesel is the star for fuel economy and CO2 emissions (around 60mpg and 125g/km depending on trim level) but if you’re never going to do any long runs I’d be tempted to suggest the 1.4 petrol as a good alternative, not least because it costs £1100 less.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about the C3 Picasso is that it is a splendid car to drive – very easy to operate at low speeds but with an unexpected spriteliness on a twisty country road. The diesels ride slightly better than the petrol models, but they’re all comfortable, even if you spend an extra £200 on the Black Pack, which includes the largest (17 diameter) wheels and the lowest-profile tyres.

(This is all a far cry from the C4 Picasso, which rides like a magic carpet on perfectly smooth tarmac and like a Space Hopper on anything else. I mentioned to a Citroen person that if that car rode like the C3 Picasso does it would be a truly phenomenal piece of work rather than a good but flawed one, and without actually agreeing out loud – which would have been sharply at variance with his job description – he did give a rueful smile and avoided the opportunity of arguing the point.)

Prices for the C3 Picasso start at £11,495 for the 1.4 VT. That looks like a very impressive figure, but the VTs are fairly sparsely equipped: air-conditioning, is a £620 extra, curtain airbags are part of an optional Safety Pack costing £550, and you can’t get ESP at all, which Euro NCAP isn’t going to like one bit. In fact ESP is standard only on the 1.6 diesel Exclusive, which for that and other reasons is the most expensive model at £15,595.

The Exclusive not only has the most kit, it’s also the version with the greatest number of options. For example, only that trim level gets the extra-cost Black Pack, and the same applies to part-leather, part-alcantara upholstery (£350) and the MyWay collection of colour satellite navigation, live traffic information and Bluetooth connectivity (£700).

So the C3 Picasso may seem like quite a cheap car, but you can end up paying nearly £18,000 for one with all the kit mentioned here plus metallic paint and a panoramic sunroof. So not quite so cheap after all, then.

But that doesn’t alter the fact that you can pay much less for a version with fewer bits and pieces (and lower safety levels) and still have a magnificently spacious car which won’t use much fuel and is far more delightful to drive than you might first expect. Overall, it’s a truly fine effort from a company which has just demonstrated once more how comfortable it is with the idea of creating MPVs.

Citroen C3 Picasso
Citroen C3 Picasso
Citroen C3 Picasso
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