As you likely recall, when Matra first approached PSA after its takeover at Simca/Chrysler they brought with them the “Dessin Orange”, an orange sketch of an MPV that they foresaw as the future of family transport. The subsequently cold response from PSA meant that the design went to Renault where it became the first Espace.

The success of the Espace in the following months allowed PSA ample time to reflect on their mistake and remedy it as they saw fit and thus, in 1994, a decade after the first Espace and well into the Espace II years, the first of the Eurovans was released.

The first generation of Eurovans was relatively unremarkable; they certainly offered a welcome alternative to the Espace with the Citroen Evasion/Synergie, Peugeot 806, Fiat Ulysse, and Lancia Zeta, but they failed to pioneer anything radical besides sliding doors (which was probably more of a coincidence since the Eurovans were based on the Sevel Nord commercial vans).

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Just as with the Espace, the Eurovans used ordinary family hatch engines, namely the XU/D units from PSA that appeared in things like the 405 and XM. Thus they were not fast, but at least fuel economy was reasonable and the powerplants were rather stout despite their unintended role in moving a big, heavy people mover.

These two green vans represent the second generation of the Eurovans—the Citroen C8 and Peugeot 807, specifically, along with their Italian cousins the Fiat Ulysse and Lancia Phedra. They maintained an identical formula to that of their forebears, mating the utilitarian Sevel Nord platform with a more contemporary and family-friendly body and interior.

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Engines remained utilitarian with a series of EW/DW PSA fours to choose from but also an additional ES V6, likely spurred by the availability of the Nissan VQ offered in the contemporary Espace.

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By now, though, the mentality of the MPV in Europe was changing from small van to big hatchback, and PSA decided to keep up with trends by expanding the Picasso line from the hugely successful Xsara and later C4 Picasso to include a seven-seater based on the same C4 platform.

The result was so successful that Peugeot followed suit three years later with the 5008 (which became, unfortunately, probably Peugeot’s best offering at the time).

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These two baby blue seven seaters were two sides of the same coin—obviously they shared a platform and the same PSA four cylinders (gone was the V6 which disappeared along with the van platform), but the Grand C4 Picasso offered a much airier, family oriented experience with central gauges and a myriad of gloveboxes (much like the contemporary Espace) whereas the 5008 had a driver-oriented center stack that many contemporary reviewers described as “aircraft-like”.

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Though these two MPVs offered buyers a slight variety of choice, PSA decided further differentiation was necessary for the next generation. Thus, while Citroen continued the Grand C4 Picasso into the space-age tourer it is today, Peugeot took the 5008 in the same direction as the newest Espace, turning the former MPV into a seven seater CUV in the same vein as the Chevy Traverse/Nissan Pathfinder here stateside.

This has been an interesting decision since it is essentially the same as what Renault is doing—by expanding its Scenic range to include the seven seater Grand Scenic, it too offers a tall-hatch style MPV as well as a seven seater CUV.

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The latter, the Espace, has been a relatively slow seller proving that perhaps the market for expensive, French, seven seater CUVs is niche at best. The 5008 has fared slightly better, selling in the mid five figures rather than low five figures, a difference likely helped by its lower starting price.

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The Picasso and Scenic both crest six figures in annual sales but that is also helped by their respective five seater variants which are more wieldy and often more popular than the seven-seater shuttles.

It’s funny, though, how PSA’s initial nonchalance towards Matra certainly handicapped it in the MPV market for decades, yet today it has pretty much squared off with Renault where they are well-matched equals in the dwindling world of one-box family transport. Thank you all for reading, and have a great weekend!

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