C3 Picasso 1.4 VTi VTR+
and packaging are the
core features of the new Citroen C3
Picasso small to medium sized five-
door, five-seat MPV. And with prices
ranging from £11,495 to £15,595, its
THERE WAS A TIME when if we referred to a family car as being 'boxy'
it was regarded as a criticism. Today everything has changed: compact, boxy,
fuel- and space-efficient, multi-use vehicles are what today's car users
should be driving apparently.
Traditionally MPVs are conservatively-styled people carrying vehicles but Citroen,
with their C4 Picasso and Grand Picasso, and Ford with the sporty S-Max, have
broken off the shackles of efficient but dull offerings.
The new Citroen C3 Picasso compact MPV priced from £11,495 cannot be classed
as sporty although the tall exterior five-door 'spacebox' design is cute and
the five-seat interior is clever and versatile. It needs to be because it's
pitched into a crowded and competitive market where it will have to compete
against the likes of the Skoda Roomster, Nissan Note, Kia Soul, Fiat Qubo, Ford
Fusion, Vauxhall Meriva as well as, perhaps, the Honda Jazz and other small
to medium sized MPVs from Citroen and Peugeot.
A little larger (about five-inches) than the benchmark Ford Fiesta 'supermini',
the Citroen newcomer is a shade over 4.0-metres long, 1.73-metres wide and 1.62-metres
high with a cabin length of 1.66-metres the longest in the emerging compact
Load space with all five seats in use is a decent 500 litres. Fold down the
60:40 split rear seats and that increases to 1,506 litres. On Exclusive models
the front passenger seat backrest can be folded into a completely flat position,
thereby extending the load carrying length to 2.4-metres. Handy.
The rear bench seats also slide back and forth on runners, so users can make
the best of the space. While the legroom is very good the width is cramped for
three adults. However, thanks to the relatively high headroom, all seating positions
are high up in the car so views to the outside are excellent. And the raised
seats also allow easier access for less mobile passengers.
A brilliant and practical styling feature is the wraparound windscreen.
The front A-pillars, which these days can sometimes cause huge blind spots,
are positioned to the side of the car so the visibility is first class and the
cabin overall has a light and airy feel.
worthy interior design feature is the elongated box-shaped instrument binnacle
which sits on top of the dashboard with the digital readouts backlit via a translucent
panel. Clever stuff so that everybody in the car can easily read the speed,
mileage, fuel consumption and time. Neither is the interior quality as low-rent
as seen in some Citroens in the past; the plastics are good quality and nicely
textured. The steering column adjusts for height and reach; so, large or small,
tall or short, the driver will find the C3 Picasso fits like the proverbial
characteristics for a tall
trustworthy rather than
The only negative points for me were the lack of room in the driver's footwell
for my left foot and, secondly, the lower facia (which accommodates the gearlever)
which didn't allow for much left leg room. On the subject of gearlever, or rather
gear-change, all models have a five-speed manual gearbox but all the engines
would benefit from a six-speed unit to lower engine noise at cruising speeds
and further improve fuel economy. The gear-change itself is also wide-spaced
and offers slow gear selection.
Ride comfort is very good with a compliant suspension set-up, and the handling
characteristics for a tall box-on-wheels are trustworthy rather than dynamic.
All in all, it's very competent on the road.
As for specification: the C3 offers value for money at a competitive price.
The entry-level VT model features generous standard equipment including an MP3-compatible
CD player with steering wheel-mounted controls, electrically-adjustable door
mirrors, front electric windows and a trip computer.
At the heart of the range, the VTR+ trim gains smart 16-inch alloy wheels, air
conditioning, cruise control with speed limiter as well as additional airbags,
a child surveillance mirror and three retractable rear head restraints.
The range-topping Exclusive model offers premium levels of design and comfort
with additional kit such as dual-zone automatic air conditioning, rear parking
sensors, automatic rain-sensitive windscreen wipers, a completely flat-folding
front passenger seat, ski flap, dark tinted windows and smart leather and chrome
touches throughout the interior.
Buyers can personalise their C3 Picasso with a choice of eight body colours
and four upholstery options to suit their individual style requirements. There
is also a choice of smart alloy wheels cool-looking 16-inch 'Blade' wheels
are available on both VTR+ and Exclusive models, whilst the dynamic looking
black-painted 17-inch 'Clover' wheels are a tempting option with the Exclusive
The C3 Picasso is fitted with low-rolling resistance Michelin tyres which help
improve fuel economy and lower CO2 emissions. These are standard on 15-inch
wheels fitted to VT models and 16-inch wheels on VTR+ and Exclusive models.
A major disappointment is that for a family car only the top specification Exclusive
version has Electronic Control Stability as standard it is a £350 option
for all other models. Not having ESP as standard now means only a 4-star Euro
NCAP safety rating.
As for the choice of engines; nothing new as all are well-known. The likely
best-selling, price-led 1.4-litre VTi 95bhp petrol unit with 99lb ft of torque
is a bit on the 'weedy' side when it comes to acceleration hills quickly
cause it to run out of steam. Officially, the top speed is 111mph and the average
fuel economy 41.5mpg, but my test car only achieved 30.6mpg. CO2 emissions are
157g/km so road tax is now £150 a year.
A better choice is the 1.6-litre 90bhp HDI diesel unit. With 161lb ft of torque
it is much more flexible to drive at low speeds and offers better acceleration
response. Officially, this unit will return around 60mpg; my test car achieved
53.2mpg and with CO2 emissions of 125g/km the road tax is £120 a year. This
diesel engine costs £1,100 more than the 1.4-litre petrol unit but for me this
is the best choice of engine as far as driveability goes.
Next up the pecking order is the 1.6-litre, 120hp petrol unit and if petrol
is your preferred fuel then this is the better option because it is better to
drive under all conditions than the under-powered 1.4-litre engine. Top speed
is 117mph and 0-62mph takes 10.9 seconds. Officially, this unit will return
40.9mpg and my test car came close, returning 38.1mpg. That's nearly 8mpg better
than the hard-worked 1.4-litre petrol engine, and CO2 emissions are 159g/km
so the £150 road tax is the same.
Finally there's the 1.6-litre 110bhp, 177lb ft diesel unit. While this does
offer more performance and more torque, it pushes up the purchase price even
further so it will be the least popular C3. The official fuel economy is 57.6mpg
and the test car returned 49.5mpg. The CO2 emissions are 130g/km so road tax
is £120 a year the same as the 90bhp diesel unit. It costs £800 more
but that includes ESP as standard. This 110bhp engine, incidentally, is only
available with the range-topping Exclusive specification.
Downsides? The biggest complaint is the lack of standard-fit ESP on all models
except the very top of the range. Other no-nos include the weedy performance
from the 1.4-litre petrol engine and the slow manual gearshift.
What's it got going for it? Well, cute styling, the wraparound windscreen design
and great visibility, a comfortable ride and versatile passenger/load carrying
combinations. And, as a sweetener for cost-conscious buyers, Citroen is introducing
the C3 Picasso with their optional 3-years/35,000-mile Servicing Pack for only
£150. David Miles
Citroen C3 Picasso 1.4 VTi VTR+ | £12,595
Maximum speed: 111mph | 0-62mph: 12.2 seconds | Overall test MPG: 30.6mpg
Power: 95bhp | Torque: 99lb ft | CO2 157g/km | Insurance group 4E