Citroen C3 Picasso 1.4 Exclusive

New small MPV offers space to rival larger people carriers

Designing people carriers has become something of an art form at Citroen. Since launching the Xsara Picasso in 1999, the French firm has steadily expanded its MPV line-up, and it now provides more options than its rivals.

From the no-frills Nemo Multispace to the full-size C8, there’s a versatile people carrier to suit every budget. And the supermini-sized C3 Picasso broadens the range even further.

Despite its small exterior dimensions, the newcomer makes a big impression. In fact, it’s fitting that the great surrealist artist Picasso lends his name to the unorthodox-looking C3, as its boxy shape is a distinctive mix of straight lines and bold curves.

At the front there’s a prominent nose with large wraparound headlamps, while slightly flared wheelarches are a neat touch.The eyecatching style continues inside, where you’ll find a neat dashboard that features a central pod of digital instruments and air vents with aluminium-effect surrounds.

As with the C4 Picasso, the C3 gets a panoramic windscreen which stretches back above the front seats. Not only does it provide great visibility, it also creates a bright and airy feel inside.

But it’s the Citroen’s practicality that really shines. Although the C3 is only 4,080mm long, it has an exceptionally spacious interior. There’s room for five adults at a pinch, while legroom in the back can be increased by sliding the rear seats.

Lift the large tailgate, and there’s a huge 500-litre load bay which expands to 1,506 litres with the back seats stowed– figures that none of its rivals here can match. Better still, our range-topping Exclusive model is fitted with a folding front passenger seat, which allows you to squeeze in items measuring up to 2.4 metres long. Elsewhere you’ll find plenty of cubby space, including generous door pockets.

On paper, the Citroen has a performance disadvantage, and that proved to be the case at the test track. Its 93bhp 1.4-litre petrol engine is the least powerful, and the Picasso posted a pedestrian 12.9-second 0-60mph time – three seconds slower than the Nissan.

You have to work the C3 hard to keep up with traffic, a situation that isn’t helped by the vague shift of the long-throw five-speed gearbox. However, the engine is smooth and refined, and combines with low wind and road noise to make the Citroen easily the quietest cruiser of our quartet.

This impression is reinforced by the car’s ride, as the C3 isolates passengers from all but the worst bumps. There is a trade-off, though, as the soft suspension means there’s plenty of body roll. The over-assisted steering offers little in the way of feedback, too.

At £13,695, the C3 is the second most expensive car here. It misses out on some of the kit found as standard in the Kia and Nissan, but no rival can match it for space or versatility. Will that be enough for the newcomer to secure victory?

Details

Chart position: 1WHY: Citroen’s latest people carrier aims to mix practicality with style in a supermini-sized package.

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