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Tim O'Brien | Feb, 27 2014 | 12 Comments

2014 CITROEN PICASSO REVIEW

What’s hot: Big inside, low NVH, more glass than an aquarium and the best warranty this side of a Papal blessing.
What’s not: A bit ‘exxy’, the bigger alloys are noisy (don’t get ‘em) and we found a dash rattle.
X-FACTOR: Doesn’t look like a people-mover, and doesn’t feel like one. This is a surprisingly good drive.

Vehicle style: Seven-seat people mover
Price: $43,990 (plus on-roads); one model grade: Exclusive
Engine/trans: 110kW/370Nm 2.0 litre diesel | 6spd auto
Fuel consumption listed: 4.5 l/100km | tested: 6.8 l/100km

 

OVERVIEW

The warranty now on offer from Citroen, a six-year and unlimited-kilometre deal, is is absolutely the best you’ll find for this kind of family car. Read more about it here.

But here, we'll tell you all about the C4 Grand Picasso's drive, and the news is good.

Driving some people movers is torture, and best avoided by people of sound mind. Like gouging your eye with a rusty fork, or watching Australia’s Got Talent.

But not this one. This new C4 Grand Picasso from Citroen actually drives quite well; very well in fact.

Also, this is a people mover you would buy for its style - it looks really smart.

It’s one you would happily be seen driving about in without wondering how many of the sprog you’d have to throw overboard before you could sensibly buy a sports hatch again.

It’s not a sports hatch, but it’s not shabby: there is quite a bit of verve in its willing diesel and the ‘flat’, and very well-controlled, handling.

Lastly, you will never see your local mafia don and his jolly crew of knob-heads disporting themselves about in the Picasso.

It will fit seven of them, if Stumpy and The Mad Ant are happy in the back, but there is more glass in this car than a fish-tank. (Mafia dons I know prefer tiny little blackened windows.)

The vision out, from driver and passenger seats, is fantastic. It is, in fact, so good it is difficult to describe.

Honda’s Odyssey - which we like a lot - and the Kia Rondo are quite a bit cheaper in entry-level trim (especially the Kia), but the Citroen feels a lot sharper on road, is infinitely more stylish, and comes with a lot more gear.

It also feels a lot more ‘car’ and a lot less ‘bus’. For the way it drives, for the features packaged into the purchase, and for the way it looks, Citroen’s new C4 Picasso should sell well.

But this is Australia, not Europe, and people-movers struggle in this market.

So it will more likely sell in the small numbers Citroen expects (around 250 for the year). Which means a lot of buyers will never know what an interesting and appealing car the Picasso is - and how much more they would enjoy it than the SUVs they looked at.

 

THE INTERIOR

  • Fabric seats (half-leather and full-leather optional),
  • Dual-zone auto climate control, second-row vents with air-con fan control
  • Keyless entry and start (also stop/start)
  • Panoramic glass roof with electric blind
  • Sliding driver and passenger sunshields
  • In-dash 12-inch display screen for navigation and parking camera
  • Standard 360-degree vision and rear camera
  • Self-parking system (parallel and angle)
  • 7-inch driver interface screen, Bluetooth/USB/iPhone connectivity
  • Cruise control with speed limiter, auto headlights and wipers, electronic park brake, auto dipping mirrors for reversing

The overwhelming impression of the interior is of enormous space and fantastic vision. The airy, unenclosed feeling it adds to the drive, is something that must be experienced.

With that panoramic front window, long low dash and full panoramic roof, being seated at the wheel of this car is like being in no other.

And it’s amazing how much all that unencumbered vision adds to the enjoyment of driving.

The seats are nicely shaped (if not overlarge), and passenger seats in first and second rows get a nice retractable ottoman for really comfortable travel.

Trims generally are on-par for the price and segment. The fabrics have a nice tight weave and the leather (which can be optioned as a half-leather or full-leather pack) is soft and stylishly-integrated.

Metal highlights also look good.

The twin-screen dash display is simply sensational and easily navigated even for a dunce like me. I can’t think of a better screen display in any car than the Picasso offers. And it is absolutely loaded with features and app-like functions.

The wheel is reach and rake adjustable, and the gear-shift paddles (though attached to the steering column and not the wheel) are right at the finger tips.

It’s a great steering wheel. Flat bottomed, it’s the right size and with a nice direct sporty feel, and trimmed in soft leather. (The super-tight 10.8m turning circle is also sensational.)

But there are a few naff touches. The gear-shift lever is a scrawny icy-pole stick behind the steering wheel, and the plastic moulding it sits in has a Tupperware look to it.

The dashboard itself - which is about the size of the MCG - is a bit ‘drummy’ although the surface is an appealing texture.

Access in and out is good. Getting to the third row is really easy (second row seats slide way forward), as is the ‘one-touch’ fold-away system for second and third rows.

And, with a wheelbase that is 55mm longer (at 2840mm) than its predecessor, there is an acre of room for knees in the second row, a tight-ish third row but with good headroom.

Storage space, with five of the seven seats in place, is listed at 645 litres.

Put all three rows in place though and there is room for a plectrum, three tooth-picks and a mars bar in the boot (it is really very small, just 165 litres, with all three rows deployed).

 

ON THE ROAD

  • Engine/transmission: 110kW/370Nm 2.0 litre turbodiesel | 6-spd auto with sportshift (paddles)
  • 0-100km/h: 10.2 seconds | Max towing: 1600kg (braked)
  • Brakes: discs front and rear

Well, yes, driving the Picasso is all about that amazing sense of air and space. From the wheel it brings everything in.

And with reverse camera, 360-degree bird’s-eye vision on screen, tight turning circle and parking assist, there are scant few seven-seaters that you would so happily take into the tightest car park or narrowest lane.

But when you point the Picasso at the road, there are a few more pleasant surprises in store.

Like the refinement of the diesel under the bonnet, and the very nicely matched six-speed conventional auto transmission (with none of this solenoid-actuated, manualised nonsense).

The Picasso is incredibly free of mechanical noise and harshness on road. There is some diesel clatter from outside the car, but inside, when on the highway, it’s as quiet as a modern petrol engine - and as well balanced.

And it has a very handy turn of speed.

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Weighing in at 1440kg, the Picasso is at the lighter end of the scale (it’s a deceptive 4.6 metres long after all).

With 110kW and the more-relevant 370Nm to call on, it will happily get up and boogie if a rapid overtake is called for, or you need to slot into a swift flow of traffic.

Citroen claims a 0-100km/h of 10.2 seconds… not bad for a people-mover diesel.

It will also pull away strongly - as well as sitting surprisingly flat - when cornering. In fact the handling generally is exceptionally good.

A little more travel to the suspension would be useful.

We found the bump-stops once or twice on a pretty brisk run, and we also found a dash rattle - but it’s free of wallowing, doesn’t oversteer excessively, and will tighten the line (as a good front-driver should) with a quick lift-off.

It’s very good in fact on gravel, not greatly troubled by corrugations and broken surfaces and allows a little movement at the rear before traction control intervenes.

I think we could go out on a limb here and declare the Picasso the best handling people-mover out there, the one that the keen driver will actually enjoy.

Lastly, fuel consumption seems pretty good.

We averaged 6.8 l/100km (although a stint in one car - with clearly something amiss - showed 12.8 l/100km). That’s quite a bit shy of the claimed 4.5 l/100km. but we were in ‘tight’ new cars and “travelling sensibly Officer”.

 

SAFETY

ANCAP Rating: Not yet tested (5-Stars Euro NCAP)

Safety features: The 2014 Picasso comes with a full suite of dynamic and passive safety features including six airbags (curtain for front and second row), auto hazard lights, ESC, ABS, electronic brake-force distribution, hill-start assist, parking sensors front and rear, parking camera, auto park assist, and blind-spot monitoring.

A $2000 Drive Assist Pack adds lane-departure warning, anti-collision warning, adaptive cruise control, active seat belts, and smart high-beam.

 

FIRST DRIVE VERDICT | OVERALL

This is a really appealing and superbly conceived car. It is, in fact, a high-water mark in people-mover design and execution.

In the absence of one critical factor, it would be a rock-solid four-and-a-half star buy.

What we struggle with, even given the suite of clever technologies built into the Picasso as standard, and the superior feel to the handling and drive experience, is the price.

At $44k plus (assuming you'll tick at least one option box), you’ll be staring at the better part of 50-large by the time you’ve got it in your garage.

Look around, and there is a lot of machinery with good packaging, smart lines and appealing handling for family buyers at that price.

Sure, this is the car for the individual thinker, the one who swims against the tide, and who values ‘difference’. But is also prepared to pay for it.

If that’s you, you will love this C4 Grand Picasso.

It’s not for the Odyssey buyer, neither for the Santa Fe or Territory, neither the Mercedes B-Class. They’re all way too conventional.

The Picasso stands apart. And you, who also prefers to stand apart, really should check it out.

Oh yes; don’t forget to also check out the warranty when we can publish it on Saturday. Truly, it will astonish.

 

PRICING (excludes on-road costs)

2014 Citroen C4 Grand Picasso Exclusive - $43,990

 
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