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Citroen C3 Picasso review (2009 onwards)
The C3 supermini has been given the perennially popular Picasso MPV treatment - and the end result is a small but perfectly formed family car
We like: roomy cabin, visibility, flat boot, sliding rear seats, sensible pricingWe dislike: lacklustre driving experience, engines need more power, no six-speed gearbox
Here's the proof that you don't need a large saloon car or SUV just because you've got a family. It's the new C3 Picasso, a supermini-sized junior MPV that will replace the ageing Xsara Picasso due to be phased out this year.Bold styling bordering on the funky, with hints of SUV from the high roofline, short bonnet and wide muscular wheel arches, should mean the C3 Picasso will appeal to style conscious families. This will mark it out from the less desirable looking Nissan Note, Honda Jazz and Renault Modus class leaders.
There will be four engines from launch, two petrols and two diesels. Best avoided is the entry-level 1.4 VTi petrol as its 95hp feels short-breathed on faster roads and is the least likely to cope with the rigours of family life.The 1.6 petrol is a BMW unit from the 116i and the new Mini; its extra 25hp means it is more flexible than the 1.4 but the diesels make the most attractive propositions.So the 1.6 HDi with its 110hp and generous 192 lb/ft of torque is the one to go for. The only trouble is, this engine is only available with the range-topping Exclusive trim, which will set you back £15,595. A compromise is the detuned 1.6 HDi with 92hp and 159 lb/ft of pulling power, offering excellent fuel economy, low emissions, and reasonable performance.
Ride and handling
The C3 Picasso might have a hint of sportiness about its styling, but this does not translate into a fun drive. The body wallows in bends, the steering is light and the electronic stability control will quickly step in if you take a corner too sharply.However, the C3 Picasso more than makes up for this lack of driving appeal with a smooth, comfortable ride and impeccable refinement. Visibility is also perfect, with thin pillars allowing a clear view out at junctions and the optional panoramic roof as fitted to our test car floods the car with natural light.For the moment, only a five-speed gearbox is available, but a 'robotised' semi-auto transmission is due in 2011, as is a six-speed manual, which should improve the refinement further still.
Interior and equipment
Climb aboard the C3 Picasso and you'll be amazed by the space on offer. The large glass areas amplify the sensation of space, as does the high-set driving position, the low, uncluttered digital dash, the tall roofline and the dash-mounted gear lever. This is a car that is very easy to get comfortable in. The rear space is even more impressive; three adults can sit side by side with plenty of leg, shoulder and head room, and the 60:40-split seats recline as well as slide fore and aft depending on whether your passengers need more knee space or you need to carry larger items in the boot.
The boot is big, rectangular and well shaped, with little wheel arch intrusion and a large door which provides cover from the elements on wet days. For more space, the seats can be pushed forward and folded flat to provide between 500 and 1,506-litres of space, which is more than a Ford Mondeo hatchback.The front passenger seats also fold forward for transporting long objects. A removable boot floor can be positioned at two different levels to provide either a flat load bay or a deep area for larger objects. In addition, the cabin is filled with plenty of cubby holes and storage areas.
Economy and safety
None of these engines will cripple you with motoring costs. The 1.4 and 1.6 petrols manage a respectable but equal 40.9mpg and emissions of only 159g/km (though upgrade to the larger wheels and these figures will worsen slightly).The less powerful diesel driven conservatively will average 58.9mpg and emit only 128g/km, while the flexibility of the more powerful diesel means it manages an equally impressive 57.6mpg and 130g/km. A stop-start C3 Picasso is on the way in 2011 and will offer 70mpg and emissions of just 110g/km when linked to the forthcoming six-speed Electronic Gearbox System transmission.
The MSN Cars verdict
Image © Microsoft
The C3 Picasso feels like a supermini to drive but that is where the comparison ends. This is a hugely practical small family car that offers genuine space for five people and is cheap to both buy and run. It isn't the most exciting car to drive, but it is stylish and very well packaged.
Engines: petrol1.4 and 1.6
Engines: diesel1.6 HDi
Power (bhp)90 - 120
Torque lb ft 100 - 192
0-62 mph secs 14.7 - 10.9
Top speed mph108 - 117
Mpg combined40.9 - 58.9
CO2 g/km / Tax %125 - 163
Also consider: Citroen C3 Picasso rivals
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