For many these days, a small car can no longer be, well, just a small car. If growing families are to consider modern miniature transport, it must be a good deal more versatile. A good deal like Citroen's C3 Picasso in fact. This model's now more efficient. Jonathan Crouch takes a look.
Ten Second Review
The Citroen C3 Picasso wowed us when it first appeared in 2009 and it's still the funkiest of the supermini MPVs. Not a lot really needed doing to it and the changes to this improved model largly lie in the more efficient engines now installed beneath the bonnet. It's still the go-to choice if you want a non-nerdy small MPV.
If you want an MPV, talk to Citroen. At least, that would be a good place to start, for the French brand has a bewildering array of the things. The options offered range from utilitarian van-based models like the second generation Berlingo Multispace, built to withstand the attentions of the most destructive brood, to big, plush seven seaters like the C4 Grand Picasso, with interiors that contort into more positions than a Romanian gymnast. Some family buyers though, need flexible space in a more compact form. For them, the marque offers this C3 Picasso supermini-MPV model, a design recently upgraded with far more efficient engines.
A 'supermini-MPV'? You'd be forgiven for not knowing that such things exist, or if you did, wondering how such a concept might be possible within the restricted dimensions of such a small package. The answer is that such cars might not be able to carry any more people than a conventional Fiesta-sized supermini but they can seat five people far more comfortably and offer them considerably greater levels of versatility. Cars like Nissan's Note and Ford's B-MAX have been doing pretty well in this growing sector in recent years, selling significantly below the kind of money you'd need to pay for a Focus family hatchback-sized small MPV like Citroen's 5-seat C4 Picasso. The C3 Picasso has long neatly plugged that gap in the French maker's line-up.
Citroen has taken a look at the drivetrains of the C3 Picasso and clearly decided that improvement was needed. The previous VTi petrol and e-Hdi diesel units are no more and in their place, buyers are offered a choice of two more frugal and efficient alternatives. If you don't cover many miles, we'd suggest you stick with the 1.2-litre three cylinder turbocharged petrol PureTech 110bhp unit. The stats say it gets to 62mph in 11.8s en route to 116mph, but it feels genuinely quicker than that. Refinement at higher speeds could be a little better, thanks a little wind noise around the windscreen and the lack of a 6-speed gearbox, but most of the time it's fine and certainly far better than the bigger Berlingo Multispace model that Citroen will sell you for similar money. The alternative is the BlueHDi 100 1.6-litre diesel engine. This makes 62mph in 13.3s on the way to 111mph but as usual with diesels, the differences lies in pulling power. You gey 187Nm of torque in the BlueHDi model, as opposed to just 151Nm in the PureTech model: the result is that you get a lot more mid-range acceleration.
Apart from perhaps the digital speedometer, the first thing that you'll probably notice behind the wheel is the exceptionally light and airy cabin, courtesy of one of the largest glazed areas in the segment, with up to up to four and a half square metres of glass used around the side and the top of the car if you opt for the panoramic glass roof. Then there's the high-set seating position, with its excellent range of steering and seat-height adjustment, which gives you a commanding view of the road. And the three-part panoramic windscreen with its slim pillars which makes urban driving much easier courtesy of an unusually wide side vision angle of 29.5 - easily best in the segment. Manoeuvrability and a tight turning circle are also a boon around town, while the car's vertical rear end makes parking easy. The soft suspension soaks up poor road surfaces in proper Citroen style too, which can make you feel rather smug as you watch other road users crash from one pothole to another.
Design and Build
The styling hasn't changed much, this remaining a vehicle that makes the most of every millimetre of its bulk and incorporates everything Citroen has learned over the years about MPV versatility. Jump into the back and you'll enjoy the broadest cabin in its class and at 1.66m also one of the longest in the segment, big enough to rival a number of compact 'C-MAX-style' MPVs in the sector above. Which means that with the front seat adjusted for a six-footer to drive, there's still plenty of legroom behind. In addition, to increase either boot volume or rear legroom, the split-folding rear seats individually slide back and forth independently. There's even a quality feeling to the fit and finish, thanks to plenty of soft-touch plastics.
There's serious storage capacity too. If the 385-litre boot isn't big enough, just slide the rear seat forward to increase it to 500-litres - which is about what you'd expect from an executive saloon like BMW's 5 Series. If you don't need that and still want more luggage room, the back seat can be folded away with one easy hand movement to give you an entirely flat 1506-litre loading area. You can even further extend your load length to 2.41m by folding the back of the front passenger seat completely down. There's also a removable boot floor which can be positioned at two different levels, at or below the floor line. The amount of cubbies and storage spaces is amazing and you can also specify the car with useful extras like tray tables in the back and a rear view child mirror.
Market and Model
Pricing opens at around £13,500 and stretches up to around £18,000 for the C3 Picasso. That's very competitive in the supermini-MPV segment where this car's closest rival is Ford's B-MAX. This little Pixcasso model offers a choice of 'VT', 'VTR+', 'Selection' and 'Exclusive' trim levels and there's a premium of just over £1,000 to progress from PureTech petrol to BlueHDi diesel power.
All variants get the clever panoramic wibndscreen and there's the option of a panoramic sunroof too that fills the cabin with light. Elsewhere in the standard equipment tally, buyers can expect to find nicties ike a scented air freshener, a digital speedometer and a Spacebox Storage System for the boot. More common features include front electric windows, power mirrors, central locking, ABS brakes, ESP stability control and a CD player but unfortunately, you have to graduate up to plusher models for side and curtain airbags. The eMyWay satellite navigation system is included in the option list and can also be specified with a reversing camera and rear parking sensors for easier manoeuvres.
Cost of Ownership
The C3 Picasso has always campaigned on the basis of being very inexpensive to run and thanks it its frugal PureTech and BlueHDi technology, this improved version looks particularly good on the balance sheet. The PureTech 110 petrol version manages 56.5mpg on the combined cycle - and even 44.1mpg on the urban cycle reading. The CO2 retuirn is 115g/km. You'd expect to be able to better that in the BlueHDi 100 diesel variant - and you can. The car will manage 72.4mpg on the combined cycle and 60.1mpg on the urban cycle. The CO2 return is 101g/km.
Insurance across the range is very sensibly priced with the ratings opening at Group 13E and topping out at a modest Group 16E. And buyers get the usual three year 60,000 mile warranty. Residual values should be stronger than most more ordinary small Citroen models: you'll certainly do much better than you would have done if you'd bought a conventional C3 supermini.
Citroen may not have been the first to produce a versatile MPV version of a conventional supermini but they were the first to really do the job properly, with an appealing blend of practicality and style. Certainly, many will be attracted by this car's young, bubbly image. More importantly, at a time when families are often looking for excuses to downsize from larger cars, this C3 Picasso stands as a genuinely more sensible alternative to larger 5-seat mini-MPVs in the class above. Especially now that improved PureTech petrol and BlueHDi diesel engines have made it more affordable to own.
In summary then, what do we have here? A small MPV for people who normally either wouldn't want or couldn't afford one? That's about the size of it.