Sensible, practical, useful – MPVs are all of those things. What they’re not, is fun. Until now. The Citroen C3 Picasso does all the normal useful stuff you expect of a people mover, but does it in a much more entertaining way.
Is the Citroen C3 Picasso the coolest MPV ever?
I do have a bit of a soft spot for a fake wood-sided ’90 Chrysler town and Country and the original ‘50s Multipla, but this is certainly the funkiest people mover you can currently buy. The pictures make it look enormous but in fact, as its name suggests, the smallest of the Picassos is based on a supermini platform and is barely longer than a Fiesta.
Does it do anything clever?
Apart from making you desire an MPV for the first time ever, no, nothing radical. But it does the expected stuff very well. There are five seats inside, the rear row slides back and forth or can be folded flat into the floor by tugging on one little lever. The load space is colossal: 500 litres with the seats up and up to 1500 litres with them folded. If you need to carry long loads you can tilt the front passenger seat forwards, there are cubbies recessed in the rear footwells and a removable false floor in the boot can hide the parcel shelf or extend the luggage space even further.
What about engines and stuff? I do actually like cars, after all.
There are four: 95bhp 1.4 and 119bhp 1.6 petrols co-developed with BMW and two 1.6 HDi diesels developing 91bhp and 109bhp. And there are three trim levels: VT, VTR+ and Exclusive. Prices range from £11,495 to £15,595.
Sounds great, but I’ve got a few concerns, mostly to do with it being a Citroen. Which, for instance, means the interior is probably made from old teabags.
Cabin ambience hasn’t been a Citroen strong suit since the 1970s but there are no disappointments when you climb inside the C3. It doesn’t just look fresh and modern, but feels really well constructed too. Swivel one of the rectangular air vents and its glides when you expect it to clack. The dash top is soft, the steering wheel substantial and even though the door plastics are hard, they look so good, their lack of give is never an issue. What a shame Citroen couldn’t have applied the same thinking when it put together the flagship C6’s cabin.
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Okay, but it’s a Citroen so it’s probably awful to drive.
It won’t be fighting for top spot at CAR’s 2009 Performance Car of the Year - the steering in particular is the usual yucky over-assisted Citroen nonsense. But it rides with the right blend of comfort and body control demanded by its customers. It’s no Ford S-Max dynamically, but it is confident and relaxed in the way it tackles roads (at least in Spain). And it’s easy to place because the visibility is simply incredible for an MPV because the A pillars are so thin.
There’s a pleasing lack of suspension thump and road noise too. Motorways are no problem in the top spec 109bhp 1.6 HDi, although the basic 94bhp 1.4 isn’t likely to feel quite so lively.
But it’s a Citroen so it will probably be worth 2p next year.
Not according to CAP, whose residual value forecasts are the industry standard. It reckons a C3 Picasso should still retain 37% of its original value after three years and 60,000 miles, compared to just 27% for rivals like the boring old Vauxhall Meriva, Renault Modus and Ford Fusion.
Stylish, refined and still practical, the C3 Picasso is a car that will appeal to buyers new to both MPVs and Citroen. It doesn’t offer anything really new in terms of technical content, and even stop/start doesn’t arrive until 2010. But what lifts it above the rabble is its huge sense of fun, something previously missing from the small people mover sector. This is the best Citroen for years.
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