8.4.2009 Citroen C3 Picasso review
Having created a name with Picasso, Citroen is now filling a niche with a C3 version, with which Iain Robertson can find NO areas of disagreement, and declares it as one of the best compact MPVs / family cars he has driven in many years.
Excitement has been sorely missing from the motorcar business for some time. Oh, sure, you can become excited, enthralled even, with the latest Italian supercar, a new Jaguar, or even a Porsche, but the outcome is ultimately unrealistic. It is pleasant to carry out a double-take on the latest and most attractively unusual car. It inspires curiosity. It makes you look. But, ask yourself, when was the last time that a regular, mainstream motorcar made you spin on your heels?
The new Citroen C3 Picasso model does create an instant impact. It looks so totally different to almost any other car – with the notable exception of the all-new Kia Soul, something about which Citroen personnel feel slightly uneasy. Yet, any similarities are soon forgotten as you approach the C3 Picasso. In fact, it’s only the multi-plane headlamps and the two-box design stance that carry the similarities, not much else.
Cracking open the driver’s door, which possesses a fine solidity to it, the interior of the Citroen is a revelation. Slipping behind the neatly styled steering wheel, adjusting both the driver’s seat and column, which operate through an enormous range of movement, obtaining a commanding, comfortable and accommodating driving position is wonderfully easy.
While the plastic mouldings are not all soft-touch, they do possess a different texture to the norm, which affords them a significantly higher quality impression. The instrument binnacle is set in the centre of the top of the dashboard, in the style of several other family-class cars, back-lit cleverly in the same way as Citroen’s C4 range. Yet, everything that you touch has a high quality appeal to it, from the stalks and steering wheel rim, to the door pulls and the gear lever.
Having adjusted the seat to suit my needs, I then checked the amount of remaining space behind me and discovered that I could even fit my form behind my own driver’s seat setting. Remarkable. The model I was about to drive is sure to be the best-seller in the range. A VTR+, powered by the 90bhp HDi diesel engine that provides the lowest carbon emissions, emitting just 125g/km tail-pipe CO2. I was amazed by the amount of smooth, yet accessible punch from this version of the otherwise familiar 1.6-litre unit. However, I was completely unprepared for what was about to come.
As I drove the car along a series of back lanes fairly close to our Daventry launch driving venue, I became increasingly impressed with its fluid ride. Sharp bumps and potholes were reduced to distantly heard thuds, while road surface ripples disappeared almost completely, the C3 Picasso riding sublimely and quietly in a most refined and unfussy manner. Pressing-on around bends, I discovered another element to the car’s handling – while body roll is present, it is never less than controlled and the car simply does not lurch or heave from one direction change to the next. The steering is deliciously weighted and precise, while the brakes are beautifully balanced.
Personally, I have seldom been so thrilled by a run-of-the-mill car’s dynamic balance. Citroen has judged its new model to perfection and it is very much a car of today, and for tomorrow, as the financial and environmental squeeze become increasingly pressing. A quick check on its fuel economy revealed that 52.3mpg was my average for this pre-emptive drive, which compares reasonable with its 60.1mpg Official Combined figure. Although unable to test its performance thoroughly, it accelerates briskly and feels quicker than its stated 14.4 seconds for the 0-60mph benchmark, while its top speed is pegged at 108mph.
Considering that the range starts at just £11,495, for the 95bhp 1.4-litre VTi petrol engine (albeit emitting 157g/km of CO2), I can see a lot of private buyers opting for that version, while business users will probably opt for the model that I tried, which is very reasonably tagged at £13,695 in VTR+ trim. That said, the Green Car Ratings show that it’s actually the 1.6HDi 110hp unit that provides the lowest overall environmental rating of 38 (130 gCO2/km).
If you want more goodies, then go for the Exclusive versions, as the range tops out at £15,995 for the most highly specified variant. By the way, its boot is massive and the load-space can be extended logically and practically to suit almost any family’s needs. Do not only think of the Citroen C3 Picasso as an MPV – this is the new class of the family car scene, make no mistake. All cars should be built this way.
Model tested: Citroen C3 Piccaso
Body-styles: 5-door family car
Engines: 1.4, 1.6 (P4), 1.6 (TD4)
Trim grades: VT, VTR+, Exclusive
Prices: from £11,495 to £15,995
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 5 STARS
Warranty: Three years, 60,000 miles
WGC Rating: CITROEN C3 Picasso 1.6HDi 110hp
Iain Robertson © Next Green Car.com 2009
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