i have just bought a Citroën C4 Picasso.
i could elaborate on the specifics of the drivetrain and the trim level, but i’m not going to; this blog entry is not about such mundane issues.
the model of Picasso i have bought can be considered a third-generation, if one includes the Xsara Picasso of 1999. Going back a little further, the first modern monospace Citroëns were the Evasion / Synergie of 1994. Beyond that, there is not really a strong tradition evident in the marque’s portfolio of the monospace bodystyle.
not so with Renault, of course, whom many credit as having invented the modern market segment with the groundbreaking Espace of 1984. Renault - more than any other French (or German) manufacturer - realised early and realised with earnestness the deep potentialities of the monospace as an automotive concept. One of their advertisements from that era had the tagline “… because space is the ultimate luxury”.
space being the ultimate luxury should be a concept which any resident of an East Asian metropolis should intuitively be able to grasp. Renault has stuck to its guns, ploughing its own field even to this day. While flagship Citroëns and DSs have been all long, low, and swoopy, Automobiles Renault have given us explorations in space such as the Vel Satis, Avantime, and - of course - the Espace. Together, these three cars exemplify the French concept of bien-etre, which might be loosely translated as ‘well-being’, but more accurately as ’the art of living well’.
Bien-être is quintessentially French, and is a concept which would be untranslate-able in German. The thinking behind bien-etre is the diametric opposite of the thinking behind naming something SportsVan. The gulf is much more than one of nomenclature, but one of one’s understanding of life itself. In the history of German automotive design, there has only been one instance of the Germans coming close to an understanding of bien-etre, and that is the BMW 5-series Gran Turismo. While the 5-series Gran Turismo remains in production (there is - in fact - a new model on the horizon), the same cannot be said - alas - of either the Vel Satis or the Avantime; and the Espace is no longer available in right-hand drive, more’s the pity.
which brings us back to the Citroën C4 Picasso.
back in the day, Renault actually brought three units of the Vel Satis to Singapore, and i came very close to buying one. It hit me, the other day, that i should have no regrets, because of the architectural similarities between the Vel Satis and the C4 Picasso. Both offer commodious cabins, and both push the boat out in terms of tactile quality and attention to cabin texturing. Je ne regrette rien, as Mme Piaf would say.
so the C4 Picasso is unlike any other Citroën i have owned, because its conceptual heritage cannot be traced earlier than the mid-1990s. yet it is by no means an enfant terrible because its architecture remains quintessentially French in conception.
no other culture could have birthed it.
yet in 2016, the market is crowded with five-seat monospaces. the majority of them miss the point, for simply putting five-seats in a bodyshell that’s been enlarged in a Xerox doth not bien-etre promote.
and - just like the inspiratorial namesake - there can be only one Picasso. only one monospace connects with cubism and dallies with deconstructionism so wilfully. while others have whittled their forms in the relentless pursuit of rationalism, the C4 Picasso surprises and delights - like all true Citroëns - over, and over, and over again, continually proffering points in both interior and exterior architecture for engaging owner, occupants, and car-as-a-character in conversation. George Herbert would have approved, for living well is indeed the best revenge.