Citroen C3 Picasso Exclusive 1.6 HDi

The practical family favourite gets refreshed styling and an upgraded engine line-up

Bags of character and style have given the C3 Picasso a new lease of life, and this diesel model is a genuine contender for top honours. The refined 1.6 HDi engine feels quick, even when the car is fully loaded, while keen pricing and generous kit boost the C3’s appeal. A disappointing safety rating and numb steering mean it’s just edged by the B-MAX, though.

After impressing greatly when it arrived four years ago, the Citroen C3 Picasso has since found itself being left behind by a wave of talented new rivals. So can a mid-life refresh help it get back to the top of the mini-MPV class?

The car’s styling is as distinctive now as it was when it made its debut, so Citroen has made only mild tweaks. At the front, the most obvious changes are some LED running lights (standard on VTR+ models and above) plus a new bumper and the latest interpretation of the brand’s double chevron badge, which stretches across the entire front grille.

New colour shades such as the Ink Blue metallic hue of our test car allow buyers even more scope to express themselves. Our top-spec Exclusive model was also fitted with the £210 Black Pack, which adds gloss-black trim surrounds for the foglight clusters and classy 17-inch Clover alloys to boost visual appeal. The overall effect is fun yet sensible: a tall profile and intricately designed lights mean the Citroen definitely draws more admiring glances than the sleek but bland Ford B-MAX.

And this high-sided design has practical advantages, too: the C3 Picasso feels bright and airy inside, while an optional panoramic sunroof (£550) lets even more light in. The upright driving position and glass A-pillars mean the view out is superb. They combine with short overhang to make the Citroen a doddle to park in the tightest spaces.

The lounge-like cabin is almost identical to the outgoing model’s, so the centrally mounted digital dials and button-heavy console are both starting to show their age, but there have been some minor tweaks.

New Mixou cloth seat trim is standard on VTR+ spec cars and above, while full black leather upholstery is now available as an optional extra (£955) for the first time. However, plush material like that seems at odds with the Picasso’s robust, practical image, so we’d rather stick with the standard cloth seats.

There’s plenty of space up front, but niggles like a high clutch pedal, cramped glovebox and hard-to-reach stereo controls have not been fixed as part of the refresh. The C3 Picasso also trails the B-MAX when it comes to build quality, yet it features some practical touches that help even the score Flip-down picnic tables fitted to the seat backs come with individual reading lights and, unlike in the Ford, the rear seats slide and recline to free up more legroom or boot space as required. Move the seats all the way forward, and the capacity increases from 385 litres to a considerable 500 litres, while folding them flat gives you 1,506 litres.

The Ford can’t match this impressive capacity, but the C3’s panaromic glass roof eats into headroom and the narrow opening of the rear doors makes access a bit tricky.

The Citroen’s 1.6-litre HDi diesel engine has been fettled to produce 5bhp more than before, taking the total output to 113bhp. That doesn’t make a huge difference to on-track performance, but short gearing means the Picasso felt livelier than its rival. Yet despite this punchy character, the diesel always remains smooth and refined.

The C3’s light steering and soft ride are typical MPV traits, but it lacks the Ford’s dynamic sparkle. There’s not much steering feedback, the ride occasionally feels crashy over big bumps and the bluff shape means there’s more wind noise on the motorway.

Still, a tall sixth gear let the Citroen match the Ford’s economy on this test, recording a reasonable 41.2mpg. Slightly weaker residual values and a pricier tax disc mean it’ll cost more to run, but this is offset by the fact it’s priced over £1,200 less than the B-MAX.

Overall, the C3 Picasso remains a very well rounded family car and subtle changes have cemented its appeal – but can it overcome the innovative and entertaining Ford?

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