What’s hot: Stuffed with high-end features, individual style, big boot and eager engine.
What’s not: The price may be a hurdle for buyers, shame there’s no diesel.
X-FACTOR: More than a hatch, the Picasso blends the airy appeal and space of an SUV with composed, classy on-road dynamics.
Vehicle style: Five-door hatch
Price: $40,990 (plus on-road costs)
Engine/trans: 121kW/240Nm 1.6 litre petrol | 6spd auto
Fuel consumption listed: 5.6 l/100km; tested: 8.1 l/100km
Citroen has a new Picasso; but this one is not a family bus.
Neither is it quite a typical hatchback: its boot is much larger and it has the long flat roofline of the Grand Picasso (but not quite as long).
That long roofline allows four wide-opening doors, and, inside, like the Grand Picasso, there is a feeling of airy spaciousness quite unique to this car and its stretched bigger bro’.
Also, somewhat uniquely, the Picasso has a higher hip-point to the seating, and a driving position that feels more SUV than hatch.
So, typical for Citroen - the company that does all of its thinking “outside the box” - this new car brings another twist to the conventional hatchback.
The nub of this car is that it does a whole lot of things a little differently, and has a unique personality as a result.
A genuine segment bender, it arrives in one highly kitted ‘Exclusive’ model designation only. There is also just one engine and transmission option: a 1.6 litre 121kW/240Nm turbo petrol and six-speed conventional automatic transmission.
For style, it looks much like the Grand Picasso. But the Picasso is noticeably shorter, lower, and, of course, does not get the third row seating (but a good-sized boot instead). It also has different rear styling.
The hurdle for buyers - we think - will be the price; at $40,990, it might be stretching the friendship notwithstanding the versatile packaging, long standard feature list and six-year warranty.
- 12-inch high-definition display screen, and seven-inch touchscreen
- Satellite navigation
- Bluetooth (and music streaming), DAB+ radio and 8Gb ‘jukebox’
- Park-assist with 360 degree vision, reversing camera and front/rear park sensors
- Dual-zone climate control (with rear air-vents)
- Keyless entry and start, stop/start, electronic park-brake
- Blind-spot monitoring
- Panoramic sun-roof
A ‘Drive Assist Pack’ brings lane departure warning, smart beam headlights, active cruise control and anti-collision warning for an additional $2000; plus, interior ‘Lounge Pack’ trim options include a part-leather pack for $2500 or full-leather for $5000.
The interior of the Picasso is dominated by two things: the first, an incredible airy spaciousness to the cabin.
It feels for all the world like a glasshouse; drivers and passengers, front and rear, cannot fail to be initially startled by the unique way the Picasso brings the outside world in.
There is no car like it for the vision from the wheel. Add a panoramic sunroof and slidable sun-visors up front - which can open up more of the sky - and, like the Grand Picasso, you get a fishbowl view of the world from inside
The second: the 12-inch display screen with seven-inch touchscreen below. Sitting central to the modern, fresh dash, it absolutely defines this cabin as something a little special.
A nice touch is that, like your PC or iPad, you can load in your own images as the background to the 12” screen.
The seats, whether trimmed in leather or fabric, are comfortable and reasonably well-shaped. Opt for the ‘Lounge Pack’ and you also get an electrically adjusted aeroplane-style footrest.
The rear seats, three individual buckets, are comfortably padded if a little confined for shoulder-room. The middle passenger though gets a flat floor and a proper bucket seat.
The two outboard rear passengers also get aeroplane style fold-down tables integrated into the front seat-backs.
There is a removable centre console, an underfloor stowage bin, and also hidden storage space for electronic devices, phones, iPad etc.
Boot space is particularly generous for a car of this footprint. With the seats in place, the Picasso offers 537 litres - enough for most family trips away - rising to 1851 litres with all seats folded flat.
There is also additional underfloor storage space in the boot and a space-saver spare.
ON THE ROAD
- eTHP 1.6 litre petrol turbo: [email protected] / [email protected]
- Six-speed torque-converter automatic (with sports mode and paddle shifts)
- 0-100km/h - 9.3 seconds, top speed: 210km/h
- MacPherson strut front suspension, independent trailing-arm rear
- Electric power steering
- 17-inch alloy wheels
The Grand Picasso, the bigger brother, comes with just a diesel engine. The Picasso also lands here with just one engine choice: a 1.6 litre turbo petrol mated to a conventional six-speed automatic.
There is nothing unusual about the way these slightly unusual cars handle on road. Both are quiet, provide a composed, comfortable ride and offer a bit of sporting flair at the wheel.
In fact, despite the slightly upright on-road stance and the high hip-point to the seating, each is surprisingly adept when faced with a string of corners. You really need to hustle to induce understeer.
We prefer the diesel engine to the petrol turbo, but this is a free-spinning eager unit.
Developed jointly by PSA and BMW (and shared between them), it lacks a little urge lower-down, but will happily sing away above 5000rpm when a burst of speed is called for.
With 121kW and 280Nm of torque, the Picasso can peel off the 0-100km/h dash in a reasonable 9.3 seconds.
But more to the point, it picks up its skirts readily once rolling should it be kicked down or manually dropped back a couple of cogs.
Using the paddles at the wheel, we found it quite a willing performer: it is certainly packing more than enough for family duties, and most will enjoy the eager way it goes about things.
Road noise, and NVH generally, is particularly low. This, the comfortable seats and composed ride, provide a sense of refinement at highway speeds that is unexpected in a ‘small’ hatch (though not particularly small).
The Picasso is certainly better than most as a relaxed tourer - better, we would contend, than rivals like BMW’s Active Tourer and the Mercedes Benz B Class.
Rivals to Consider
Citroen is lining the Picasso up against those two German contenders. While it certainly has the high-end features and quality-feel to chest up to the BMW and Benz, we’re not so sure that’s where it competes.
We think its natural enemies are more likely to be Alfa Romeo’s Giulietta, and, maybe at a stretch, the up-spec Mazda CX-5 or even Volkswagen Tiguan R-Line.
Buyers considering the Picasso will likely value individualism first, and will perhaps not be shopping within a genre so much as looking for something with space, performance and stand-apart style. (But it’s a hard call with a car like the Picasso.)
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
No question about it, this 'truncated’ Picasso has lots of appeal.
It drives well, looks smart, and is loaded with high-end features - panoramic sunroof, 12” and 7” screens, sat nav, 360 degree vision, among a very long feature list.
The ‘floating roof’, blacked out pillars and chrome window surrounds set it apart and give the Picasso a quality look and feel.
That look and feel is repeated inside in a uniquely airy and appealing cabin.
So, yes, a quality car.
But will it be perceived that way by buyers, you know, quality worth paying for? That’s the question.
In positioning the Picasso - a family hatch and a single model at that - above $40k, Citroen is asking buyers to make a leap. In fact, that leap will be more like $45k by the time you get it home, and more if you tick those option boxes.
All of that is just commentary, of course, and you will make up your own mind when you have a look. And you should have a look, this is a fine car from Citroen and styled like no other.
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