ALONG WITH A MORTGAGE AND SCHOOL FEES, FAMILY LIFE REQUIRES A NEW DIRECTION IN CARS AND CITROEN HAS AN ANSWER FOR YOU – IT’S THE STYLISH AND GREAT VALUE GRAND C4 PICASSO.
Although categorised as a ‘People Mover’, the Citroen Grand C4 Picasso is more correctly a ‘Midi-MPV’ (Multi-Purpose Vehicle). It brings French style into a segment where it is pitched against Honda’s Odyssey, Kia Rondo and Toyota’s large hybrid Prius V.
Citroen has now revised the C4’s specification and price. It was always a compelling buy, and one we took to straight away – but now it’s even better value, and can lay claim to the status of being the best of the compact MPVs.
Vehicle Style: Seven-seat MPV
Price: $44,990 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 110kW/370Nm 2.0 litre 4cyl turbo-diesel | 6sp automatic
Fuel Economy claimed: 4.5 l/100km | tested: 6.6 l/100km
The standard procedure at TMR is to test a car for one week. But in the case of the Grand C4 Picasso, we held onto it for a couple of months to "live with the car" and get a better handle on its operation as a family conveyance.
You know, variable workloads, variable conditions, variable fuel consumption. Gee, we even washed it ourselves a few times with actual soap suds, bucket and hose in the driveway.
Compact MPVs stake no claims to being anything other than for families.
Yes, the Grand C4 Picasso rides on PSA group’s latest modular platform and the 2.0-litre turbo-diesel is sprightly, but you don’t judge this car on any "howfastizzit?” palaver that motoring journalists sometimes get carried away with.
But here’s the attention-grabber – Citroen offers this distinctly European and uniquely styled seven-seat MPV in just one massively specified grade priced at $44,990 (plus).
When we say “massively specified” we’re talking standard inclusions such as adaptive cruise control, auto self-parking, lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring, satellite navigation and – the current ‘buzz’ in this business – third row air-vents.
It’s clever too; not only for that impressive glasshouse evident in the pics but also, for example, a brilliant slide and fold system for the second row seats to make really easy access to the third row.
- Standard Features: active cruise control, automatic parking assistance, lane departure warning, blind-spot monitoring, three individual second-row seats with ISOFIX mounting points, dual-zone climate control with individual controls for second row and third row vents, automatic headlights, automatic windscreen wipers, electronic tailgate
- Infotainment: Six-speaker system with built-in 8GB storage hard drive, FM radio, 12-volt socket, USB, Bluetooth with media streaming, aux-in jack and additional USB socket.
- Storage: 165-litres with all seven seats in-place; 632-litres with third row folded and second row in the rearmost position; 793-litres with the third row folded and the second row slid as far forwards as possible and 2181-litres with all three rows folded
Just as the exterior design of the Citroen Grand C4 Picasso isn’t from the regular MPV design manual, the interior too ditches conventionality. It’s all very stylish, and wrapped with soft-touch panels... but certainly ‘unconventional’.
Things kick-off with the massive wrap-over Zenith windscreen. A bit controversial with some, but we like the light, airy feel it brings and the smart sliding visors keep the sun from your eyes when driving (or in the front passenger seat).
How about the gear lever? It’s a small and somewhat insubstantial stalk on the right-hand side of the steering wheel (bringing back memories of ‘three-on-the-tree’ manuals), but located to improve space efficiency and storage capacity for the centre console.
Then there are the instruments which are contained in a binnacle atop the centre stack. You have multiple display choices for the 12-inch HD display (although moving through them can be confounding), the graphics/colours are excellent and you always find the digital speedometer located closest to the driver.
Below that sits the satellite navigation screen which, at 7.0-inches, isn’t the largest in town.
However, after some ‘crack-of-dawn’ starts in obscure locations (for the netball career of one of the TMR juniors), we can confirm the straightforward and rapid operation of the nav.
The navigation screen also serves as the interface for the ‘Touch Drive’ system covering items like the multiple camera choices (the reversing camera is the default setting but, for example, you can quickly switch to the 360? ‘skyhook’ view) as well as settings for audio, climate control, ‘Eco’ automatic start-stop etc. .
The driver and front seat passenger are well catered for with good seats and centre arm-rests.
The three second-row passengers enjoy individual seats (all with ISOFIX child seat-mounts) offering individual slide and recline functions. These seats cleverly and quickly fold into themselves to ease access to the third row (also helped by the unusually large rear doors).
When using the two individual third row seats, they simply fold and click into place but, on-par with rivals in this segment, they’re best reserved for pre-teen children or mothers-in-law. A change at the most recent model update addressed earlier criticism of the Citroen Grand C4 Picasso by adding air-vents for this seating row.
During our time with the C4 Grand Picasso it served as a shuttle bus for the softball team, handled a four-bloke golf weekend and early one Sunday morning - when let’s face it, no-one is thinking too clearly - we effortlessly transformed our Citroen into the netball team hauler by folding all the seats flat and loading-up the entire squad’s kit including three large portable marquees.
Versatility a Citroen Grand C4 Picasso strong point? You bet.
Other good points: sun-blinds for the rear doors, fold-down tables stored in the back of the front seats, plenty of storage bins (including a ‘click-out’ centre console), B-pillar air-vents for second-row passengers (with separate fan controls) and the small convex mirror above the centre rear-view mirror which enables the driver to see what’s happening in seating rows two and three.
In fact, wherever you look, the Citroen Grand C4 Picasso has been well executed for family needs.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine/transmission: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel/ six-speed automatic
- Power/torque: 110kW @ 4000rpm/ 370Nm @ 2000rpm
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front/torsion beam rear
- Steering: Power assisted rack & pinion
- Brakes: Discs (fronts ventilated)
So, how was the Citroen Grand C4 Picasso "at home" and put to work as the daily family drive?
The answer is: brilliant. It becomes apparent that this is a vehicle designed from the wheels up to be a seven-seat mini MPV – rather than a hatchback stretched to accommodate a couple of extra seats, or a van with some windows cut-out and extra seats bolted-down.
The whole package is just so cohesive, so easy to live with, and its appeal just grows by day.
Let’s start with the 2.0-litre turbo-diesel and six-speed automatic. The beautifully matched – if not racy – gear changes are rapid (but could be smoother) and performance is nicely settled on-road.
With a decent wave of torque right where it’s needed for highway driving (with 370Nm at 2000rpm), it deals with hills with ease without ‘hunting’ unnecessarily, and is an effortless and comfortable highway cruiser.
There are steering column paddle-shifters for manual sequential gear changes, but, once the novelty wears off, you will rarely go looking for them.
And it’s a similar story for the chassis – it is refined, comfortable and able (with a little too much body-roll some would say). Steering too is good; the feel at the wheel isolates the worst of bumps and broken tarmac while feeling direct and nicely responsive.
Around town, the compact 10.6-metre turning circle, those multiple exterior cameras and the self-parking function, all help conquer any parking issues. This is a very easy car to live with.
And for the big excursion with the family…?
When it came time to return our Grand C4 Picasso, we told Citroen to forget stumping-up the $800 trucking fee from Melbourne to Sydney and headed onto the Hume Highway for a one-way trip from Glen Waverley (in Melbourne’s south-east) to Cronulla (the southern-most beach in the Sydney metro area).
That’s 886kms of Leach family road trip right there.
So we have a midi-sized MPV designed and made in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower (well, not quite but stay with us here) taking-on perhaps the most-travelled of all Australian holiday routes including ‘photo-opps’ at those iconic ‘Downunder’ locations – the submarine in Holbrook, the ‘Dog On The Tuckerbox’ ‘five miles’ from Gundagai and the ‘Big Merino’ south of Goulburn.
With plenty of people and cargo on-board we saw fuel consumption as low as 6.1 l/100kms (we averaged 6.6 l/100kms for the entire time we had the Citroen Grand C4 Picasso), the adaptive cruise control kept us protected from the incessant speed cameras and fixed/mobile radars and we enjoyed supreme comfort the whole distance.
And, let’s cut to the chase: we spent just $60 dollars on fuel – $60 bucks! – to haul four people plus luggage and assorted paraphernalia from Melbourne to Sydney.
Apart from no airfares, we’re talking no airport parking, no excess baggage fees, no taxis, no buses, no trains… and that folks is why you’d buy a diesel Citroen Grand C4 Picasso (assuming you’re going to keep it for longer than a regular lease term).
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars - this model scored 34.53 out of 37 possible points.
Safety features: ABS anti-lock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution and emergency braking assistance, electronic stability and traction control, hill-start assist, active automatic hazard lights (also flash when braking hard), six airbags, three ISOFIX child seat points in the second-row seats, radar-guided adaptive cruise control with collision alert, blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Six years/unlimited kilometers and includes roadside assistance
Servicing: Service intervals are 12 months/15,000kms and there is an included six years/90,000 maximum price servicing scheme.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
When you factor-in the staggering levels of standard equipment and technology in the Citroen Grand C4 Picasso, rivals in this segment - of admittedly limited numbers – are left looking underdone.
In its latest iteration, Honda’s Odyssey has definitely lost some gloss compared to the previous generation (which was more car-like). While handily priced ($37,610 for the VTi or $46,040 for the VTi-L), when comparing notes with the superseded model, the Honda Odyssey (a) isn’t as pretty and (b) doesn’t drive as well.
And the Odyssey lacks a lot of the technology Citroen includes as standard - adaptive cruise control, 360? camera and auto parking (to name a few).
Kia’s Rondo is definitely worth a look if your bank manager won’t co-operate on the Citroen Grand C4 Picasso. We’re talking $30,240 to $36,990 for Kia’s compact seven-seater ($32,990 starting price for the diesel). Rondo comes closest to matching the Citroen Grand C4 Picasso for driving dynamics but – like the others – can’t match the car with a painter’s surname for technology.
And we’re including the Toyota Prius V in the equation, well, because it’s a seven-seater.
It also undercuts the Citroen Grand C4 Picasso in price ($34,490 for the entry-level or $44,490 for the i-Tech), and the Prius V is of course the only petrol-electric hybrid in this field. Notwithstanding the technology it carries, it too falls short when shopped against the car from France.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
So, when asked to name the best compact seven-seat MPV, our answer is a clear win to the Citroen Grand C4 Picasso.
It’s the best value-for-money, the best to drive and has the best interior configuration.
Sure, the Grand C4 Picasso delivers a knockout style unlike any other in this league, but, having lived with it, there is more to the styling than just ‘style’… it simply works.
At no time did we have any complaints about light intrusion from the massive windscreen and large glasshouse – in fact, as families will confirm, the light and airy interior is a great antidote for motion sickness.
On the other hand, we’re not in love with the ‘TouchDrive’ system – it’s frustratingly slow to manoeuvre through.
And, that old chestnut, “peace of mind”? Citroen Australia’s ‘Citroen Confidence’ program includes a six-year/unlimited kilometre warranty with roadside assistance and six-years/90,000kms maximum price servicing scheme (so you know in advance precisely how much you’ll be up for each scheduled service).
Add it all up and there is a car here that is a little bit special.
It is a brilliantly-conceived family car, frugal, comfortable on-road, and comes with one of the best warranties and servicing offers in the business.
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