Citroen C3 Picasso

Debut: 2009
Maker: Citroen
Predecessor: Xsara Picasso

Funky styling a sharp constrast to the sophisticated C4 Picasso

Supermini-based small MPVs have been popular since the pioneering Opel Meriva arrived in 2003. While they seat no more than 5, they offer ample room and flexible luggage space for a small family to spend their weekends outside. That’s why more and more families trade their conventional small cars for small MPVs, and therefore more and more manufacturers join the battlefield. Citroen C3 Picasso is the latest entry into a segment already occupied by Opel Meriva, Fiat Idea / Lancia Musa, Renault Modus, Nissan Note, Toyota dB / Daihatsu Materia, Kia Soul, Nissan Cube and Skoda Roomster.

Citroen said C3 Picasso replaces its 10-year-old Xsara Picasso, which is time to retire later this year. You might question that C3 Picasso is a class smaller than Xsara Picasso, just as their family names suggested, so how can it replace the latter ?

Spacious enough to replace the larger Xsara Picasso

Well, the C3 Picasso is really smaller than the old car. It is built on the floorpan of Peugeot 207 (also the next generation C3), sharing the latter’s 2540mm wheelbase and a length just over 4 meters. However, it uses space very efficiently. Citroen designers gave its bodyshell a boxy but rounded profile to maximize interior space. At the same time, they managed to inject some style and fun into the minivan shape while avoiding the weird looks of some rivals. Worth to note is that it has no family resemblance at all with C4 Picasso, whose sophistication contrasts the funky theme of the smaller car.

Open the doors, first to note is how airy its cabin feels. This is contributed by the very high roofline (some 1624mm above ground) and large glass area. Forward visibility is exceptional. Many MPVs have front quarter blindspots caused by thick A pillars. Citroen cleverly avoided this problem by moving the stress member to B-pillars, hence possible to adopt very slim A-pillars and a pair of large quarter windows. Such attention to details is rare to the French company, and we expect many rivals will follow suit soon.

Slim A-pillars eliminates front quarter blindspots

Apart from airy, the interior is spacious and flexible, too. High and upright seating frees up legroom for all passengers so that 4 large adults will find it comfortable for long journey. Like the most flexible rivals, its 60/40-split rear bench can slide fore and aft independently to vary the distribution of rear legroom and luggage space, or simply fold onto the floor to reveal a totally flat luggage area measuring 1506 liters, which is more accommodating than rivals. Long items like surf boards can be placed with the front passenger seat fold down. Moreover, there are plenty of small storage cubbies or drawers all over the car. The Citroen makes no real breakthrough, but it won’t lose marks to any rivals in terms of luggage utility.

Considering its affordable price, the C3 Picasso is pretty well made. Although most plastics in the cabin are hard ones, the upper part of dashboard is made of soft plastic, and the ventilation outlets have classy metallic treatment. Fit and finish are up to class standard. Most controls are well located and easy to reach. The only downside is a centrally-mounted digital instrument panel, as we would prefer a conventional one.


Luggage utility as flexible as anymore else

As mentioned, the C3 Picasso is built on the platform of Peugeot 207, which is a big improvement from the past. Refinement is evident in its effective noise insulation, supple ride and smooth engines. In particular, the BMW-developed 95hp 1.4-liter and 120hp 1.6-liter engines are way smoother and freer revving than the outgoing PSA engines, although they do not cope with the car’s 1.3 ton weight as well as the 110hp 1.6HDI turbo diesel. Either way, C3 Picasso will not be renowned for performance.

Neither will it be known for handling. Considering its tall body and soft suspensions, its average body control is not a surprise. The same goes for the light and vague steering. However, at least the car has plenty of grip and a secured driving manner. After all, its main axis are still comfort and ease of driving.

No one buys a mini MPV for its driving dynamics. What people are looking for is the right combination of space, comfort, versatility and packaging at the right price. Performance and handling are only bonuses – although the MPVs of Ford did live on bonuses. From this viewpoint, Citroen C3 Picasso may hit right the hearts of the buying public. Undoubtedly, it is going to be a strong rival to the established players in this segment.
The above report was last updated on 25 May 2009. All Rights Reserved.


General remarks

C3 Picasso 1.4VTi
C3 Picasso 1.6VTi
C3 Picasso1.6HDi
Front-engined, FWD
Front-engined, FWD
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Steel monocoque Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
Mainly steel Mainly steel
Length / width / height 4078 / 1730 / 1624 mm 4078 / 1730 / 1624 mm 4078 / 1730 / 1624 mm
Wheelbase 2540 mm 2540 mm 2540 mm
Inline-4 Inline-4, diesel
1397 cc
1598 cc 1560 cc
Valve gears
DOHC 16 valves, VVT
DOHC 16 valves, VVT, VVL (Valvetronic)
DOHC 16 valves
- VTG turbo
Other engine features
Max power
95 hp / 6000 rpm
120 hp / 6000 rpm
110 hp / 4000 rpm
Max torque
100 lbft / 4000 rpm
118 lbft / 4250 rpm
177 lbft / 1750 rpm
5-speed manual
5-speed manual 5-speed manual
Suspension layout
F: strut
R: torsion-beam
F: strut
R: torsion-beam
F: strut
R: torsion-beam
Suspension features
- -
Tyres front/rear
Kerb weight
1260 kg
1290 kg
1333 kg
Top speed
111 mph (c)
117 mph (c)
114 mph (c)
0-60 mph (sec)
11.5 (est)
10.3 (est)
10.5 (est)
0-100 mph (sec)
Performance tested by: -

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Citroen C3 Picasso
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