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Citroen Xsara Picasso 2.0 HDi review (2000-2007)
Model: Citroen Xsara Picasso 2.0 HDi
Bodystyle: 5dr mini-MPV
Engine: Turbocharged 2.0-litre in-line 4 cylinder
Fuel type: Diesel
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Date of test: 2002
What is it?
Incredibly, it's a modern Citroen to make the die-hard fans proud. Why? Because of the other-worldly styling. You either love it or loathe it, but even if you've become accustomed to it thanks to all the examples seen on our roads, it's still radical enough to surprise. Particularly as the front looks like the back, meaning it could be reversing down the motorway at 70mph and you wouldn't notice. Beneath that outlandish styling, however, lies a Citroen Xsara platform, which actually makes this a completely conventional mini-MPV. No air suspension? At least there's something for the die-hards to grumble at.
Where does it fit?
All the Citroen's main mini-MPV rivals are also based on family hatchbacks, making it a copy-book contender. The Vauxhall Zafira, for example, is based on the Astra, while Renault's Scenic uses the platform of the Megane. Other key rivals include the Mazda Premacy, Kia Carens, Honda Stream and, for budget buyers, Hyundai Matrix. This sector of cars is one of Europe's fastest growing - and the Picasso is one of the biggest-selling models of all.
Is it for you?
Value is the key with the Picasso, as Citroen seems to have an almost never-ending series of special offers to tempt buyers into showrooms. It's also decently well-equipped, while a simple range of models means finding the exact spec for you shouldn't be tricky; there's a range of two petrol engines, and an acclaimed 2.0-litre HDi diesel. There isn't however, an automatic option - which Vauxhall, Renault, Honda et al offer.
What does it do well?
The Picasso's a pretty sophisticated-feeling vehicle to drive, with very few flaws on the road. It handles confidently, rides with composure and, in HDi diesel form tested, has bags of smooth power for most situations. It's also got a reasonably slick gearbox (with handy dash-mounted lever) and easy clutch, while the hushed nature of the 2.0-litre unit should be enough to convince even the most committed diesel-sceptic. As for practicality, the three individual rear seats all slide and can be removed, there's stowage slots everywhere, and all that glass creates a light, airy feel which is extremely regal. The seats themselves are comfortable, the boot's big - and contains an essential fold-away plastic shopping trolley. Invaluable.
What doesn't it do well?
Shorter drivers can find it tricky to drive - all that expanse of dashboard in front makes it impossible to guess where the nose actually is. Reversing can also induce panic. The steering's also heavy at parking speeds, and brakes are very sharp until you acclimatise. It's well-built but there's a lot of plastic inside, while the digital instruments include an 'approximate' fuel gauge and no rev counter. And although the seats are supportive, getting in and out can be hard work because the material's very 'grippy'.
What's it like to live with?
There are loads of Citroen dealers in the UK - not that you'll see them too often, due to the diesel engine's lengthy service intervals, but it's good to know they're there if you need to use the three-year warranty. Residuals are also good enough not to cause heartache come resale time, though they could be hurt in years to come by the sheer number of Picassos on the road. Citroen reliability is also not first-rate, and some of the interior plastics may not stand the test of time. But insurance is low, fuel economy is exceptional (51.4mpg combined), and if you're looking at one for your next company car, you'll be paying the lowest-rate of Benefit In Kind tax for a diesel-powered car for a while yet.
Would we buy it?
We'd consider the Picasso because it's pretty accomplished at what it does. It's roomy, cheerily-styled, pleasant to ride in and capable to drive. Thanks in no small part to that superb engine, the Picasso can even be quite good fun in the right circumstances, while fine fuel economy means it won't cost the earth to run. Future residual values may be a problem, while for many it's not the most exciting car to contemplate, but in the main it's a perfectly acceptable and superb-value mini-MPV. The biggest question therefore is - do you love or loathe the way it looks?
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