Citroen today announces the C3 Picasso, a supermini-MPV it claims has the innovative magic of the company’s DS masterpiece, the ‘useful and beautiful’ approach of Apple’s iPhone and the unblinking practicality needed to wound the market-leading Vauxhall/Opel Meriva.
The spacious, eye-catching MPV goes on UK sale in summer 2009. It’s based on the next-generation C3 supermini, and runs four-cylinder engines turning the front wheels. Expect a starting price just under £11,000.
‘The C3 Picasso is more than an MPV, it’s so innovative,’ said Gilles Michel, Citroen boss, who announced the car during a press conference this morning (8 July 2008). Actually, it’s not that innovative but the package is superbly focused on satisfying the punter.
Another German Citroen
It’s not just the C5’s advertising campaign that’s gone all German: Citroen has designed the C3 Picasso with unbending, Teutonic discipline, to give it class-leading practicality. CAR was treated to a sneak preview last month, and sat through a presentation which compared the baby Picasso’s metrics with key rivals the Vauxhall Meriva, Ford Fusion, Nissan Note and Renault Grand Modus.
We’ll spare you the wheelbase, elbow space, headroom, lateral vision and boot space comparison test, except to say that the C3 Picasso is bigger, roomier and better than its rivals.
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Inside the C3 Picasso
Inside, the benefits are crystal clear. The three-piece windscreen – inspired by the DS’s – with extra quarterlights at the side and swept up above the driver’s head, makes for a light, spacious cabin. Hopefully there’s another benefit, eliminating the visibility problems that blight some MPVs.
Despite the car only measuring fractionally over 4m, there’s sufficient rear kneeroom (and headroom) to shame a big saloon. That’s because the split/sliding rear seats are set high, so one six-footer can easily sit behind another. Grab the seat handles and with a flick of the wrist, the squab pops up and the backrest folds down, creating a flat load bay. There’s no wrestling with snakish seat belts – it’s a one-second operation.
Overall, the interior package lives up to Citroen’s proud claims.
And the looks…
Citroen describes the C3 Picasso’s looks as ‘bold’, which can be a euphemism for commercial suicide. It’s like a Nissan Cube with melted corners, a Berlingo Multispace with less van-DNA. There are hints of SUV in its tall height and bluff front end, which towers above the necessary pedestrian protection to give owners a feeling of robustness.
Chief designer Jean-Pierre Ploué told CAR of his determination to differentiate the baby Picasso from its C4 bigger brother. ‘We were working on the two cars together, but I didn’t want to simply shrink the C4 Picasso.’ So the C3 is a clear two-box shape, the C4 a more flowing, rounded monobox.
Battle of the supermini-MPVs
Four engines will be available at launch: the 95bhp 1.4- and 120bhp 1.6-litre petrols familiar to Mini drivers, and the Ford/PSA 90 and 110bhp HDi diesels. These emit 128 and 137g/km of CO2, respectively.
PSA’s Slovakian plant starts producing the C3 Picasso in early 2009, and will churn out 110,000 MPVs in a full year, along with Peugeot’s 207 hatch.
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Citroen: number one in MPVs?
Citroen claims it is Europe’s number one compact MPV maker, with the Xsara and C4 Picassos taking 22 percent of the market. A supermini-MPV, based on the next generation C3, is an obvious extension for the brand then.
‘A Citroen MPV is always an event: our approach is to come up with a car that adds something special to the market,’ said Vincent Besson, product director.
The question is whether the new Meriva, which also hits the market in 2009, will move the game on beyond the new Citroen. Opel insiders hint that their car will have a novel showroom trick in Rolls-Royce Phantom-style suicide doors – and you can read all about in CAR Online’s latest scoop here.
‘We didn’t consider suicide doors,’ said Besson, adding: ‘The C3 Picasso’s strengths lie in other areas. But if Opel does bring the Meriva concept’s suicide doors to market, it will have understood that customers are eager for something new in the market.’
And that’s an itch Citroen is determined to scratch with its new C3 Picasso.
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