First Drive: Citroën C4 Picasso draws on its success as a family car

The Picasso’s interior is spacious and comfy, although its steering is lifeless, and it’s a little too roly-poly on bends

Make: Citroen

Model: Picasso C4

Year: 2013

Fuel: Diesel

Date Reviewed: June 10, 2013

Tue, Jun 11, 2013, 18:25

   

To say that Citroën’s C4 Picasso has been a popular family motoring choice lately is to venture into the verdant undergrowth of understatement. More than three million Picasso-badged models have been sold, spanning four generations, including the original Xsara Picasso and the current compact C3 Picasso.

So far this year, Citroën has imported more than 500 2009 or 2010-registered C4 Picassos from the UK, just to keep up with secondhand demand for the car. Families seem to love its space (not surprising – it’s one of the few compact vehicles in which three child car seats can be installed in the rear) and those with an eye for style clearly appreciate its distinctive looks.

Success can be a burden too, of course, and it means Citroën dare not stray too far from a successful template with this new C4 Picasso. Thus, while there are some genuinely dramatic flourishes to the styling of the new car, it’s clearly inspired by its progenitor. You’ve got to love those narrow, slitty daytime lights; a thin strip of bright LEDs mounted above the main headlight unit and which dominate the front of the car. In the rearview mirror, it puts you in mind of a Cylon warrior from the hokey old sci-fi series Battlestar Galactica. Well, maybe that’s just me . . .

There are other suitably artistic touches, though, such as the chrome band that encases the side windows and, on top-spec models, forms the leading-edge of the rear pillar. There’s more than a touch of current Jaguar styling about the darkened glass and black roof pillars at the rear and the tailgate, with its clamshell shape and integrated lights seems to shout Audi Q3. Put simply, for what is a tall, practical family mover, the new C4 Picasso is thoroughly striking.

That striking exterior is as nothing to the interior, though. All the instruments are centrally mounted, something I normally dislike, but with a massive, bright, HD 12-inch screen forming the upper instrument panel and a smaller 7-inch touch-screen (standard on all models) taking on the duties normally done by a bevy of buttons, the Picasso’s cabin looks remarkably high-tech. There are the now-expected multi-function displays that can show you the sat-nav, the driver aids (which include a lane-departure warning that tugs on your seatbelt in the manner of a bored child in the back) or Citroën’s new (though still unavailable in Ireland) internet and app system which can display, amongst other items, Michelin Guide Rouge reviews for nearby restaurants, or guide you to a multi-story car park.


Picasso can park itself
When you get there, the Picasso can park itself; this will be a option, of course, but one which gives you a certain sci-fi thrill as the wheel turns itself, and which can also get you out of a space if someone’s boxed you in. It’s just one of a myriad high-end options which seems to suggest that the Picasso is aligning itself with Citroën’s premium-end DS sub-brand. Not so, says Citroën. In fact, the C-badged range will become more affordable in price, while retaining both high-tech features and a sense of usability and simplicity. Which will be a neat trick if Citroën can pull it off.

Underpinning (literally) this new plan is a new platform, and Citroën’s EMP2 chassis (shared with sister firm Peugeot, of course, although the Picasso is the platform’s debut model) is lighter (down by 140kg) and allows the Picasso to be both shorter overall, but longer in wheelbase and with a massive 577-litre boot. Clever packaging means there’s masses of space for those rear-seat passengers, and even more space will follow in December when the seven-seat Grand Picasso arrives. Citroën expects almost three quarters of its Picasso buyers to go for the seven-seater when it arrives, but in the meantime, this five-seater should satisfy any pent-up demand.

Satisfying the driver is another issue. Thanks to the new platform and totally revised suspension and steering, the new Picasso is a step forward from the old one, but it still feels quite roly-poly in the bends, and its utterly detached and numb steering means keen family drivers won’t find anything to please them here. A Ford C-Max murders it, in dynamic terms, but then the Citroën punches back hard with that gorgeous, comfortable interior (albeit we still need to view it in base-spec form, which may elicit a different response) and tremendous refinement.
And anyway, the vast majority of family drivers will simply respond with blank stares when you try to make dynamic comparisons. Functionality, reliability and value for money matter above all.


Near-perfect on motorways
Get away from twisty roads and settle into a motorway cruise and the Picasso is near-perfect. It’s comfy, the view out through the wraparound windscreen is tremendous and the 115bhp 1.6 e-HDI Diesel engine is quiet and frugal – 105g/km and a claimed 4.0-litre per 100km consumption should keep the family motoring budget on a short
leash. Its calm and controlled urban ride should also keep family members on an even keel when the Picasso ventures out on its natural daily mission, the school run.

Prices will stick very closely to those of the current model, and the five-seat version will launch in September. Those
of us who consider ourselves driving enthusiasts will find little joy in the
lifeless steering and comical body roll,
but comfort-seekers and Citroënistas alike will find much to please them
here.

Wonder how many extra used ones Citroën will have to import in 2016?


ENGINE

1.6-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel, 115bhp @ 3,600rpm, 271Nm @ 1,750rpm

PERFORMANCE

0-100km/h in 11.8secs

FUEL ECONOMY

Claimed 4.0l/100km (70mpg)

EMISSIONS

105g/km (motor tax €190)

PRICE

Estimated at €26,800


OUR VERDICT
Spacious, stylish and serene. Marshmallow chassis but terrifically comfy