What’s Hot: Visibility for days, acres of space, modern interior, genuine comfort.
What’s Not: Dimwitted transmission, too pricey, dicey reverse camera.
X-FACTOR: Neither a hatch, nor an SUV but with the best bits of both in a stylish package.
Vehicle Style: Five-door small hatch
Price: $40,990 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 121kW/240Nm 1.6 litre petrol | 6spd auto
Fuel Economy claimed: 5.6 l/100km | tested: 7.6 l/100km
Citroen’s new C4 Picasso is a funny thing. It’s hard to pin down exactly what it is, yet it isn’t entirely unique.
If it looks a little familiar, that’s because it shares much with the bigger, longer, seven-seat C4 Grand Picasso. But distilled down in this model to a five-seater with a swoopier (but not too swoopy) rear end.
So essentially this is a five-door hatch back with flexible seating, a higher roof, and a space-age dashboard. Of course, to simplify it like that is really selling the C4 Picasso short.
It should be a revolution for Aussie families, but traditionally they’re a little shy when it comes to ‘people movers’.
Quality: Things inside the C4 Picasso are a little different. This is no mainstream interior.
Citroen has a real flair for interior design and just because this car is relegated to family functions doesn’t mean it misses out when it comes to chic style.
From the cross-hatch texture of the dash and door trims, to the asymmetric trim on the front seats, the whole package is thoughtfully designed to look and function well.
After a week of city, country, highway, 'one up', packed to the rafters, and everything in between, we couldn’t find any errant rattles or poorly trimmed areas.
If anything, the column mounted gear selector feels a bit ‘light’ but there’s no real need to man-handle it - it just takes some getting used to.
In the rear seat the three individual bucket seats can be slid fore and aft, freeing up generous legroom if required.
Shoulder space is the only dimension at a premium, and even then it’s only the most broad-shouldered that might grumble.
The floor is completely flat, the rear seats can be reclined, there’s a fixed panoramic roof in the rear (but sadly only a mesh sunshade), air-vents in the b-pillars and manual sunshades on the rear doors to go with the rear privacy glass.
Driver and front passenger can easily endure long stints behind the wheel - the seats are supremely comfortable and the cloth trim feels robust but nice enough to touch.
The finishing touch is the ridiculously expansive windscreen that stretches part way into the roof.
For those days where the sun is just too much, the front section of roof-lining slides forwards bringing the sunvisors with it, for a more normal feel at the wheel.
Equipment: Standard fare includes dual display screens with a 12-inch HD display high in the dash replacing a conventional instrument binnacle, and a lower seven-inch touchscreen for climate, audio, trip computer and navigation functions.
Dual-zone climate control, auto lights and wipers, cruise control with speed limiter, automatic folding mirrors with reverse dipping, panoramic windscreen and fixed sunroof with electric blind, and proximity key with push-button start.
Audio is piped through six speakers, and features DAB+ digital radio, FM/CD/MP3 playback with aux-in and USB inputs, plus Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity.
An 8GB hard drive can also store tracks with the system able to be controlled from the touchscreen or multi-function steering wheel.
Storage: Boot space is exceptional with 537 litres of space with the seats in their rearward position, 630 litres with the rear seats slid forward, and a van-like 1851 litres with all seats folded flat.
There’s also a self-charging torch stashed in the boot wall.
To accompany that, there’s two underfloor bins in front of the rear seats, large door bins, a large storage bin in the centre stack with auxiliary inputs, and a huge removable centre console bin.
Fold-down tray tables are included on the front seatbacks, but sadly the glovebox is undersized - something typical of French-designed cars.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: The C4 Picasso makes do with just one powertrain configuration, a turbocharged 1.6 litre petrol engine producing 121kW at 6000rpm and 240Nm at 1400rpm.
Power is delivered to the front wheels via a six-speed automatic.
The transmission can be a little jerky from cold starts and every so often would deliver trembling upshifts.
It will also occasionally second-guess a downshift, but other times pause between gears - just for a moment but enough to upset the driving flow.
There’s paddle shifters on the wheel too. You probably won’t find much need to use them anyway, but if you do be prepared for the car to ignore most of your requests or take far too long to deliver them.
With the huge expanse of glass, particularly around the front pillars, visibility is among the best you’ll find.
At intersections and roundabouts there’s nowhere for pedestrians or oncoming traffic to disappear - how we wish more manufacturers could do the same.
Parking is a snap, there’s self-parking for parallel and 90-degree spaces. And 360-degree cameras also help, however the on-screen resolution is quite low and the system is nearly useless in the dark.
Refinement: Both engine and transmission are smooth and composed, despite the sometimes-dithery nature of the latter. Engine noise is all but filtered out of the cabin too.
Plenty of sound deadening means that open-road miles can be covered with just a bare whisper of tyre noise seeping through.
We were lucky enough to strike some blustery conditions on test too, but couldn’t fault the Picasso for wind noise either.
Ride and Handling: Ride comfort is terrific. No matter the road conditions underneath, or the size of the load piled inside, it is difficult to upset the C4 Picasso.
It’s reasonable to expect the C4 Picasso might be relegated to a life of school runs, shorter trips around town and general suburban capering. To that end, it shrugged off paved streets and speed humps with aplomb.
Although it may look a little top-heavy with that huge glasshouse, it isn’t so ponderous through a bend. Yes, there’s body roll, but not near the levels you might expect.
Steering is light and nimble at car-park speeds, but adds weight as speed builds and avoids any nervousness or 'twitchy feel' on the freeway.
Braking: Four-wheel disc brakes take care washing off speed. The pedal has a progressive feel and stopping is smooth and relaxed.
If a hard stop is called for the C4 Picasso pulls up swiftly and securely. One less thing to worry about in an emergency.
ANCAP rating: The C4 Picasso has yet to be tested by ANCAP.
As a point of note though, the similar C4 Grand Picasso was awarded 5-Stars with a score of 34.53 out of 37 possible points - this score was derived from Euro NCAP’s results gathered from the C4 Picasso.
Safety features: Standard safety items include three-point seatbelts on every seat with load-limiting pretensioners for front seatbelts, as well as six airbags (dual front, front side, and full-length curtain). Each rear seat features ISOFIX and top-tether child seat anchorages.
Stability control, traction control, ABS, EBD, brake assist are part of the standard safety suite. Lane departure warning, smart beam headlights, active cruise control and anti-collision warning are available as part of A $2000 Drive Assist Pack.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Six years/unlimited kilometres. Includes six years of free roadside-assistance.
Service costs: Citroen is yet to introduce a fixed-price servicing plan for Australia. As such service costs may vary, consult your local dealer prior to purchase.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Merceds-Benz B 180 ($41,400) - Just a stone’s throw away pricewise, but this version of a tall hatch comes with a less powerful engine (while a B200 hikes the price by $6000).
The spec sheet not outlandish, but every bit as reasonable as the Picasso (see B-Class reviews)
BMW 218i Active Tourer ($44,400) - BMW’s first front-wheel-drive offering tries to deliver the driving dynamics the brand is famous for, but in doing so forgets what it takes to be a meaningful family car.
The ride is rough, the interior not as well executed, and the price is just too high. (see 2 Series AT reviews)
Kia Rondo Platinum ($39,740) - Kia’s value-oriented pricing means a richly equipped Platinum costs less than the Picasso.
It also comes with a seven-year warranty and seven seats (although they’re best kept for occasional use) in a package not much longer than the Picasso. (see Rondo reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Citroen hasn’t aimed for cut-price family motoring here, the single specification C4 Picasso Exclusive brings a generous equipment list and a willing engine.
The big problem for Citroen is a gaggle of well-specified SUVs vying for attention at the same price-point.
That’s hard to combat. Unlike Europe where the people-mover concept is less alien, Aussies love the SUV-ideal of a commanding view and possibility of being able to escape the beaten path.
In reality the Picasso isn’t any different, but the image it conveys is a little more divergent.
So it comes here with niche appeal. Like the B-Class and the 2 Series AT it mixes versatile utility with a dash of visual flair and discerning equipment list.
We don't doubt the C4 Picasso will find buyers, it deserves to do so - it is a darn good thing with a darn good warranty too - but it might be fighting a losing battle against an onslaught of SUV family trucksters.
MORE: 2015 Citroen C4 Picasso: Price And Features For Australia
MORE News & Reviews: Citroen | C4 | Family Cars