Test Citroen Xsara Picasso, Mitsubishi Space Star, Mazda Premacy, Renault Scenic
Sergey VOSKRESENSKIY, Yuri NECHETOV, Anatoly FOMIN
The European and global boom in demand for minivans continues. This is not to say that it swept Russia, but even here these functional cars are increasingly finding their customers. Moreover, the choice has become wider - once a single class was divided into several subclasses, from micro to full-sized vans. The middle of this row is occupied by compact mini-vans - five-door five-seater with two rows of seats, built on the platforms of models of medium or small middle classes. It was they who visited our test: Mitsubishi Space Star (ZR, 1999, No. 11), Mazda Primasi, Renault Megane Scenic and Citroen Ksara Picasso.
Imagine that you have a well-paid job that you have to drive around the whole week by car, and a large restless family, who wants to see the world during the weekend and vacation. Compact mini-vans are called upon to meet conflicting requirements: they combine maneuverability, economy and the price of a passenger car with almost bus roominess of the passenger compartment.
What, can you imagine? That's right, the European boom will never reach us. We would care about them! Let’s even dream - not a century in the “Quartet” to delve into - and put ourselves in the place of those for whom such a choice is relevant.
Despite belonging to the same class, our rival colleagues have many individual characteristics.
“Mitsubishi Space Star” is compact, unpretentious in appearance, stands on relatively small fourteen-inch wheels and from a distance may well pass for the usual five-door hatchback. We also note that it is currently supplied to Russia only with the weakest 1.3-liter engine (1.8 GDI is expected by the end of summer), but in the northern version and, according to the instructions, with an increased clearance of 165 mm. In the latter figure, cunning is hidden, since it corresponds to an empty machine. On a fully loaded one, as required by the technique, only 120 mm was measured under the muffler. By the way, the rear suspension here, like the "Karisma", is quite sophisticated - multi-link. Space Star is equipped with more modest rivals, but also the most affordable - $ 17, 990. The cheapest modification without an air conditioner will cost another thousand cheaper.
You can’t call a Mazda Primacy a shy person - a striking appearance, a memorable “facial expression”, huge taillights, wide low-profile tires, a powerful 1.8-liter engine, a very rich configuration, though without an audio system. This pleasure also costs a lot - $ 22, 000. At $ 800 cheaper - an option without heated seats and a headlight washer, but with a radio. Officially, “Primacy” is not supplied to Russia, and a car visited the test, passing the beaten track of “gray” dealers through Finland. Somehow guarded the rear stabilizer, visible under the bottom of what is called the naked eye. Its bizarre bends are located just 95 mm from the asphalt.
Renault Scenic looks like a toy bus - round, with large windows, smooth body lines and wide-open headlights. Massive wheels on alloy wheels, the quick death on the broken asphalt, it seems, is not threatened. If the rest of the cars have engine compartments open from below dirt and stones, here is a solid steel sheet protection. The cleanliness of the compartment here is relevant, as nowhere else - to get the oil dipstick, you need to run your hand into the bowels to the very shoulder. Surprisingly, the real ground clearance was 130 mm - even more than stated! The list of configurations "Scenic" is almost as impressive as that of the "Primashi", but it costs (with a 1.6 liter engine) much less - $ 18, 900. A two-liter car is much more expensive - exactly $ 10 for every extra "cube".
"Citroen Xara Picasso" outwardly strikingly different from the rest. A deliberately symmetrical, almost egg-shaped body with soft sidewall lines and wide-spaced large 15-inch wheels does not at all resemble a minibus. When viewed from below, an unprotected engine compartment and an intermediate muffler located exactly in the middle of the car “just sticks out from which only 120 mm to the asphalt are one inch smaller than under the crankcase”. The exact price of the car at the time of the test was not known, however, according to the statements of the Citroen representative office, it would not exceed $ 20, 000; while the cars will be equipped with air conditioning and ABS brakes.
However, mini-vans are not bought for appearance: they appreciate the main advantage - a spacious interior with many options for transformation.
Sitting in the "Space Star", to determine his belonging to the mini-vans at first glance is possible only by the high ceiling. Everything else, like a normal car: not a tight, but fairly dense “passenger” landing, the usual size and configuration of the front panel, a split (60:40) rear sofa with a pair of head restraints, high thresholds, a protruding central tunnel, trough-like stampings underfoot. And the rear door openings are narrower than that of another station wagon. It is no accident that, apparently, Space Star does not call the minivan anywhere in the press releases of the company. However, the features of the latter are present: many glove compartments, boxes, pockets and even a basket under the front seat, the back of the rear seat is adjustable for angle. Three passengers on it freely at a height and length, but close to the shoulders - not crowded, but you will not turn. Bulky items can be stowed by sliding the seat forward 150 mm (choosing a gap in front of the knees). This situation is convenient for children. In this case, the boot volume will increase by 80 liters. Note that the actually measured volume was 288 liters, although 370 is listed in the factory specifications.
But the Mazda-Primasi with the trunk is all okay - 360 liters with the declared 370 liters. If we played cubes for an extra hour, perhaps we would have shoved the remaining 10 liters. The transformation opportunities are richer here too - due to the fact that the second row is made up of three separate chairs, which can be adjusted, folded or removed at all, and in a matter of seconds, in a completely arbitrary order. Let's say fold the back of the middle and use it as a wide central armrest. Or leave only the side seats, but rearrange them a little closer to the middle, increasing the level of comfort from economy to business class. However, in the usual configuration, the Mazda is quite comfortable. It is a bit more spacious than the Mitsubishi, it boasts wide openings of the rear doors, a floor almost flat in the rear of the cabin, an abundance of different-sized drawers that do not interfere with the view by soft frame headrests and several “chandeliers” in the cabin. The only drawback is flat, without side seat rollers with "excessive" waist support.
"Renault Scenic" in spaciousness and transformability of the cabin is close to leadership. It is significantly wider, especially at the rear, the landing in it is higher and vertical, which with large longitudinal dimensions creates a feeling of spaciousness, which enhances the low glazing line. Under the flat floor and the rear seats, in addition to the shelves-pockets, roomy drawers are hidden. The seats are soft, with good lateral fixation, the rear head restraints lower flush with the back and do not interfere with the review. In order not to repeat ourselves, let’s just say that the Scenic is not inferior in terms of transformation of the interior, and in some ways even surpasses the Mazda. For example, in a business-class version, the rear seats can be pulled away to fall apart, stretching out your legs and placing a bottle of something refreshing on the folding table. The trunk here is also good - 368 liters, although it does not reach the declared volume of 410 liters. Its main feature is an almost regular rectangular shape without protruding wheel arches. This is the merit of the so beloved French compact torsion bar suspension. In addition, here a rigid shelf (Mazda and Mitsubishi have soft horizontal curtains) can be installed at two levels from the floor, which is very convenient.
Citroen Ksara Picasso wins the competition in terms of internal volume. It sounds corny, but it seems that inside it is more than outside. The cabin will easily accommodate the five most impressive builds, while comfort for all is achievable without compromise. The landing of the driver and front passenger is closer to the passenger than to the bus. However, the possibility of transformation is not as great as that of Renault. From the rear seats, only the average shifts back and forth, the rest can only add up - completely or only the backs (in the latter the angle of inclination is adjustable). But in the number and volume of glove compartments-pockets, the Citroen is in no way inferior to the Renault (there is even a folding bag in the trunk). Under the rigid shelf of the trunk, we measured 388 liters, although as much as 550 is claimed. A full-size spare wheel is located in French. For those who are "not in pairs" - under the floor outside, as on the Moskvich-2141.
VILLAGE - GO!
The driver's seat of the Space Star has only two adjustments, but it is moderately tough and comfortable. You sit down in it somehow right away, without many trial attempts. A simple instrument cluster (speedometer and two indicators) is successfully complemented by a large LCD display in the center. As if apologizing for the lack of a tachometer, it provides the driver with a variety of additional information.
The 1.3-liter engine is not designed to give the car a fighting character. But he is quite capable of ensuring stable movement in space. If you look from this angle, everything will fall into place. Reliable starting off, smooth confident responses to actions by the accelerator, clear steering wheel, precise reactions, small banks - all very soundly. However, the situation is changing, you just have to cross a certain border. If there are still no complaints about the car on a straight line, then in the corners there appears a vertical buildup, yaw, early slipping of the inner drive wheel. Most likely, this is a consequence of the adaptation of the suspension to Russian conditions. This assumption is confirmed by the low rebound of the front struts, often tapping on the limiters. The Russian "Karisma" is also booming. The Mitsubishi suspension repeats the profile of the road in detail; at high speed, the body builds up. Only minor irregularities and, conversely, deep bumps the car passes "as it should." In general, against the background of competitors, Mitsubishi looks, as they say, unpretentious.
You sit behind the wheel of a Mazda-Primashi for a rather long time: a too convex back does not allow you to immediately find the desired fulcrum. The range of longitudinal displacements is sufficient for most, but heroes may find themselves in confined spaces. I liked the abundance of free space on the sides and above the head, comfortable pedals and a steering wheel adjustable in height. Only the gear lever is a bit low, but the devices are overloaded with a picket fence of small risks. A solid front panel lacked a game of design imagination.
A lot was expected on the road from Primasy: it has one of the most powerful engines in our quartet. But at first it seems too even, and only when the tachometer needle exceeds 4000 rpm, the Mazda, as if spring loaded, shoots forward. Such a temperamental, “revolving" motor on a family car these days is a rather rare thing. To match the engine handling characteristics. As if having been educated at a school of racers, the car surprises with very sharp and quick responses to driving actions. Such acuity in everyday life is sometimes tiring. The creators, apparently realizing this, loaded the steering wheel with a powerful stabilizing force - because this is how the car feels better. It turned out just the same sports equipment on which you can "break away" in full. But is such a character needed for a family "barn"?
The same ideology is embedded in the suspension of the Mazda. Tough, short-stroke, she regularly “collects all the little things”, carefully transmitting tremors to the body and steering wheel. At the same time, the car perfectly passes gentle waves without a hint of vertical buildup.
As if fending off the “Japanese”, the Renault Scenic comfortably takes into the arms of its embossed seats: you’ll drown deeper in soft cushions … Apparently, having felt this, we added one more to the three standard adjustments - backwater in the lumbar region. The range of movements of the chairs allows you to comfortably sit even a very tall person.
You cannot call a motor sluggish - it also loves revolutions, but, unlike the Mazda engine, sports notes are not so pronounced and begin to appear after 3000–3500 rpm. The only weak spot is starting off. At the bottom, there is a lack of torque, which makes it more accurate to act on the accelerator and clutch pedals.
In the management of "Renault" - the exact opposite of the "Mazda". The responses of the car are soft, smooth, and it’s rather “rocky” itself. But what’s surprising: it’s worth going a bit more abruptly, and the car, as if stepping over the barrier of uncertainty, suddenly becomes very executive towards the driver’s commands. And he slowed down a little - and again, the relaxing, calm reactions make it possible for an arbitrarily long time, without tirelessly controlling it.
More comfortable and suspension "Stage". She almost does not notice small irregularities and very softly reacts to larger, undulating ones, the passage of which is accompanied only by smooth swaying. However, at high speed and when it enters deep holes, the Renault suspension does not always work efficiently - intense buildup occurs.
… Do you like Picasso's paintings (just don't try to pretend to be an art critic)? The front panel of the Citroen is equally contradictory: it is interesting, of course, but you need to get used to the dashboard located in the center of the dashboard. However, “Ksara Picasso” is not a pioneer in this - you will find a similar combination in “Renault Espas” and “Renault Twingo”. The only consolation is that the readings are perfectly readable in any light condition, and at the touch of a button you can completely erase all but the speedometer. It is more difficult to find fault with the rest of the governing bodies. The shift lever located on the front panel is convenient and has a pleasant clarity, and the steering wheel adjustable in angle of inclination, no matter how you move it, will not be able to block the instruments. Soft seats with a short cushion and embossed backrest are similar to Renov ones, although the location of the adjustment knobs is not so logical.
Of the four “Citroen” gives rise to a minimum of emotions from the one who is driving: a simple pulling away, confident acceleration in any gear. But the feeling of merging with the car does not arise - it clearly "distances itself" from the driver. Despite the apparent thoughtfulness, “Picasso” only a little bit lost to “Mazda” in digital terms - the impartial measuring complex “Corsis” awarded him first place for brakes and second for acceleration dynamics. The situation is exactly the same with the handling of the Citroen. Although the high coupling qualities of the tires and the small roll of the body allow cornering at high speed, for some reason I do not want to do this. The enviable lightness and sensitivity of the steering combine poorly with its low accuracy, so the driver is unnecessarily stressed on a rough and winding road. It is best to drive this car in a straight and smooth road, especially since it is noticeably quieter than competitors.
As for the suspension, the Scottish-French hybrid (McPherson front and transverse rear torsion bars) is clearly designed for European highways: it copes with small irregularities without problems, but misses sharp blows to the body on large chips and potholes. The ability to withstand the wave on the pavement is also very limited.
The Mitsubishi Space Star was first shown in the fall of 1998. The front-wheel drive five-seater minivan on the Karisma platform shortened by 50 mm, together with which it is produced at the NedKar plant in Holland. It is equipped with 1.3 liter or 1.8 GDI gasoline engines and a five-speed manual gearbox. Modification with stepless variator is possible.
+ Lowest price, compactness, “passenger” sensations of the driver, long-term warranty, comfortable seats.
- Mediocre dynamics, low ground clearance, low rebound of the front suspension, limited transformation of the cabin, not very spacious interior and trunk.
At the Geneva Salon in 1999, the five-seat Mazda Primasy mini-van debuted on the model 323 platform extended by 60 mm. The drive is front, power units are a 1.8 liter petrol engine (100 or 114 hp) or a turbodiesel 2, 0 l, aggregated with a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic (only 1.8 l) gearboxes.
+ Bright appearance, good dynamics, excellent handling characteristics, good transformation capabilities, huge doorways, rich equipment.
- The steering wheel is too sharp for a minivan, the stabilizer is low-lying, the landing is not too comfortable, the highest price, unofficial delivery.
In the fall of 1996, the Renault company released the five-seat Scenic on the Megan platform, the first European compact van in a compact class. In 1999, the model was restyled, and in Moscow at the Russian Motor Show the premiere of the all-wheel drive version of the RX4 took place (received a special prize “At the wheel”). The front-wheel drive car is equipped with 1.4 gasoline engines; 1.6; 2.0 liter or 1.9-liter diesel engine in atmospheric or turbocharged versions, as well as a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic (except for the most low-power modifications) gearboxes.
+ Spacious interior with wide possibilities of transformation, convenient shape of the trunk, favorable price / quality ratio, protection of the engine compartment, good ride.
- Noticeable rolls in corners, lack of torque when starting off, hard driving sensations.
"Citroen Ksara Picasso" as a prototype was shown in the fall of 1998 in Paris. Built on a Ksary front-wheel drive platform extended on 220 mm. In Russia, sales began in 2000. Of the three options with gasoline engines of 1.6 and 1.8 liters and a two-liter turbodiesel with a Common Rail injection system (all with manual gearboxes), only the first one will be presented.
+ Spacious interior, good dynamic qualities, high-torque motor, low noise.
- Low steering accuracy, inconvenient external rear wheel arrangement, controversial design decisions.
If psychologically you are not yet ready to drive a minivan, take a look at the Mitsubishi Space Star - its differences from a passenger wagon are minimal. Most likely, Mazda Primasi will be chosen by an energetic person who is not without ambition, including driver’s, but who, by necessity, needs a roomy car. “Renault Megan Scenic” and “Citroen Ksara Picasso” are expresses for family travel, very similar in nature, but in the first, functionality prevails, in the second - originality.
Photo by Vladimir KNYAZEV
The editors thank Rolf Holding (Mitsubishi),
“Kar-Technik” (“Mazda”), “Musa-Motors” - “Autogarant” (“Renault”)