Scrapyard Gem: 2006 Citroën Xsara Picasso Desire

YORK, England — By the time our current century got started, most American car shoppers had become fully committed to pickups and SUVs as their preferred rides. Cross the Atlantic at that time, however, and you’d find that the compact MPV was one of the most popular choices for Western European drivers seeking plenty of passenger and cargo space in a small package. The Citroën Xsara Picasso was one of the best-selling compact MPVs of its era, and I’ve found this ’06 in a self-service scrapyard (as they call them here) in York, England.

It has been 51 years since new Citroëns were sold in the United States, and so I’ve only managed to document a handful of them during my junkyard travels. Citroën began building cars in 1918, merged with Peugeot in 1974 and became part of the mighty Stellantis Empire in 2021.

How did it happen that Citroën is allowed to place Pablo Picasso‘s famous signature on its cars? In 1989, Pablo’s son sold the rights to Citroën for $20 million.

The brochures for this car bear down very hard on the Pablo Picasso connection.

Although the Xsara Picasso never came close to being sold in the United States, here’s one in the brochure negotiating the Judge Harry Pregerson Interchange in Los Angeles (where the bus-jump scene in 1994’s “Speed” took place).

The California high desert in 2006, where cops in 15-year-old box Caprices hide behind Picasso billboards in order to bust speeding Citroëns.

The U.K.-market 2006 Xsara Picasso was available in Desire, VTX and Exclusive trim levels. This one is the base Desire model. These badges now live on my garage wall.

For a car that weighed well under 3,000 pounds, the Xsara Picasso offered an amazing amount of interior space. There’s room for five inside, with airliner-style folding tables for the rear-seat passengers; those rear seats are removable to make room for bulky cargo.

This type of vehicle never caught on in North America, despite the best efforts of Japanese manufacturers.

The Xsara Picasso was succeeded by the C4 Picasso, which has since evolved into the kind of crossover SUV that would look right at home on American roads. It took awhile, but the SUV craze finally has conquered Europe.

The Xsara Picasso was one of the first vehicles designed by Donato Coco, who went on to work at Ferrari and Lotus. In addition to his work designing many Citroën models, Coco was behind the styling of the Ferrari 458 Italia.

This one is a petrol-engined model with five-speed manual transmission, featuring 110 horses beneath its bonnet. Diesels and automatics were available as well.

U-Pull-It York’s inventory listing for this car shows that it had 114,279 miles on the odometer when it was retired with front-end damage. A check of its MOT history indicates that it passed its final inspection in October 2022 and that its registration was allowed to expire a year later.

Citroën got its money’s worth out of that Picasso branding deal.

Those rebellious assembly-line robots have had their minds freed by the spirit of a long-dead Spaniard.

The faces of ordinary French children become terrifying Cubist sculptures when they ride in an Xsara Picasso.

Richard Hammond reviewed the first-year Xsara Picasso in 2000.

Leave a Comment