Despite being offered with three petrol engines and only one diesel, every other buyer of the Citroen Picasso chose the heavy-oil option last year – so a new HDi motor should soon be giving diesel the balance of power in the showrooms.
The Picasso is the first PSA car to be fitted with the 1.6-litre common rail engine – a result of the PSA-Ford diesel partnership.
A Citroen spokesman said: 'We will be surprised if our latest unit fails to attract new customers as well as winning the lion's share of diesel sales because it is unique in the sector. We never dreamed we would be putting such a powerful motor into the Picasso.
'All the research for this model in the late 1990s indicated the market required no more than 90bhp, but buyers have sought increased power as the compact MPV sector has expanded.
'Now we find the average demand is for an extra 10%, so we think that making 110bhp available gives us fresh impetus and places the Picasso at the top end of the sector. This level of output is unusual, especially as it is produced from an engine of only 1.6-litre capacity.'
First used by Ford in the C-MAX three months ago and soon to be used in the Peugeot 407, the latest example of PSA's power unit downsizing programme puts 177lb-ft of torque on tap at only 1,750rpm to make the new top-range Picasso a spirited performer.
But its ability to return 57.6mpg on the combined cycle gives the Picasso a theoretical range in excess of 760 miles on a tankful of fuel.
The spokesman added: 'We have sold more than 140,000 Picasso models so far and around half have gone to the corporate sector. We are confident the performance and economy of this engine will make the car an even bigger hit with fleets and one of the lowest emission figures in the class should also prove a winner in the user-chooser market.'
In the showrooms from this week, the higher-power HDi heads a revised range that has been given a mild cosmetic makeover based on a slimmer front bumper, a new lower front intake designed to deliver more air to the turbo unit, clearer headlamp lenses and chrome bumper inserts.
Fewer LX models and a wider choice of mid-range cars in Desire trim are the main features of the rationalised Picasso line-up and the changes add an RDS radio and CD player and new-style steel wheels to the LX.
Desire versions have air conditioning, ABS brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution, four airbags and body colour finish for bumpers, side mouldings and door mirrors as standard, while top range Exclusive trim adds automatic headlamps, a net for the boot floor, a rear sunblind and 15-inch alloy wheels.
Restricted to the Desire and Exclusive, the HDi 110 engine also comes with electronic stability and traction control, plus emergency brake assist equipment.
Allowing for the 'VAT-back' incentive that runs to the end of March, pricing from £11,420 is particularly aggressive and is pitched to build on Citroen's commanding position in the sector.
The spokesman continued: 'Our car has been a consistent high sales performer because it has always been recognised as a strong value-for-money proposition.
'Diesel sales accounted for 16% of the compact MPV market in 2000 but after consistent growth, they took 40% of sales last year. Some 45% of registrations were in the 100-120bhp segment, so in its latest guise with this new, all-aluminium engine with second-generation common rail, the Picasso is now in the heart of this growing area.'
Behind the wheel
CITROEN uses an impressive array of advanced technology in a remarkable piece of automotive engineering that really does achieve more performance from less cubic capacity – and consumes less fuel into the bargain.
But if our brief encounter in southern France is anything to go by, the HDi 110 is somewhat less impressive on the road than it appears on paper.
Even though it boasts state-of-the-art injection and sophisticated, next-generation electronic underbonnet management, the new Dagenham engine proved to be noisier at times than the long-serving HDi 90bhp unit that has proved so popular in the original Picasso.
It might have had something to do with the mountings or general insulation, but the test car was raucous under acceleration and produced an induction boom at around 80mph (the French motorway speed limit) that could prove tiresome on long motorway trips.
That criticism apart, the new engine does impress with a power delivery that is pleasantly progressive.
Weighing in at around 1,300kg, the Picasso may be relatively light, but it still has commodious bodywork and the motor does well to cover the fourth gear 60-90 kph (37-56mph) sprint in only seven seconds.
Faster all-out and smarter off the mark than its main rivals, the Scenic 1.9 dCi and Vauxhall's 2.0 DTi Zafira, the Picasso HDi 110 develops 70% of maximum torque at only 1,250 revs, an ability designed to keep gear changing to a minimum.
Significantly, the motor also boasts turbo 'overboost' gadgetry that is new to PSA but has been used previously by Ford. Linking the variable-geometry turbocharger developed for the engine with new electronic management units with 30% greater power, the feature makes an extra 10% of torque available on a temporary basis to take output to 191lb-ft at 2,000rpm.
Of particular use in situations calling for maximum acceleration, overboost is valuable in increasing safety margins and is especially beneficial when overtaking manoeuvres become unexpectedly tight.
Overboost comes without the traditional turbocharger 'kick' when it springs into action. The clever feature stays in action for around 15 seconds and gives the 110 a smooth and lively demeanour.
This new engine could well make the top Picasso ideal for the long-distance business user – if only it made a little less noise.
Max power(bhp/rpm): 110/4,000
Max torque(lb-ft/rpm): 177/1,750
Max speed (mph): 114
0-62mph (sec): 10.8
Fuel consumption (mpg): 57.6
CO2 emissions (g/km): 131
Fuel capacity (l/gal): 60/13.2
Transmission: 5-sp man
On sale: now