Citroen has carved out an impressive reputation as leader of all things MPV. Indeed one in four MPVs sold in the UK is a Citroen.

The desirable Citroen C3 Picasso is the latest and smallest MPV in its range, taking on rivals including the Vauxhall Meriva, Nissan Note and Renault Modus.

We drove it on British roads at its UK launch and fiddled with all its levers, buttons and switches along the way.

It’s clear from the outset the C3 Picasso has been very carefully designed with its owners in mind.

Citroen has done its homework – even claiming to have installed cameras in volunteers MPVs – and it shows in the details.

While some cars require a hand from Geoff Capes Strongman to alter the seating arrangement, the C3 Picasso’s 60/40 split rear seats fold completely flat with a gentle pull of a lever on each side.

Leave them up and Citroen claims the 500-litres of boot space you find behind the rear seats is class-leading.

With them down there is a massive 1,506-litres of storage potential. Choose the range-topping ‘Exclusive’ trim and the front passenger seat folds flat too, allowing longer objects to slide in place.

There are a number of useful cubby holes, compartments, cup holders, stowage nets.

Comfort class

We were impressed by the quality and finish of the interior, which is a cut above the Xsara Picasso and Berlingo Multispace, and more interesting than its staid rivals.

Dark, textured cabin plastics feel solid to the touch and look expensive, while the Alcantara trimmed seats and leather steering wheel of our ‘Exclusive’ test car gave it a classy feel.

View our Citroen C3 Picasso slide show

There were no rattles, squeaks or groans as we drove along some particularly rough roads and the C3 Picasso feels built to last.

The central gauges with digital speedometer are amongst the clearest we’ve used and the split windscreen pillars are a great safety feature; enhancing visibility when cornering or approaching roundabouts and junctions.

Soft ride

The ride is cosseting and suits the relaxing nature of the car well. It soaks up bumps excellently and keeps most road noise out of the cabin.

Despite this, there is still decent feedback through the steering wheel in bends and there is hardly any roll or wallow, so passengers shouldn’t feel car sick.

Two petrol and two diesel engines are available, and all but the low-powered 1.4-litre petrol are 1.6-litres in size. BMW has co-developed the petrol engines with Citroen, and they produce 95bhp and 120bhp while emitting between 157g/km and 163g/km and averaging just over 40mpg.

The diesel is available with 90bhp or 110bhp and emits between 125g/km and 133g/km while averaging almost 60mpg.

We found the most powerful diesel the pick of the bunch, but it’s only available with the ‘Exclusive’ trim level.

In everyday driving the less powerful diesel is fine, with a delivery which feels better suited to the relaxing driving style of the C3 Picasso than the petrol engines.

Is it ‘Exclusive’?

Three trim levels are available: VT, VTR+ and Exclusive. The VT is fitted with an MP3-compatible CD player with steering wheel controls, electric door mirrors, front electric windows and a trip computer.

The VTR+ is fitted with 16-inch alloy wheels, air conditioning, climate control, adjustable speed limiter, additional airbags and child surveillance mirror.

Exclusive adds dual-zone climate control, rear parking sensors, auto wipers, flat-folding front passenger seat, ski flap, window tints and leather and chrome interior trim.

All models are fitted with ABS with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD), ISOFIX child seat fixtures, child locks and airbags.

Good to own

The Citroen C3 Picasso should make a great ownership proposition for young families, or those just in need of some extra space. It’s relaxing to drive with a light and airy cabin, and it has all the load-lugging flexibility and interior equipment you should need.

Key facts

Models tested: Citroen C3 Picasso 1.6 VTi 120 Exclusive, Citroen C3 Picasso 1.6 HDi 110 Exclusive
On the road prices: £14,445, £15,595
Date tested: March 2009
Road tester: Andy Goodwin