".the space, ride comfort and style of the C3 Picasso are hard to better in any MPV at this price point"
The basic shape of the C3 Picasso is undeniably square but there's hardly a straight edge on the thing. It's the sort of effect could have been achieved by taking a regular supermini-based MPV and filling it full of air at a few million PSI worth of pressure. The gentle curves and bulges almost make you think twice about approaching the car with the key drawn in case you pop it like a giant balloon. By the less than exhilarating standards of the alternatives that face supermini MPV buyers, the C3's looks have to go down as a success. You can feel all but invisible driving some small, practical cars but this Picasso has definite personality. Even in the forgettable silver metallic shade that adorns our test car, passers by deem it worthy of the occasional lingering glance. There's method in the car's cleverly disguised boxiness. The cabin feels big and airy with a high ceiling and legroom in the back that's easily sufficient for adults. The C3 Picasso gains a further edge over its rivals with a monstrous boot of up to 500-litres that extends to 1,560 litres with the rear seats folded. Folding the seats to create a flat load floor can be done with the minimum of fuss and there's even a compartment under the boot floor to stow the parcel shelf when it's not in use.
We've levered all manner of objects into the rear of our test car over the months and can report that it holds a surprising amount. The loading sill is very low as well so you don't need hoist heavy items up too high before sliding them inside. There's a light built into the load bay that can be removed and used as a hand-held torch. This was written off as a gimmick initially but has come in handy on a couple of occasions when crossing puddle-strewn ground in the dark. The user-friendliness of the C3 Picasso extends to its easy driving experience. The front seat can be raised to give a commanding, almost 4x4-style, driving position which many buyers will like but that does make the handbrake hard to reach. Forward visibility is excellent thanks to the huge windscreen and the ingenious glazed pillars at each side of it. The view out the back is less clear with the chunky C-pillars either side of the rear screen apparently compensating for the delicate nature of those at the front. The highlight of the C3 Picasso's performance on the road is its ride comfort. The suspension is supple over surface imperfections but taut enough to maintain its composure through humps and dips. The car changes direction smartly with responsive steering that's light around town but grows heavier as speeds. For really pressing on, a little more heft in the helm would be preferable but that may be asking too much from a supermini MPV. It corners neatly too with none of the body roll that has afflicted so many of Citroen's past efforts. The gearbox action is a little loose and long throw and the stiff brake pedal feels at-odds with the long travel of throttle and clutch but otherwise, the C3 Picasso is a minor revelation to drive. The design theme inside the car mirrors that of the exterior with corners replaced by curves. The plastics aren't of the highest quality you'll find in the supermini-MPV sector but Citroen does appear to have upped its game in terms of build quality. The gimmicky features that appear in other Citroen models like the fixed-hub steering wheel and the multiple digital displays are swapped for a much cleaner and more stylish look with a hint of the retro about it. All C3 Picasso buyers get the basics like remote central locking, a trip computer, electric door mirrors, electric front windows and a CD stereo. Then the VTR+ we've been trying has front fog lights, cruise control, air-conditioning and 16" alloy wheels. It's a decent spec for the prices being asked and competitive with obvious rivals like the Nissan Note and Skoda Roomster. The clear advantage the Citroen holds over these alternatives is its eye-catching styling. By successfully masking its boxy shape, the C3 Picasso has garnered an edge in a supermini MPV sector where few of the alternatives have strayed quite as far from the conventional. It's an interesting prospect as a result and importantly, it gives nothing away in terms of practicality. Although much improved over some of Citroen's past efforts, the quality of the materials used isn't quite up where it needs to be and the gearchange could be tightened up but the space, ride comfort and style of the C3 Picasso are hard to better in any MPV at this price point.
Facts at a Glance
Facts At A Glance CAR: Citroen C3 Picasso range PRICES: £13,490-£17,720 - on the road INSURANCE GROUPS: 13-16 CO2 EMISSIONS: 101-115g/km PERFORMANCE: [BlueHDi 100] 0-62mph 13.3s / Max Speed 111mph FUEL CONSUMPTION: [BlueHDi 100] (combined) 72.4mpg STANDARD SAFETY FEATURES: Twin front airbags, ABS, ESP WILL IT FIT IN YOUR GARAGE: length/width/heightmm 4080/1730/1620