Summer Resissue : Art for Art’s Sake

If cars really can be viewed as Art, where does this leave the 1999 Citroën Xsara Picasso? 


Here at Driven to Write, we are fond of celebrating the worthy, the left of field and the more outlying inhabitants of our vehicular rich pageant. However, nobody in possession of the requisite technical or visual discernment would willingly choose to scribe a hymn of praise for the Citroën Xsara Picasso (to lend it its full name) – a motor vehicle which could perhaps only lay claim to the quality of mercy.

There have been many phases to the double chevron’s creative trajectory over the 100 years of its existence, and it would not be especially uncharitable to suggest that the Picasso model not only spoke eloquently of the vapid Kacher/ Calvet PSA era – ably abetted at Vélizy by the creative leadership of Art Blakeslee, but even by these tepid standards, a particularly misbegotten looking exemplar of the breed.

Which isn’t to suggest that it wasn’t in possession of many fine qualities. It would appear that not only did it fulfil its brief with competence and (relative) durability, but married this with affordability and a certain Depardieu appeal (of the Gérard variety) – one which in retrospect, Citroën perhaps might have played up to their advantage.

Nevertheless, for all its sins, the Picasso celebrates the 20th anniversary of its introduction, and by way of tribute, we invite you to click on the link and revisit this report by DTW reader and author, S.V Robinson, detailing his long-term Picasso-related findings.

[The related post was first published on Driven to Write on 2 June 2016.]

Author: Eóin Doyle

Co-Founder. Editor. Content Provider.

10 thoughts on “Summer Resissue : Art for Art’s Sake”

  1. Very much an ‘appliance car’ and very successful it was too, though the ‘Picasso’ name wrote ‘quirky’ and ‘interesting’ cheques it could never cash in reality.

    Seems to me, much like the Mk1 Freelander, that it was designed with the intention that the window surrounds on the doors would be blacked out – but the beancounters couldn’t warrant the time and costs masking them off and blowing over with black I get that this gives an economy / ‘truth of materials’ aesthetic – a look that really worked on previous generation Skodas, but feel it was definitely something intended and then never actioned in the production examples.
    Freelander As intended

    Freelander as Built.

    Wheels always seemed a bit comically small (with Halfords’ grade wheel trims) and the overall package would have seemed a lot less like a beached fish only for people who hate cars with the blacked out window surrounds and wheels bumped up a size.

    1. Soooo much better. I agree, that’s how it should’ve been done, and I concur it was the intended thought. The Picasso was never good looking to begin with but that blacked out DLO makes the design stretch out in an almost athletic way somewhat negating that beached whale look. What always stuck out to me was that very fast rake on the rear, which for me always looked counterproductive to the purpose of having a practical minivan. Also the very thin window surrounds on the door, that gives the impression of being visibly too weak to hold up that giant canopy stretching front to rear. It is a half measure, because it works blacked out, but body coloured they would’ve needed to be much thicker to give a visual impression of strength.

    2. But I can see now what they were going for, they were aiming at that 2CV roundel, especially on Charleston livery, were the front and rear door makes a half circle each joined together to make a full circle. They were aiming at the circle motif within the envelope of a minivan. You can just about see that on the Picasso, and it would’ve been interesting to see them make the full circle, so to speak. As it is, it is a half measure and a very feeble attempt of damage control when the blacked out DLO didn’t work.

  2. CAR once stated that this thing looked like a swamp monster that didn’t know which direction it had to go because it couldn’t tell apart its identical looking front and rear.

  3. Hi Huw. Very nice work on the Picasso: a huge improvement, and so obviously how it should have been done in the first place!

    Regarding the Freelander Mk1, you have solved a mystery that has obsessed me to an irrational degree every time I see one. If you look at the door skins immediately below the window openings, you will see a small step in the metalwork that is not continued into the A- or C-pillars, but just stops dead. Consequently, the door window frames are slightly recessed, rather than being flush with the pillars and roof rail. This makes no sense when the frames are painted in body colour, but makes perfect sense if the frames had been blacked out as intended, where the step would have provided a natural bottom edge for the black paint, just as it appears in your photo of the prototype.

    Thank you, I will sleep easier tonight…

    1. Glad to have helped – there are always so many good nuggets like this on the indispensable AROnline archives

    2. Perhaps interesting to see the forerunner to the production version – the Xanae – has none of the 2cv-like circular motifs going on in the doors and DLO. Also interestingly there was a 3 door concept too.

    3. Huw: what looks like a 3-door variant here is just the left side of the same car, which makes it a 4-door hatchback, so to speak. The asymmetric configuration can be seen clearly in the video linked above.

    4. Oh sorry, the link was not in this thread, but in the original article from 2016. It’s easy to overlook.

  4. One of the many things I appreciate about DTR is coverage of EU only vehicles that we never see in North America. Thank you.

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