This is the sensible new Citroen C4 Picasso, light years away from today's egg-on-wheels original. It's sensible because it's been designed from the inside out, with huge emphasis on a spacious cabin, good visibility and huge practicality. Naturally it grows to accommodate seven seats to keep up with the Zafira et al. Expect prices to start around £15,000 when the Picasso arrives in early 2007.
What's it like in Club Class…?
Gone is the cramped cabin of old. The 4590mm-long Picasso is larger in every dimension, with more steel between the wheels and heaps more space inside. Naturally, there's plenty of room to stretch out up front and admire the view. And it's a big view. The screen arches back way beyond the driver's head, offering double the vertical visibility of a standard MPV, crows Citroen. All very nice but pointless unless you're trying to avoid a low flying aircraft. More significantly, thin pillars should minimise blindspots in the horizontal plane. A simple dashboard incorporates individual climate controls, a central sat nav and cubbies galore. You won't be hampered by any handbrake (it's electronic and button activated now) or transmission stalk. Citroen has relocated this to behind the steering wheel, with paddles to work your away through the robotised box's six speeds.
And in steerage…?
Thanks to the Picasso's humanitarian designers, it should also be pretty comfy in the cheap seats. Citroen claims class-leading elbow and legroom. And it's practical, too. The two rows of rear seats fold flat to open up a gargantuan 1951-litre load space. Even with the second row in place, there's 576 litres of room - more than in a Zafira or Renault Grand Scenic. Citroen's even nicked a trick from Routemaster buses with air suspension at the rear. Push a button and the suspension squats, lowering the sill height to make loading awkward items easier.
The skin and underneath it
The C4 Picasso is a poor man's version of the 2005 C-SportLounge concept, with its sexy details watered down and its sleek silhouette pumped up. Sure Citroen had to raise the roof to accommodate seven. But it's not as striking as recent Citroen hits the C4 or C6, and Ford's S-Max shows that seating seven and a dash of sportiness are not impossible bedfellows. Under the skin, the old Xsara platform is replaced by the sharper underpinnings from the C4. It'll be safer - the C4 family hatch has a five-star NCAP rating - and more fun to drive.
|143bhp 2.0-litre four/6spd automatic
||138bhp 2.0-litre four/6spd automatic|
What happens to the Xsara Picasso?
Nothing, it just keeps on going. Since its launch in 2000, a staggering 225,000 Picassos have found UK homes. And with prices that make Aldi look expensive, the five-seat MPV is still selling 30,000 units a year. As a result, Citroen will squeeze that lemon until the pips squeak.