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
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.
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.
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).
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”.
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.
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
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!