By on August 15, 2019

Today’s Rare Ride follows a trio of recent Citroën entries in this series. But unlike the other chevaux in the stable, this one’s an illegal alien.

It’s the Xsara Picasso from 2003.

That’s right, only in the progressive and more import-friendly United States of Canada would this Citroën be legal. It needs another nine years of aging to qualify under the U.S. 25-year import rule. So what’s a Xsara Picasso, and is it worth the crime?

The Picasso fit into the compact MPV segment that’s popular in Europe, but mostly a non-entity in the North American market. The Kia Rondo comes to mind as one local qualifier, and maybe the Ford C-Max. MPVs combine a high roof and flexible seating arrangements with improved cargo capacity. The MPV usually has more space and a more dorky appearance than a standard hatchback like a Fiesta or Golf.

Citroën based the new Picasso on the compact Xsara platform shared with the Peugeot 306. The Xsara went into production in 1997, and the Picasso followed up in 1999. On offer initially were a trio of four cylinder engines in 1.6- and 1.8-liter displacements, along with a larger 2.0-liter diesel. Introductory trims LX and SX were reorganized for 2000 into Desire, VTR, and Exclusive. Inside, flexible seating flipped, folded, or could be removed to turn Picasso into a cargo hauler. All models had tray tables just like a Jaguar Vanden Plas. Exclusive trims offered an optional glass roof with retractable sun shade.

A facelift arrived in 2004, along with a new 1.6 diesel offering. Particularly popular in the United Kingdom because of its versatility and low price, demand was considerable enough globally to produce the Picasso in six different countries. Original European production ended for Picasso in 2010, as the Xsara line made way for the new C3 and C4 models. Citroën kept the Picasso name across its lineup, and still uses it to denote an MPV.

Today’s Rare Ride has a “clean title” in Arizona (Florida of the Southwest), and is a manual, diesel hatchback in luxurious Exclusive trim. Who knows what it’s insured as (if at all), but don’t let the small details deter a purchase. It’s offered for $6,500.

[Images: seller]

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24 Comments on “Rare Rides: The 2003 Citroën Xsara Picasso, Too Hot to Title...”

  • avatar

    Well, it may be a Picasso, but it’s not cubist…

    I actually dig this.

  • avatar
    CKNSLS Sierra SLT

    I am wondering if this was purchased by a U.S. service member while they were being deployed over in Europe-then the military will ship a vehicle back at no-charge. At least that’s my understanding.

    • 0 avatar

      Even if it’s not U.S.-certified?

      • 0 avatar

        Yeah I can’t see the government partaking in importing something obviously illegal.

        • 0 avatar

          Have a chance to read through the posts and comments now…

          Now you’re in my wheelhouse! Short answer, technically no, BUT, and that’s a HUGE but, if the vehicle can be modified to comply to US safety and emissions standards, the EPA might allow it in. Keep in mind that this is very broad. It needs the required number of airbags, has to provide sufficient protection in an accident, the proper bumpers, the correct emissions equipment – basically you’d have to find a way to make a French market Citroen an American-compliant vehicle. This can run in the tens of thousands of dollars.

          And then there is the issue, if it passes the Fed test, your state has to accept it. It is far more hassle, paperwork, cost, and red tape than pretty much anyone is willing to accept.

          There were people at my posting who bought local African Land Rovers, Toyotas, and Nissans. When US cars were coming with four airbags, you likely (at the time) had to pay extra for one airbag. You had a chance to get ABS, but it likely wasn’t standard. Crash tests are different, even for cars perceived as very safe in the US. Side impacts are judged differently. These vehicles were modified to run on leaded fuel. Even those in Europe that run on unleaded fuel are programmed for European blends of fuel. The cars that we imported from the states (our personal cars) had to have their catalytic converters removed (and stare at a Check Engine light forever) – we kept it just in case we shipped it back and had to have it reinstalled before it left the boat (many ocean-shipping auto services would install it for you before it hit customs.) Our cars ran roughly at times, and got worse mileage as the engine systems had to compensate for the low quality leaded fuel.

          Everyone I knew who bought a local vehicle, including myself, just sold it to the next guy off of the plane coming to work with us…sometimes even to our replacement. Shipping the car back after we made the changes to work with the local standards to be compliant with the US again wasn’t worth it…plus it kept our resale values high!

          And then if you somehow manage to crawl and peel through enough red tape to strangle a large city, where is the car going to get serviced? Last I checked, there aren’t any service centers that can service a brand new French car, or other brands like Ssangyong that aren’t sold here. If you’re good with a wrench, technically you could get parts shipped from their home country and try to fix it yourself, but again, the cost and time wasted will be extreme.

          So, very long story short, if you’re not in the military or some form of the foreign service/diplomatic corps, abandon all hope if you value your sanity. If you are part of that select group, there is a chance, albeit slight, that if you manage to go through enough flaming hoops as wide as a thimble, that you MIGHT be able to modify and US-standardize your local-spec car to be US road worthy. But there’s a reason why we don’t see new French cars driving around Mass Ave in Washington, DC. It’s just way too much of a hassle and too expensive to even try.

        • 0 avatar

          They sure did thats how i ended up with it in az

    • 0 avatar

      It was bought by a soilder and imported to arizona i own this car and i took these pictures i have a clean class A arizona title

  • avatar

    I remember seeing these everywhere in Denmark when I lived there about 10 years ago. I always thought they looked dated (as in the paint/headlight plastics were already 10 years old) even when they were brand new. Not helping is the overall very 90s design of them.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Let’s just say that I am a big fan of this class of vehicle and wish that there were more available.

    Kia Rondo, now gone. Ford C-Max now gone. Mazda 5 gone. Chev Orlando gone. Nissan Axxess/Multi and Eagle Summit long gone.

    Guess that I don’t have the same tastes as the mass market.

    • 0 avatar

      Up for debate:

      Do sliding doors just make it a small van? I’d generally argue they do.


      Mazda MPV 1990: is MPV
      Mazda MPV 1998 All-Sport: is SUV
      Mazda MPV 2004: is minivan

      Honda Odyssey 1995: is MPV

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        Corey, to make it a van does it require 1 or 2 sliding doors?

        • 0 avatar

          I think even one sliding door makes it a van. So the Eagle Summit is a van, and so is the Stanza Prairie.

        • 0 avatar

          Until sometime in the ’90s every van had one sliding door.

          I tend to agree with Corey that the sliding door is what makes a van a van, but there’s the occasional boxy swing-door vehicle like the Scion xB or Flex that really challenges that theory.

          • 0 avatar

            Hmm, xB I’ll call regular hatch, as the cargo area and seat flexibility isn’t so great per photos. The Flex is a wagon.

            Nissan Cube is an MPV.
            Honda Element is MPV in front-drive, and CUV if all-wheel drive.

          • 0 avatar

            Floor height, not AWD, is what distinguishes a MPV from a CUV. The Element’s is low for a CUV but it’s clearly too high for a MPV. I vote CUV.

            Of course you’ll come back and say that by that rule the first-generation Chevy Traverse is just an extra-large MPV. And you might be right.

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            So what does that make the Dodge Colt/ Eagle Vista/Mitsubishi Chariot?

            Since they were called a wagon, but could be purchased with a 7 seat configuration and all-wheel drive.

          • 0 avatar

            That 7-seat Colt (square one) was an MPV.

            Vista and Chariot are vans with sliding doors!

  • avatar

    Ah yes, the Xsara Picasso. I actually have a poster of it. I wrangled a bunch of free posters from Citroën back in 2003 (okay, it took a lot of emails), as I was a huge fan of Seb Loeb and Carlos Sainz, who at the time were Citroën’s top WRC drivers. I have C6 and C8 posters, along with a couple of WRC posters from the time hanging in my garage.

  • avatar

    Yeah, this can’t be titled since it doesn’t comply with DOT and EPA. It would be a nice paper weight. It was probably brought in with temporary foreign plates. Unless the customs officer was new or didn’t know what he was doing…

    • 0 avatar

      Titling cars is the purview of the STATES. EPA and DOT are FEDERAL things. How much attention a state pays to what the Feds say will vary widely and wildly.

      I guarantee you I could title this in Maine, regardless of whether it is in the country legally or not. If nothing else, Maine accepts Canadian titles no questions asked, so you sell it to a Canadian friend or family member and buy it back from them. The Feds really don’t have time for random used cars as long as you aren’t trying to make a business of selling them like those guys with Land Rovers a few years ago.

      • 0 avatar

        Florida DMV won’t touch a vehicle that was never plated in another state in USA, regardless of brand, unless it has the Entry Summary stamped by CBP showing compliance with DOT/EPA. Other states? I am not so sure. The Feds are very interested in inspecting these cars when they are presented to them. ( ask me how I know…hahaha). Rules are slightly different for cars sold in Canada if they comply with CMVSS. They don’t have to change certain dashboard pictograms but in theory, if they don’t, the car should not be sold after importation and registration. Now, that can’t be enforced. Once you get a US title, no one cares. Cars made in Mexico, for Mexican market only have to be imported through a special automotive importer and customs broker.

    • 0 avatar

      False i have a clean arizona title and drive it regularly

  • avatar

    If it was one of Citroen’s more interesting offerings, like the C5 or C6, it would be worth jumping the hoops to import.

    But these, even this side of the Atlantic, are ten a penny beaters.
    Couple of examples locally going for around £1000

    MPVs here can be anything from a small passenger van (eg. Transit Connect with seats) up to when they used to sell the Chrysler Voyager. The Renault Espace popularised the segment, then the likes of the Scenic and the Picasso brought them down in size.

  • avatar

    These are nothing remarkable in Europe. In fact they are still a common sight. They are dirt cheap forms of transportation that are primarily cheap to maintain and not enthralling to drive in any way, shape or form.

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