Citroen C3 Picasso review

Our Rating: 
2008 model
By Auto Express Test TeamComments

The bold Citroen C3 Picasso has distinctive looks and a huge cabin, making it a great supermini MPV contender

Funky styling, clever packaging, refinement
Underpowered petrols, body roll, ESP on option list

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The Citroen C3 Picasso was a breath of fresh air in the small MPV class when it was launched in 2008. Its boxy lines mean it has plenty of space inside, while a step up in build quality means the C3 Picasso feels like a premium product inside. The cabin is also an extremely relaxing place to spend time, as wind and road noise are kept to a minimum. The diesel engines are the best option - they have enough pulling power to cope with big loads and motorway trips, yet return excellent fuel economy. A facelift for 2012 added the new family grille and LED running lights plus smart new wheel trims and paint colours.

Our choice: C3 Picasso 1.6 HDi 115 Exclusive

Engines, performance and drive


There's a fairly limited choice of engines in the C3 Picasso. Petrol fans can pick either the underpowered 93bhp 1.4-litre VTi or a punchy 118bhp 1.6-litre unit. However, we’d recommend sticking to the 1.6 HDi diesel, which is available with either 88bhp or 113bhp. Both versions are smooth, torquey and should deliver around 58mpg at the pumps. All models except the most powerful diesel use a five-speed manual gearbox. The most striking aspect of the C3 Picasso driving experience is the refinement. Wind, road and engine noise are low, giving the Citroen a big car feel, particularly at motorway speeds. This impression is bolstered by the supple and composed ride, which soaks up even big bumps and potholes. On the other hand, the soft suspension set-up means the C3 Picasso suffers from body roll in the bends. Over-assisted steering delivers little in the way of feedback and the handling is safe and predictable rather than involving.

MPG, CO2 and running costs


Like other models in the Citroen line-up, the C3 Picasso represents decent value for money. Entry-level models lack standard kit, with air-conditioning an extra cost option. All models have average residuals, and even the diesel models fail to retain more than 40 per cent of their value after three years. At least the oil-burners should be cost effective, as they can delivering nearly 60mpg – and with CO2 emissions of up to 130g/km annual road tax is fairly low - but rivals like the Ford B-MAX and Hyundai ix20 are much less polluting.

Interior, design and technology


If you want a small MPV that stands out from the crowd, then the Citroen C3 Picasso could be the car for you. The faired-in nose features large wraparound headlamps, while the rest of the shape is an eye-catching mix of straight lines and bold curves. Entry-level VT models feature basic steel wheels, while VTR+ adds alloy wheels and flashes of chrome trim. Go for the range-topping Exclusive and you’ll also get neat roof rails and darkened privacy glass for the rear windows. All models benefit from a novel panoramic windscreen that stretches over the heads of the driver and front seat passenger. Inside some of the trim is beginning to look dated and the fiddly stereo controls are blocked by the gearlever but equipment levels are good and the high driving position makes the C3 Picasso a very easy car to place on the road and park.

Practicality, comfort and boot space


Few cars of any size can match the Citroen C3 Picasso for versatility. Thanks to its boxy and upright exterior, it's able to make the most of its supermini dimensions when it comes to cabin space. Occupants get plenty of leg and headroom, and opening the tailgate reveals a remarkable 500-litre boot. Look around the interior and you’ll find bags of storage, while range-topping Exclusive models benefit from a fold-flat front passenger seat. It’s stylish and solidly screwed together too, with an attractive dashboard that features a neat centrally mounted digital instrument pack and classy aluminium air vents. One word of warning is to avoid the optional panoramic glass roof which badly limits rear headroom and makes the C3 Picasso feel cramped for adult passengers.

Reliability and Safety


A respectable four-star score in the Euro NCAP tests is proof of the C3 Picasso’s strength. However, entry-level cars only have two airbags as standard, while electronic stability control is an option on everything other than the range-topping Exclusive model. It is also worth noting that Citroen performs quite badly in our annual Driver Power satisfaction survey for both reliability and dealer service - and like most French cars the electrics can suffer from the occasional fault.

Last updated: 5 May, 2012