There is always a fear when confronted with a compact MPV like this that its considerable weight, substantial frontal area and puny engine will result in a car that’s unable to get out of its own way. And so it proves with the Picasso.
It is neither the heaviest of its selected class of rivals nor the least powerful, but its power-to-weight ratio always ensures it’ll struggle. Which goes some way to explaining performance with some engines that could be described as pedestrian only if you’d woken up brimful of goodwill.
A 0-60mph time for the best-selling 99bhp diesel version of 12.8sec isn’t just slow; it’s close to inconvenient, making you plan each lunge into fast-flowing traffic with more than usual care.
But once under way the C3’s humble firepower is not the drawback it might first seem. The 99bhp diesel does at least supply adequate mid-range torque, and if you find yourself hunting through the sloppy five-speed manual gearbox for a more appropriate ratio, you will at least find the lever uncommonly close to hand.
The more powerful diesel offers more performance across the range for a fractional mpg loss and a greater asking price. If you're prepared to pay the premium, you'll likely find the extra performance welcome.
The 1.2-litre petrol might be worth considering if your mileage is low enough for you sums to show you wouldn’t benefit from the extra economy the more expensive diesel models offer. The turbocharged 1.2 petrol is a punchy performer, and it’s a free-revving engine and doesn’t feel quite as grouchy as the diesels, making it the pick of the range.
There are more sprightly small MPVs around – the Nissan Note, for example – but they tend to carry less bulk, are more svelte and with a lower centre of gravity. That tends to equal less practicality, too.
The brakes threw up no surprises for such a car: slightly over-servoed, as you might expect, but more than capable of the modest decelerative responsibilities placed at their door.