The Citroën C4 Picasso – An Interesting Option

8/27/2014 11:27:58 AM

Did its blend of stylish, comfort-biased practicality smooth the rough edges of daily family life — and how did it cope as a snapper’s car?

So is the Citroën C4 Picasso a style icon or a practical, everyday workhorse, or a bit of both? That’s what we set out to determine when we collected our car back in February.

For a vehicle that is likely to spend its days transporting precious cargo on school runs, shopping trips and holidays, the five-seat MPV is adventurous in its exterior and interior design. It meets Citroën’s remit for the car, which is to provide family-friendly practicality with a soupçon of Gallic flair. So has it nailed the sweet spot between style and practicality?

Our car was a delight to travel in. We specified it in the top Exclusive+ trim, with a full-length glass roof. Together with the two-tone dashboard and leather seats, the vast panoramic windscreen and the useful, split A-pillars, it created a light and fresh ambience.

The new C4 Picasso has a better ride quality than the outgoing car

The new C4 Picasso has a better ride quality than the outgoing car

For a while, we were worried that we might have gone a little bit too upmarket with our specification and options. After all, it pushed the price up to $47,060 and we cast doubt on how long the light beige panels in the cabin would retain their sheen in the face of abuse from grubby-fingered kids and service station snacks. As it happens, we’re happy to report that they stood up rather well.

As the newest member of our photographic team, I inherited the C4 Picasso from departing web editor Stuart Milne.

In place of Stuart’s young family, I tested the French car’s capabilities by filling it with camera gear, tripods and lighting equipment, so a big boot was the priority. The Citroën didn’t disappoint; its 537-litre space, with seats in place, is usefully large. Even more convenient, each rear seat folds and tumbles independently, offering excellent flexibility for a mix of longer items, such as tripods, and passengers, something we often need on photo shoots.

Windscreen extends up into the stratosphere, giving the cabin a pleasant ambience

Windscreen extends up into the stratosphere, giving the cabin a pleasant ambience

There is an abundance of useful cubbyholes and stowage spaces strewn throughout the car, although the space behind the gearstick is so deep that I feared that anything I deposited in there would never again be found.

As much as I appreciated most of the touches of flair, there are some areas where Citroën has over-egged the avant-garde pudding.

The C4 Picasso does without a regular instrument binnacle behind the steering wheel and collates information on the large instrument screen, with an accompanying touchscreen. But there’s too much clutter on the main display, and adjusting key controls, such as the air-con, via the touchscreen is quite a long-winded and distracting process.

To my mind, a family car should be as straightforward to operate as possible. With the likelihood of noisy distractions coming from the back seats, it’s important that vital information can be quickly processed.

A longer wheelbase means the Picasso's airy cabin now offers more rear legroom

A longer wheelbase means the Picasso's airy cabin now offers more rear legroom

A few irritating glitches struck during our time with the car, which was one of the first right-hand-drive examples to roll off the production line. However, it should be pointed out that few of those niggles can be laid at the manufacturer’s door. A clumsy and anonymous driver managed to scrape our car’s bumper, which in turn caused a parking sensor fault. Then a similarly clumsy coffee drinker spilled latte on to the driver’s massage seat controls, causing the buttons to have a short-term fit.

A software glitch caused the infotainment system to fail, and although Citroën couldn’t trace the issue, all was well thereafter. Also, the tailgate’s motor packed up, which was inconvenient when I was loaded down with tripods and flash guns.

There isn’t much in the way of driver reward from a C4 Picasso. You might say that’s predictable for a car geared towards family motoring, although Ford manages to inject more verve into its C-Max. More of a priority might be the C4’s comfort levels and, on the whole, it’s fine, with forgiving seats, decent legroom and good visibility, although the ride is slightly firm, which back-seat passengers sometimes commented on.

Sleek LED headlights fool on-lookers that they're the main lights, but real ones are below

Sleek LED headlights fool on-lookers that they're the main lights, but real ones are below

The 113bhp 1.6 e-HDi turbodiesel performed in an adequately flexible manner, which is all that most buyers of family cars would ever wish for. Fuel economy averaged around the low 50s to the gallon during our time — a long way from Citroën’s claimed combined average of 70.1mpg. Mind you, we reckon that a more sympathetic driver could push that figure towards 60mpg without too much trouble.

Perhaps there are some areas where Citroën’s quest for individuality has veered too far away from the script, but this people-carrier proves that family practicality doesn’t have to mean hard-wearing plastics and an absence of glamour.

The C4 Picasso feels eminently grown-up and it seems that the high-spec DS range of models no longer has the monopoly on sophistication within Citroën.


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