The C3 Picasso MPV is no more, because SUVs are cooler.
Citroen has revealed the new C3 Aircross in a glitzy event in Paris, as British boss Linda Jackson's determination to fix the brand's dearth of SUVs begins to bear fruit. Replacing the C3 Picasso compact MPV, the C3 Aircross is a far more stylish and on-trend successor to the staid people-carrier, yet it's just as practical on the inside, promises Citroen – indeed, the firm claims it's actually the most practical small SUV of all.
Wearing the same bold style first seen in the C4 Cactus and matured further in the new C3 supermini, the C3 Aircross is a high-rise, chunky-looking SUV with big round plastic wheelarch extensions, front and rear skid plates, a hefty set of roof bars and chunky wheels that can be equipped with similarly chunky, grippy mud and snow tyres.
Citroen's design chief Alexandre Malval has added some quirky verve with the two-level front lights, clean surfacing and innovative plastiglass rear quarterlights with 'venetian blind' decals that can, like so much of the C3 Aircross, be colour-coded: there are a total of 90 colour and trim combinations.
Inside, it's enormously roomy for a small SUV, with a high-rise driving position, lots of rear legroom and a split-slide rear bench that can juggle boot space from an already commodious 410 litres to a Ford Mondeo-like 520 litres. The passenger seat folds forward too, so you can cram in loads 2.4 metres long. Citroen fits an opening panoramic glass roof, rear window blinds, its latest big, wide, 'comfort-centric' seats and a five-stage reclining rear seat backrest to make occupants comfortable and happy.
There's lots of tech, from smartphone connectivity and wireless smartphone charging to Citroen Connected Nav and 12 pieces of driver-assist tech: autonomous emergency braking, colour head-up display, keyless entry and go, bird's eye rear parking camera, five-mode Grip Control with Hill Descent control, blind spot monitoring – all will be available when ordering opens for the new C3 Aircross from 1 November.
Because buyers in this sector err towards petrol rather than diesel, Citroen's offering a bigger range of petrol engines than diesel. It's a sole 1.6-litre BlueHDi diesel in either 100hp or 120hp guise, while petrol includes 82hp entry-level, plus 1.2-litre PureTech turbos putting out either 110hp or 130hp. An automatic is available, but only on the turbo petrol. All models drive the front wheel and Citroen says the Citroen Advanced Comfort-tuned suspension delivers a plush, refined drive that will help the C3 Aircross stand out in the sector.
It needs to: this is a booming car class that includes innovators such as the Nissan Juke and best-sellers like the Renault Captur, Peugeot 2008 and Vauxhall Mokka X. Prices for the new C3 Aircross will be revealed during the summer, with an expected starter price from around £17,000, and the firm has high hopes for the new model – it could even vie with the C3 hatchback to become one of its best-sellers in the UK.
We've seen it in the metal and, while it's not as avant-garde as the C4 Cactus, it's still one of the more distinctive models in the sector – not as plain divisive as a Juke but, given its super-practical interior, a good blend of SUV style and MPV practicality. The interior is refreshing, the tech looks comprehensive and if it is priced right and drives as well as the C3, it should be a thoroughly likeable machine. Has Citroen at last solved its SUV headache? We'll find out from later this summer: first signs are looking good.