It is not, as you might think, a reflection of the car’s artistic presence on the road and its role in raising the bar when it comes to design standards in motoring. Instead, it reflects what the interior of the car looks like after exposure to the average family for a few months.
Our long-term Picasso has started on a path that could lead to its becoming a passable impression of a ‘Woman in a Blue Hat’, in which the subject’s nose is where her ear should be and her eyes nestle randomly around her face.
In turn, the rear seat table of our Picasso now nestles gently under the front seat, amid a random scattering of children’s toys, bags, crumbs and lost socks for tiny feet.
The table flew from its housing on the back of the front passenger seat under pressure from my wife’s arm as she guided our increasingly hefty offspring into a child seat.
According to the manual it is meant to do that, to protect little faces in the event of an accident when they are thrown forwards – a nice touch, although I haven’t fathomed how to rehouse it yet, hence its new home in the front.
The link to Picasso doesn’t end there, as I suspect the artist also had a hand in designing our car’s gearbox, which offers such a vague and loose action that you could attach a brush to the gearstick and knock out a copy of Dora Maar (who also has her nose on the side of her face) without slipping out of gear.
As an experiment, while in fifth gear, I have moved the gear lever from its engaged position and waggled it around the gearbox like a happy dog while the cogs remained in their position.
You get used to this lazy action, although it has driven my wife mad, as she constantly shifts from first to fourth instead of second, which isn’t much fun with a car full of kids when pulling on to a busy dual carriageway.
Once the gearchanging is over then the experience improves, however. The Picasso’s 1.6-litre diesel engine is returning more than 44mpg in a relaxed and smooth manner, although you can hear it clearly on motorways.
Also, despite its 12,500-mile service, efficiently carried out by the friendly people at Borocars in Peterborough for £167.36, there is still a short squealing noise at start-up. There is still a tiny squeak from the clutch when it is pressed down too, but I can live with both.
I am just thankful for the service indicator on the Citroen, which reminded me the visit to the garage was due, as otherwise I would have sailed into warranty-threatening territory without realising. The accommodation is excellent, if you can live with the mess small passengers make, and despite it being rather old in the world of its mini-MPV peers, it can still easily hold its own.
In fact, it is showing itself to have been ahead of its time by moving the instrument binnacle to the centre of the car, as a number of other models have done the same.
According to some of my colleagues, it is no oil painting when it comes to looks, as the front looks quite similar to the back, but as value-for-money transport with an artistic air, it deserves consideration in this increasingly crowded sector.
Model: Citroen Xsara Picasso 1.6 HDi Exclusive
Price (OTR): £16,645 (£17,145 as tested)
CO2 emissions (g/km): 131
Company car tax bill (2005/6) 22% tax-payer: £53 per month
Insurance group: 8
Combined mpg: 57
Test mpg: 46.7
CAP Monitor residual value: £4,500/27%
HSBC contract hire rate: £302
Expenditure to date: £167.36 (12,000 mile service)