Citroen Picasso meets Ford S-MAX

With flexible seating, great handling and styling, are the latest generation of MPVs getting inflated egos?

To find out if the new breed of people carriers are all a load of hot air, or whether they look set to rise to the top of the sales charts, Auto Express gained exclusive first UK access to Citroen’s innovative new C4 Picasso. And we put it head-to-head with Ford’s very own up-to-the-minute family ferrier, the S-MAX.

Even though both of these models offer seven seats and are aimed at simi-lar buyers, their underpinnings come from different classes. While the Ford is based on the all-new Mondeo, the Citroen rides on underpinnings shared with the compact family class C4. That gives the S-MAX the edge in terms of dimensions, with a length of 4,768mm, height of 1,658mm and a width of 1,884mm. By comparison, the Citroen is 4,590mm long, 1,660mm high and 1,830mm wide. So, does the Ford make the most of its extra millimetres?

Walk up to these two people carriers and you’ll be drawn first to the S-MAX. Its sporty and stylish looks provide a striking road presence. By contrast, the Picasso is more conservative, although there are attractive touches such as the neon-style rear lamps. But in this class, it’s what is on the inside that counts.

Citroen has created a feeling of light and space with the Picasso, and it certainly puts the S-MAX in the shade. The French model’s most striking feature is the large windscreen that stretches up over the driver’s head. Designers have even included clever blinds which can be pulled down to avoid glare.

After dark, Picasso occupants are treated to strip lighting in the headlining and on the dash, while the footwells are also floodlit. There are even illuminated door pockets up front, while the boot lamp doubles as a portable torch.

In terms of space, there’s not much to separate the two MPVs. The sixth and seventh chairs of both will provide ample space for adults on short journeys, while the French car’s are easier to stow – a simple pull of the backrest sees them fold effortlessly into the floor. When it comes to raw luggage space, however, the S-MAX offers more.

With a typically futuristic dashboard, the Picasso’s cockpit is attractive and practical. Opt for our car’s automated manual transmission and the gearlever is placed on the steering column, leaving bags of room between the front seats.

Under the skin, the Citroen is packed full of the latest technology. Features include an electronic parking gap finder, which locates the ideal space, while air-suspension at the rear helps keep everything on the level and laminated glass boosts safety and refinement. The Ford appears less advanced in comparison. Yet it starts at £16,995, while the smaller Citroen will be available from around £15,000.

Both offer a different approach to MPV design and prove the people carrier bubble is far from burst. However, the Picasso has more showroom appeal. Will it live up to the S-MAX out on the road? We can’t wait to find out.

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