"What you really take away is how the car works without throwing up those little annoyances."
Being saddled with an MPV for a few months isn't everyone's idea of fun but there are MPVs and then there are MPVs. Happily, the C3 Picasso falls into the later category. Boxy dimensions are a must for a small car looking to generate big cabin space but the C3 Picasso manages to disguise its set square lines by diligently rounding them off. This mishmash of straights and curves, smattered with some eye-catching detailing, works. It may be no Audi R8 but for a supermini-sized MPV, the Picasso is quite the handsome devil. The desire to give the C3 Picasso a lively and coherent design theme rears its head inside as well, the 'box with rounded corners' motif cropping up again and again. It's on the door inserts, the air-vents, the display screens and the gear lever surround. Along with some interesting trim materials and metallic detailing on our car it all serves to swell the impression that somebody has taken real care with the way the C3 Picasso looks and feels. A minimum requirement in a £15,000 car you might think but it's not always the case. Having taken time to appreciate the C3 Picasso's style, you eventually arrive at the nitty-gritty or how it actually functions as a small family car. Lots of the switchgear is common to other Citroen models and although the steering column control stalks aren't the last word in solidity, the other bits you have to press and pull seem reasonably hardwearing.
If the plastics and build quality are above average, the interior space will have to be marked down as excellent. The C3 Picasso is only a little over four meters long, just a shade larger than today's crop of super-sized superminis, but the cabin feels like that of a far larger car. Some neat packaging tricks are employed to achieve this such as the way the rear seats are set higher than those in the front, giving children a better view out and creating a more upright seating position that maximises legroom. The front passenger also gains in the legroom department thanks to the way the dash is cut away on that side but this does mean that the glovebox is a seriously small one. There's plenty of headroom for six-footers whichever seat they're occupying and this overhead space really adds to the airy feel inside. There's ample room across the rear bench for three kids or a pair of adults and squeezing a trio of grown-ups in there is by no means an impossibility, they just have to snuggle up a bit. With all the seats occupied there's a 385-litre boot behind and it's usefully shaped with a flat floor and no loading lip to hoist items over. Increasing that capacity couldn't be much simpler. In the fist instance, you can slide the rear bench forward, robbing your back seat passengers of legroom but expanding the boot to a considerable 500-litres. From there, the back seat can be folded right down to give more capacity still - assuming there's nobody sitting in it. Adding to the day to day user-friendliness of the C3 Picasso are some neat features. A removable boot floor can be specified that can be set in two positions, either flush with the loading lip or lower to increase the boot capacity further. There are aircraft style trays in the back of the front seats and a handy additional mirror that folds down from the roof console to let the driver keep an eye on what the kids in the back are getting up to. After an extended period with the C3 Picasso, it's not the styling that you're left appreciating, attractive though it is compared to rival products, and it's not the clever little design touches in the cabin. What you really take away is how the car works without throwing up those little annoyances that can so easily tarnish your opinion of a vehicle over time. It's the same story out on the road where the gear shifting action could be a little slicker but in general the C3 Picasso is a joy to use. Visibility, aided by the car's innovative wrap-around windscreen with glazed sections in the A-pillars, is excellent and the wide track combined with the stub nose of the C3 Picasso makes for a super-tight turning circle. The gear change action could be a little slicker for weaving your way through stop/start traffic but the ride quality is outstanding to the point that many premium car manufacturers could learn something from the Citroen's suspension set-up. Even at higher speeds, the C3 feels planted on the road and corners without too much lean considering its relatively tall shape. We all need some level of practicality from our cars, whether its room to carry a Sunday newspaper or the capacity to make family holidays with five school age kids and an incontinent Labrador something approaching bearable. Motorists with requirements at the upper end of this scale can find themselves railroaded into some bleakly utilitarian vehicles but the C3 Picasso is a practical small car with a bit of personality that doesn't fall down in any meaningful area. It's a winning combination.
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