In 10 years, Citroën has gone from being a mere bit-part player in the European MPV market to its dominant force; the C3 Picasso is further proof. Where once it fielded just one large MPV now it has close to ten. The Picasso name has been used throughout, first on the now-defunct Xsara (which the C3 effectively replaced), and then on both the five and seven-seat versions of the C4 Picasso.

You have only to look at Citroën’s burgeoning DS range to see how the marque has undergone wholesale brand overhaul – and this C3 Picasso is further proof. Steady and staid are out, as cool and quirky make a welcome return.

And if looks were the only factor, it would seem that Citroën has remembered the formula that made it great all those years ago, not just with the original DS but also with cars like the 2CV, Traction Avant and, more recently the GS and CX. All showed that a car didn’t need to look practical to be practical, that space and chic were not mutually exclusive, that a car could brim with character yet still understand the needs of the family motorist.

On paper, this member of the Picasso family appears to have enough of these attributes to claim to be a compact MPV you’d own more through choice rather than circumstance. The question is whether there is enough substance behind the style for it to cut it, not just in the showroom but in the real world.

You won’t spend hours trawling through the C3 spec list deciding which model to choose – there are two petrol engines (a 1.4 and 1.6) and two diesels (both 1.6s) to choose from and Citroën’s familiar range of trim levels, mixed in with the occasional special edition. There’s no auto option, though.

Top 5 Compact MPVs

  • B-Max's unique construction means it doesn't need conventional B-pillars

    Ford B-Max

    1
  • It’s longer and more expensive, but does bigger mean better?

    Vauxhall Meriva

    2
  • The van-based MPV gets an injection of sophistication

    Citroën Berlingo

    3
  • Nissan Note
    The Note was strongly influenced by Nissan's Invitation concept

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    4
  • Quirky Citroëns are back, but is square the new cool?

    Citroën C3 Picasso

    5

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