19 March 2004

It’s all change for Citroën’s mid-sized cars – the unloved Xsara will be axed this autumn as a new family of stylish C4 models fills the breach between the C3 supermini and C5 family car.

The C4 will be Focus-sized and available in two hatchback guises, as well as a bigger, feature-packed Picasso MPV. The twin-pronged approach is designed to recapture some of the ground lost to rivals like the Focus/C-Max.

Today’s Xsara has never been a strong seller in Britain: last year just 7300 were sold – fewer than the Berlingo. The Picasso, however, was Citroën’s most successful model, with 36,000 sales.

The C4 Citroën Sport concept (pictured) shown at Geneva accurately previews the look of the firm’s three-door hatchback, which goes on sale this autumn. It will be joined at launch by a less rakish five-door.

Next up is the replacement for the six-year-old Picasso, a 2006 midi-MPV. It will be launched as a five-seater, but a version with seven seats to rival the Renault Grand Scénic is also planned. Expect a longer wheelbase, bigger rear doors, a longer floor and removable seats.

Unlike the C4’s radical wrap-over rear window, the Picasso’s rear end will be more conventional. However, it is understood to have a separately opening rear screen and powered tailgate. Novel interior lighting is also a possibility, given Citroën’s experiments with projection and mood lighting in recent show cars; cleverly positioned ‘puddle’ lights will assist entry and exit. But the showpiece on the hatchback and people-carrier will be a novel steering wheel with fixed hub; only the rim rotates, leaving the central boss, airbag and switches static.

Most engines will be shared across the Picasso and C4, with the exception of the hatchback’s entry 1.4 petrol and diesel. That means a choice of 90, 110 and 140bhp common-rail diesels, and petrol options serving up 100, 120 and 160 horses. Citroën is keen to retain its value-for-money status and insiders predict keen pricing for the new C4 family. ‘Value will remain a strong Picasso attribute,’ said a spokesman.

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PSA will base 85 per cent of its future models on shared platforms, but is committed to making its products look different. Peugeot is increasingly relying on sporty SW estates, while Citroën has been tasked as the MPV brand.

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