I felt that as a working mum in need of a family-friendly car, it would fit me to a tee – big enough to take the weekly shopping, pushchair, husband and toddler all in comfort, while nippy enough to thrill and economic enough for me to consider purchasing as a second car. In fact, the Picasso ticked all the right boxes on my test car wish list.
The Picasso has been the most popular MPV in the UK for two of the past three years and most popular MPV for private buyers for three years in a row. But the new 110bhp 1.6 HDi, with higher power, performance and equipment levels plus lower CO2 emissions than the 90bhp version means that, at least on paper, the new Picasso should be a hit with fleets.
The 'next generation' HDi promises 57mpg on the combined cycle in the Picasso, making it theoretically capable of more than 760 miles on a single tank.
With CO2 emissions at 131g/km it means company car tax-payers would be liable for £653 a year on the standard rate of income tax. That works out at a couple of pounds a month more than a Renault Scenic Dynamique 1.5 dCi 100, but the Citroen is more powerful and better equipped for the money.
Contract hire rates for the Picasso won't break the bank at about £300 per month.
However, CAP predicts a poor three-year/60,000 mile residual value of only £4,300/26% as opposed to £6,175/34% for the equivalent Scenic. The Picasso has had a good sales run over the past few years and its popularity – and the high number of discounted models to the likes of Motability - contribute to the low residual value.
It is worth noting that the 110bhp engine also has an 'overboost' facility which produces almost 10% more power under hard acceleration. This provides a valuable extra surge when overtaking, and means that the 110bhp Picasso has a top speed of 114mph and can accelerate from 0-62mph in a decent 11 seconds.
Citroen has not forgotten comfort when tweaking the new Picasso – the range is offered in three trim levels, from base LX through Desire to top-spec Exclusive, although the 110bhp version is only available in Desire and Exclusive trim.
Our test model is an Exclusive with all the bells and whistles you could wish for. The package is rounded by a great range of safety and security measures. All Picasso models feature ABS with EBD, four airbags and ISOFIX child seat-anchoring points, high-tensile steel side protection bars, automatic door and boot locking in transit, plus additional dash button to lock yourself into the car should you desire.
In the short time I've been at the wheel of the Picasso, I have managed average fuel consumption of 49.5mpg, but the engine should loosen up and economy improve. It copes admirably with my family's needs and in fact on a recent run, comfortably swallowed the luggage for three adults and a toddler - no mean feat.
The manufacturer's view
THE Xsara Picasso has proved exceptionally popular in the UK, outselling all of its rivals over the past three years.
The new 110hp 1.6HDi common rail diesel engine will be particularly appealing to cost-conscious fleets as it offers amongst the best fuel economy and CO2 figures in the sector, with over 57mpg possible on the combined cycle and emissions of just 131g/km helping to keep BIK charges right down in the lowest category.
Slotting into the important 100bhp to 120bhp segment, which currently accounts for almost half of all Compact MPV diesel sales, the unit also delivers impressive amounts of torque and acceleration.
Yet EMMOX figures for three years/20,000 miles show that running costs remain lower than for its major competitors and, as expected for a Citroen, equipment levels are impressively high, all contributing to an extremely competitive all-round package.
CO2 emissions (g/km) 131
Company car tax bill 2004/05 (22% tax-payer) £53 per month
Figures based on three-years/60,000-miles
What we expect
Such has been the pace of change in the mini-MPV market that the Picasso has been somewhat forgotten, despite the fact that it was the second best-selling model last year after the Vauxhall Zafira.
It is now four years since the Picasso launched and with so much newer metal around, it will be interesting to see if the Picasso can still cut it in terms of practicality, running costs and driver appeal.
The HDi engines are normally pretty frugal, and this one should be no different – we reckon 50mpg or above is easily achievable.
After six months being toddler-beaten, will the interior stand up to the rigours of family life? Citroens sometimes aren't the most robust, but the Picasso has been in the field for a while now and should be fine.