Citroën has launched a new C4 Picasso MPV/minivan with seven seats which supplements, rather than replaces, the older Xsara Picasso (the names reflect the hatchback model lines from which they were derived).

The new 'people carrier' will make its world debut at the Paris Motor show next month.

New features include a vast panoramic windscreen, fully redesigned cabin similar to that in the larger C8 models and six-speed electronic gearbox system.

Citroen is claiming class-leading amounts of space in both the passenger compartment and boot, an original seat-folding design allowing quick and easy reconfiguration of the seats and the highest levels of interior comfort and refinement thanks to zonal air conditioning, soundproofed windows, an air quality sensor, innovative interior lighting and rear air suspension.

Citroën is already one of the biggest players in the UK MPV (for Multi-Purpose Vehicle or minivan) market. The C4 Picasso will join the Xsara Picasso, the best-selling MPV among private buyers, the van-based Berlingo Multispace, claimed to be the country's most popular budget MPV, and the C8 full-size people-carrier (built in a joint venture with Fiat).

The C4 Picasso's seven seats are an alternative to the five chairs in the Xsara Picasso, which Citroen says "will continue to form part of the line-up for many years to come", even though its Xsara 'base' has long since been replaced by the newer and larger C4 line.

The C4 Picasso's 'unique super wide-angle panoramic windscreen' rises up and over the front seat occupants, doubling vertical visibility in the front to 70°, compared to just 35° in a standard MPV. Narrow side pillars and large quarter lights further enhance the driver's visibility.

A combination of the vast windscreen, the claimed biggest sunroof in the class and the large side windows allows the C4 Picasso to offer the largest glazed area of any compact MPV, its maker says.

The gear selector and paddles for the new six-speed electronic gearbox system are located on the steering column, behind the multi-functional fixed centred controls steering wheel first seen on the C4 hatchback.

This design provides space for four closed storage compartments in the dash, including a large, refrigerated 'cubby' in the centre. It is complemented by a dash-mounted electric parking brake, the positioning of most of the key driver controls and instruments around the steering wheel, and the locating of the air conditioning controls at either end of the dashboard rather than in the centre.

The boot (trunk) offers a claimed segement-leading 576 litres of load space under the parcel shelf in the most commonly used five-seat configuration. The maximum capacity rises to 1,951 litres with the seats folded away. The rear window can be opened independently, while a control in the boot allows the rear of the car to be raised or lowered for easier loading of awkward objects - that's where the aforementioned air suspension comes in.

4.59m long, 1.83m wide and 1.66m high, the C4 Picasso has three rows of individual seats, which can accommodate up to seven passengers. Each row offers claimed class-leading elbowroom, with the middle row providing more legroom than in any competitor.

As in GM Europe's rival Opel/Vauxhall Zafira, the second and third rows can be folded away under the floor, without the need to remove the headrests, providing a flat load area surface.

The seat design also allows easy access to the back row - pressing a control on the edge of either of the outer middle seats flips the seat cushion up towards the seat back and the seat then slides up against the back of the front seat in a single movement.

Standard rear air suspension is said to provide a smoother, safer drive, regardless of load while automatic four-zone air conditioning with individual controls in the second row, a second air conditioning system for the rear of the vehicle, sound-proofed laminated side windows, a scented air freshener (introduced a couple of years ago with the C4) and an air quality sensor that prevents pollutants from entering the vehicle are all either standard or optionally available.

Interior lighting is innovative. 'Light guides' under the front fascia, in the door panels and in the headlining diffuse soft, ambient light inside the vehicle. There are reading lamps in the back of the front seats (we last saw that in the 1989 Jaguar XJ6) while the lights in the door panel compartments come on automatically when a hand is placed inside them. The boot light doubles as a removable hand-held torch, which automatically recharges when the vehicle is moving.

The C4 Picasso also has an automatic electric parking brake on the dash, hill start assist and a parking space measurement system, which helps drivers looking for a suitable place large enough to park in.

Video screens, built into the back of the front seats, with infra-red headsets and a DVD player will be optional.

The C4 Picasso will be offered with either a 143bhp 2.0i petrol engine or 110bhp or 138bhp HDi diesel powerplants, both equipped with a diesel particulate filter, coupled to the new PSA new six-speed electronic gearbox system (read: automated manual, a type of Euro 4-emissions friendly 'automatic' gearbox now common this side of the Atlantic) claimed to deliver outstanding performance while helping to reduce fuel consumption by up to 5% and CO2 emissions by 5g/km.