What is it?
It’s the new Citroen C3 Picasso 1.6 VTi Exclusive. It’s partly a replacement for the now nine-year-old Xsara Picasso MPV, which will be discontinued in mid-2009. The new Citroen C3 Picasso is also a more upmarket, more car-like, yet slightly smaller alternative to the new Berlingo Multispace MPV.
But it’s easier to get a handle on the Citroen C3 Picasso 1.6 VTi Exclusive by considering its rivals rather than its rangemates. The Citroen C3 Picasso is aiming for a slice of the market dominated by the Nissan Note in the UK, and by the Opel Meriva on the continent.
What’s it like?
The Citroen C3 Picasso is tall, snub-nosed and square. In fact, it’s uncannily like a Kia Soul from the rear three-quarter, and like a Nissan Cube from other angles; so maybe it’s not as original-looking as Citroen would like. But the grille and headlights bear a strong resemblance to the Citroen C4 Picasso.
The advantage of those boxy-but-funky looks is that, when you climb aboard, you realise that there’s more foot, shoulder and knee room, in both rows of seats, than there is in a much larger saloon.
The C3 Picasso is also as versatile as it is accommodating. Both front and rear seats slide fore and aft, the rear ones fold totally flat, and the front passenger seat back folds likewise.
The C3 Picasso’s boot will take up to 500 litres of luggage under the parcel shelf with the rear seats in place; almost as much as you’ll squeeze into the trunk of a BMW 5-series saloon. With the seats flat and the shelf removed you can get more than 1500 litres of stuff into it, which is 150 litres more than you’ll get into the back of a Renault Grand Modus.
Sitting up front in the C3 Picasso is a pleasant experience for several reasons. The cabin is airy and light, and the view out of it is brilliant thanks to a wraparound windscreen and skinny A-pillars. Material quality isn’t great – there are as many hard plastics on display as there are soft, tactile ones – but fit and finish is well up to the class standard.
Taller drivers won’t struggle to find a good driving position thanks to plenty of reach adjustment on the steering wheel. They’ll search hard to find much in the way of entertainment while they’re driving though, because there isn’t much fun to be had from behind the wheel of the C3 Picasso.
The C3 Picasso steers accurately, but with more lightness and vagueness than we’d like, and has a well-judged handling compromise that allows a little body roll but plenty of grip.
But Citroen’s priorities were evidently for comfort and refinement. The C3 Picasso rides quietly and feels pliant. Engine and road noise are far from intrusive, and the car’s twin sets of door seals make it adequately insulated from wind noise too.
But even with the range-topping 118bhp 1.6-litre petrol engine this Citroen C3 Picasso 1.6 VTi Exclusive is short on performance. Its C2/C3-sourced five-speed manual gearbox is in need of a sixth ratio to compensate for a hefty kerb weight, too. And if the most powerful petrol model feels like that, you can bet the entry-level 94bhp petrol is screaming out for more poke.
Should I buy one?
Yes. The C3 Picasso is capable dynamically, but hardly involving. You’re much more likely to take pleasure filling its load bay than you are in actually driving it – but as long as there isn’t a small MPV in the class that really stands out as an entertaining drive (which there isn’t) that’s a forgivable flaw.
There is also a great deal else to recommend the Citroen C3 Picasso, especially if you’re otherwise considering the relatively bland Nissan Note, or the soon-to-be-replaced Vauxhall Meriva.
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