Citroen C3 Picasso Exclusive HDi 115 six-speed manual.

Price: £17,865 (on the road).

Top speed: 114mph.

0-62mph: 11.2 seconds.

Fuel: 58.8mpg (combined figure).

CO2 emission (g/km): 125.

Verdict: Bags of character, practical, spacious, excellent motor, comfortable, well built and desirable.

CITROEN has sprung another surprise – this time in the mini- MPV market with the quirky and family-friendly C3 Picasso.

The lofty five-door, five-seat newcomer sits on a new small-car platform yet offers bags of cabin and luggage space and is a cut above the MPV norm with its fresh and funky design, versatility and general improvements in build quality.

Over the years, Citroen has launched some charismatic models, such as the DS, and has built up a strong reputation in the MPV market which should be further strengthened with the addition of the stylish C3.

But along with much-improved sales growth, the company has also had its fair share of reliability problems which they have had to address. So the newcomer should be well sorted and is expected to have strong resale values.

The vehicle does look a quality offering and with its numerous small-family attributes deserves to be on your supermini-size shortlist.

There are two petrol engines – 1.4 and 1.6-litre – and a 1.6-litre turbo diesel with different power outputs. Unfortunately, there is no automatic transmission option.

On-the-road prices go from £12,995 for the 1.4-litre VTi petrol with 95bhp to £17,865 for the 1.6- litre HDi oil burner with 115bhp and in Exclusive trim.

The C3 has become more versatile by introducing a taller, larger and more spacious body which makes for impressive head and leg room. There is a new wraparound windscreen with slim pillars for good visibility and individually adjustable rear seats that make for a highly practical interior.

When the rear seats are folded there is a large area for load carrying and, to further improve practicality, there are roof rails, under-floor storage and pull-out draws. Citroen is obviously well aware of the needs of the family motorist.

Behind the wheel, the driver can get comfortable with plenty of seat adjustments and with a steering wheel adjustable for height and reach. Pity that the foot pedals are close together and take a while to get used to.

The 1.6-litre diesel with 115bhp is a cracker, being eager and offering a smooth delivery. It has an excellent blend of performance and economy which easily tops 60mpg with a fairly steady right foot.

In true Citroen tradition, the ride is comfortable and with its supple suspension the car remains composed and secure on twisty routes. The C3 is also surprisingly quiet for such a small people mover.

Most motorists will like the quirky features inside the cabin.

The dash is large and clear with a digital speedometer for accurate reading and despite the wealth of technology the controls are easy to understand and operate. The general layout is a class act and its attractiveness is no doubt aided by the numerous aluminium embellishments.

The high-specification Exclusive model is a good choice with equipment that includes cruise control, dual-zone digital air conditioning, RDS stereo radio/MP3 compatible CD player, connecting box for Bluetooth and USB socket. The trim includes LED daytime running lights, auto lighting and wipers, attractive 16in alloy wheels and ABS with electronic braking and stability systems.

The list is lengthy. For many motorists the most desirable of the Exclusive options are the leather upholstery, colour sat-nav, reversing camera and panoramic sunroof.