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Click to view picture gallery“MPV sales continue
  to buck the trend
  and increase sales.
  And when it comes
  to big people carriers,
  Citroën’s C8 takes
  some beating…”

Struggling to get all that Christmas and New Year party shopping in your new city car or supermini? Size most certainly does matter when it comes to practical user-friendly transport and not just at this time of the year, but for everyday use as well. Hence the growing popularity of MPVs.

People carriers (or MPVs) of all sizes are big sellers in the UK, accounting for one in ten of all new cars sold. MPV sales are one of only three new car sales segments to show growth in the UK this year — the other two are luxury saloons and superminis.

Most major manufacturers have MPVs in their range. And not just one model line-up either, but several appealing to customers of all ages both with and without families.

The appeal of such vehicles is versatility of seating and load carrying configurations. They are true family vehicles, even if you are a family of just two people. They also double as day-to-day transport and long-haul recreational vehicles.

Just how popular they have become can be seen in the recent European Car of the Year 2007 competition, where two of the top three models were MPVs. The new Ford S-Max, a sporting mid to large sized MPV, came out top. In third place — only a few points behind — was the
Citroën C4 Picasso, the new medium-sized MPV that goes on sale in January 2007.

Citroën is a 'main player' in the overall MPV market. In the budget sector it fields the Berlingo Multispace; in the compact sector it has the very popular and well-priced Xsara Picasso and soon there will be the new C4 Picasso in the medium sector. Last but not least there is the large C8.

Best sellers in the UK's large MPV sector are the Ford Galaxy and Chrysler Voyager ranges, followed by the budget-priced Kia Sedona, then the VW Sharan and its family cousins —
Citroën's C8 and Peugeot's 807.

Citroën recently revamped the diesel line-up of its C8 people carrier with the introduction of two new economical and Euro IV compliant diesel engines. An important move, as over 80 per cent of all C8s currently sold in the UK are equipped with diesel powerplants.

A 2.0-litre, 143hp petrol engine is also available in the C8, with the option of manual or automatic transmissions.

C8 owners wanting an automatic transmission with a diesel engine
have to opt for buying a Euro III 2.0-litre HDi 110bhp unit, but this is likely to change and an auto 'box should become available soon for
one of the two new Euro IV diesel units.

Citroën says the two new 2.0-litre HDi engines combine frugal fuel economy with sub-190g/km CO2 emissions. They are mated with six-speed manual gearboxes for a relaxed and refined driving experience. This should prove popular with both private buyers and company car owners, who will appreciate the lower taxation tariff. Environmentally aware owners will be especially pleased to note that both versions
can also run on up to 30 per cent bio-diesel.

The range-topping 136bhp 2.0 HDi 16V unit returns 40mpg on the com-bined cycle, has CO2 emissions of 188g/km and is fitted with a Diesel Particulate Filter System that reduces particle emissions to virtually immeasurable levels. With a maximum speed of 118mph and up to 236lb ft of torque on tap, the new engine replaces the 130bhp 2.2 HDi unit.

Drivers of 120bhp 2.0 HDi 16V models will be able to stretch a gallon of fuel even further — 41mpg on the combined cycle — with CO2 emiss-ions of just 182g/km. This new derivative is capable of up to 112mph and delivers 221lb ft of torque at just 2,000rpm.

Stylish, spacious and versatile, the C8 people carrier can, depending on the model, seat up to eight passengers in comfort thanks to three flexible rows of seating. With the second and third row of seats removed, it offers a humungous 3,000 litres of load space. However, where the C8 (and its Peugeot 807 counterpart) miss out against the main players in this sector is that the second and third row of seats cannot be folded into the floor to create a completely flat load area. The seats just tip and fold forwards, so the versatility is not quite as good as the new Galaxy or the excellent Stow-n-Go system used in
the Chrysler Grand Voyager. Of course, the C8 seats can be unclipped and taken out of the vehicle and stored in the garage, but they are heavy and cumbersome.

All C8s are highly specified and most models come with remote control-operated sliding side doors for easy access, automatic digital tri-zone air conditioning, an alarm and automatic wipers and headlamps as standard. The first large MPV to receive a five star Euro NCAP rating for occupant protection, the C8's long list of safety equipment includes six airbags, anti-lock braking, electronic brakeforce distribution, emergency brake assist, an electronic stability programme and traction control.

Having just returned from a very wet and windy trip to France in the top of the range 2.0 HDi 136bhp Exclusive seven-seat model, I can vouch for the roominess and the driving refinement the C8 offers. Apart from the extra power and torque of the new engine — and the flexi-bility it brings in conjunction with the six-speed transmission — the overall level of specification is high and includes items from automatic wipers and lights to air conditioning and heated front seats. This particular C8 is a very luxurious MPV indeed, and it made driving in difficult conditions very easy and, most importantly, very safe.

I particularly appreciated the high-up command driving position coupled with the huge windscreen and low-level facia. This allows really good forward visibility and it was easy to see the front of the vehicle when judging parking distances — something the new C4 Picasso does not have — although it, too, has a huge front screen.

The instrumentation — mainly digital — in the C8 was easy to read and to use. It is all very logical and the information and navigation systems were also notably user-friendly.

Overall, as a large people carrier package, the C8 still takes some beating and if seven or eight people are being transported it is fine, although in a full seating configuration luggage space is limited.
Not being able to fold the rear seats completely flat into the floor for carrying luggage if only five people are in the vehicle is a drawback
and does show up the fact that other models in the MPV sector are more advanced in design and application in this respect.

As for prices? Well, with
Citroën's 'price champions' policy whatever prices I quote are likely to have changed and, of course, dealers are always willing to do a deal. Officially, the C8 range starts at £19,635 and goes up to £25,520 — the price of my test car. However, there are £3,000 cashback deals operating until the end of this year and be sure that in 2007 similar offers will be available.

The C8 is undeniably a stylish, large MPV with excellent equipment levels, good driveability and fuel economy and, as already mentioned, available at really good discounted prices. At the right price, it is a cracking good buy and just right for carrying all that shopping or just going down to the pub for a festive drink. And even better if you decide to go on a family skiing holiday with the kids and your skis, and want to avoid the usual threats of disrupted flights to and from the slopes. — David Miles

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Citroën C8 2.0 HDi 136bhp Exclusive 7-seat
| £25,520
Maximum speed: 118mph | 0-62mph: 12.5 seconds
Overall test MPG: 34.4mpg | Power: 136bhp | Torque: 236lb ft

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