It doesn't even have wheels, but the C-42 could be one of Citroen's greatest creations
28 September 2007

Citroen's latest model isn't a car but a building. But then Number 42 Champs-Élysées, Paris, is no ordinary building; it's a showcase for the Citroen brand that uses both its architecture and the altering exhibits within to revitalise the French firm's art-nouveau image. We went along, not only for the free champagne and a trip to Paris, but because we wanted to know if the C-42 (as the new building is named) really symbolises a return to Citroen's original values.The overriding sensation within the building is of the brand's history. As you enter you are met with the sight of the C-Metisse; a concept shown at the 2006 Paris motor show that exhibits diesel-hybrid technology within a large sports-coupe body. It's a concept that points to the future of Citroen more than any other.But as you walk up the building you pass a DS, a 2CV and finally a Traction Avant. Each of these models can be credited with altering the motor industry: the DS for all its technical advances, the 2CV for mobilising the masses, and the Traction Avant as the first mass-produced front-wheel-drive car. And this within a building that boasts a glass façade made up of Citroen chevrons, encased within wrap-around iron bands; all created using the most modern building techniques on a site where a Citroen building first existed in 1927.You can't buy cars in the C-42. You can only marvel at what Manuelle Gautran, the building's architect, has achieved, and consider what Citroen means by opening such a modern building on such a traditional avenue of Paris.The most exciting thing is that everything from the mad press conference (where three men painted an image of the C-42 on the wall behind the speaker), to the iconic lines of the Traction Avant inside an angular glass building suggests that Citroen really is returning to its avant-garde roots.Citroen needs this to keep a separate identity from Peugeot (which is part of the same PSA group), and to maintain its unique image. And if concepts such as the C-Metisse and more recently the C5 Airscape are anything to go by, the company is working to make that happen.The C-42 building aims to inspire and innovate, and it has succeeded. To transfer that same achievement to a modern car will not be easy, but the expertise needed to do it is there. Time will tell, but maybe, just maybe, Citroen is back.

Our Verdict

Citroën C4 Picasso

The C4 Picasso is an attractive, versatile and well-specified family car with an interior that make it the envy of many MPV-makers.

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