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Citroen C3 Picasso in doubt

Mini people movers are expected to be the ‘next big thing’ in Europe but don't expect the trend to cross continents.

Citroen's C3 Picasso has won major awards in Europe and is set to outsell a host of rivals including the Fiat Idea, Opel/Vauxhall Meriva, Ford Fusion and Nissan Note.

But Australian importers Ateco Automotive has gone quiet on a local launch for the baby Picasso.

The main problem, says Ateco spokesman Edward Rowe, is the lack of a self-shifting gearbox. Australians increasingly demand automatics and at the moment, Citroen can't supply one.

But, says Rowe, there could be hope when Citroen starts its next generation C3, expected late next year.

If the new C3 comes with an automatic gearbox, Mr Rowe believes the Picasso variant will make a sensible addition to the marque's Australian lineup.

"The mini people mover market is big in Europe, and expected to get bigger, not only because of traffic congestion issues but because they attract a lower tax.

"Australia doesn't have that incentive so people ill buy it for different reasons. There is also no rival for the C3 Picasso in Australia so we would be creating our own segment, if you like."

The only thing close to the C3 Picasso would be the recently-released Kia Soul.

Based on global needs for a space-efficient, frugal and affordable family car, the C3 Picasso looks good on paper.

Citroen says it "unites the parallels of cubes and curves" to combine the character of an MPV and hatchback.

At 500-litres, its boot is one of the biggest in the business. The split rear seats can fold flat and independently slide forwards.

Drop the seats down and luggage space grows to 1506 litres to carry loads up to 2.4m long.

Europe sells three trim levels — the entry-level VT; the more upmarket VTR+ that adds airconditioning and alloy wheels; and the Exclusive that gets more luxurious trim plus practical features including a flat-folding front passenger seat and a removable boot light torch.

The C3 Picasso, which went on sale in the UK last week, is available with a choice of two petrol engines — co-developed with BMW — the VTi 95 and VTi 120 and two HDi diesels — the HDi 90 and HDi 110 DPFS.

Safety starts with ABS brakes with EBD and brakes assist, up to six airbags, Isofix anchor points and a seatbelt monitor system.

Electronic stability control with a traction control system is optional.