PARIS – Convinced two Picassos are better than one, Automobiles Citroen will begin selling a 7-seat Picasso in October based on its Citroen C4.

The 5-seat Xsara Picasso will remain in production at least until 2010.

While arch competitor Renault SA has a 5-seat Megane Scenic and a 7-seat Megane Grand Scenic, they are the same vehicle. Citroen introduced the Xsara Picasso in 2000, and the C4 in 2004 on a completely new platform.

The C4 Picasso is loaded with new or nearly new features:

  • Optic fiber light-emitting-diode ambient lighting and rear position lights, a swept back windshield that lets the driver see the sky and a helicopter-like sun visor that slides down from the headliner.
  • Door storage compartments that light up when you reach in.
  • Second- and third-row seats that pop, fold and slide.
  • A large central screen on the dashboard that can be hooked to a portable DVD player if you’re not driving and optional double DVD screens for the rear seats.
  • Two-sided air conditioning for which rear passengers can regulate their fan speed individually and an optional second unit that fits under a front seat and allows rear passengers to choose their own temperature. It also cools off the cargo area.
  • Built-in scent distributor and fixed center steering wheel adopted from the other C4s.
  • Air suspension on the rear wheels that adjusts the ride depending on how the vehicle is loaded.
  • An air quality detector.

Citroen is pushing its robotized manual transmission with this model, expecting it to account for half of sales in much of Europe.

The largest, 136-hp diesel engine comes only with the automated manual, and all of Citroen’s early publicity photos show only that interior.

Manual transmission versions have the shifter in a pod that extends from the instrument panel and replaces one of the four large gloveboxes.

With an automated manual, drivers shift with steering wheel paddles and use the stalk on the steering column to choose reverse, neutral, automatic mode or manual mode.

The C4 Picasso will be built in Vigo, Spain, on the same line as the Xsara Picasso, which will allow the factory to adjust production to demand in case of cannibalization between the models.

Plant workers received a record amount of training for the new Picasso, especially in areas aimed at improving perceived quality, Project Manager Sebastian Vandelle says.

Citroen Chairman Claude Satinet declines to say how much was invested in the project.

PSA Peugeot Citroen already is smarting over comparisons of investment for the Renault Clio III and the Peugeot 207, as well as between Peugeot and Citroen projects, says an executive, so the auto maker has decided not to reveal the outlay for the C4 Picasso.

The new model fits on a size and price continuum between the Xsara Picasso and the C8. The Xsara version sells in the €16,000-€21,800 ($20,458-$27,874) range, the C4 version is priced at €21,000-€30,000 ($26,842-$38,346) and the C8 sells for €25,000-€33,700 ($31,955-$43,084).

The C4 Picasso is 180.7 ins. (459.0 cm) long, 12.4 ins. (31.5 cm) longer than the Xsara Picasso. It is also slightly wider and taller than the Xsara Picasso at 72.0 ins. (183.0 cm) in width and 65.4 ins. (166.0 cm) high. It is 4.9 ins. (12.5 cm) shorter than the C8.

Engine choices include a 146-hp 2.0L gasoline engine, a 110-hp HDi diesel and a 138-hp HDi diesel. A full automatic transmission is available with the gasoline engine only, and not in all countries.

Vincent Besson, Citroen director of products and markets, says fullsize minivans such as the C8 and Renault Espace represent a mature market that peaked in 2000 at 336,000 units per year, while the compact minivan sector led by the Scenic, Opel Zafira and Volkswagen Touran, continues to boom.

Those four models, alone, sold 800,000 units last year.

To complete the range, Citroen one day will have a monospace smaller than the Xsara Picasso, Vandelle says. Presumably it will be based on the C3’s Platform 1.