Model/Engine size: 1.6 HDI 92 VTR
Fuel economy combined: 60.1 mpg
Citroen has made the name Picasso a byword for practical and economical family transport in the 10 years since the first model appeared. The egg-shaped Xsara original is still on sale, supplemented by the larger and sleeker MPV versions of the C4. Together they have helped make Citroen number one for MPVs in Europe. Now there’s a third Picasso range – and it could just be their most successful yet.
The Citroen C3 is the smallest, cheapest and greenest Picasso – and it looks by far the funkiest of all of them, with appeal for all ages and is very space efficient. There’s excellent room for six footers back and front and a huge boot with dead simple folding mechanism. The rear seats slide back and forth so you can easily adjust the layout to fit people/loads. It is fitting that Citroen are dubbing the C3 Picasso “La Spacebox” in the TV ads that breaks when the car arrives in showrooms from April 9.
Starting at £11,495, or £1100 more for the super-frugal diesel version, the C3 Picasso is a compact 4m long and a rival for cars like the Vauxhall Meriva , Renault Grand Modus and Nissan Note . Small cars are doing well in the downturn and these mini-MPVs are set to enjoy a boom, with more contenders due over the next 12 months.
The promise of mini-MPVs is that they are all the five-seat car most families will ever need, and the C3 Picasso goes a long way to fulfilling that – with the bonus of sexy looks and an accomplished drive. It comes with Citroen’s MPV trademark central digital speedo, along with a special USP: a wraparound three-piece windscreen. It transforms the view out and makes the car safer as well as beautifully light inside. A vast glass roof panel is a good option for those who can’t get enough light.
The best model to buy is the 1.6 HDI 92bhp in mid range VTR+ spec which adds family essentials like air-conditioning, extra airbags and nicer trim. With manual gearbox it emits 125g/km of CO2 and claims an official combined fuel consumption of 60mpg. On our hard driven test route it had no problem returning 44mpg.
The figures add up but one that may not is the price: this model will set you back £13,695. That’s a good few thousand more than you’d pay for the older but larger Xsara Picasso. Citroen are always good for deals, however, so it’s unlikely to be long before discounts or low-rate finance is available.
The 1.6 HDI 92 does not have a particulate filter. That is standard only on the more powerful 110bhp HDI engine. This engine costs £1100 more and is only worth it for long distance motorway drivers. Performance of the 92 version is quite adequate and a step up on the cheapest model, powered by a 1.4 petrol engine (from the Mini). That’s refined enough but can’t compete with the diesel on either performance or economy.
The C3 Picasso drives better than its rivals, and much better than the older Picasso model. It’s built for comfort more than speed, and the seats and suspension do an excellent job of smoothing out the worst road surfaces. But this is not at the expense of a sick-making ride and roly-poly handling. This is one Picasso you can aim down a twisty road with enthusiasm. The car is based on the Peugeot 207 and is very well behaved in all situations.
Things we don’t like? There’s no automatic (which rules out most Motability customers). In any version, the gearbox is a five-speeder only which means that motorway cruising isn’t as relaxed as it could be. The gearchange quality is far from slick. The pedals are small and close together. The important safety feature, ESP stability control, is standard only on the most expensive model. Ditto the useful feature of a fold-flat front passenger seat.
We also don’t like the fact that the greenest version with six-speed electronic gearbox and stop-start system is still 18 months away. This model is credited with 67mpg and 110g/km of CO2, so is not just very green but also should be cheap to run with just £35 Vehicle Excise Duty, at today’s rates, instead of £120.
Even without the stop-start version the C3 Picasso gets enough right to be a very smart choice. It has real attitude and should prove to be very likable on both the driving and living-with fronts.
Fuel economy extra urban: 70.6 mpg
Fuel economy urban: 47.1 mpg
Fuel economy combined: 60.1mpg
CO2 emissions: 125 g/km
Green vehicle rating: VED band D (2009/10) – £120
Weight: 1289 kg
Company car tax liability (2009/10): 15%
Price: £13,695 (From £11,495 to £15,595)
Insurance group: TBC
Safety: NCAP TBC
Max speed: 107 mph
0-62mph: 13.4 seconds