Loads of style, space and practicality so appealing
- Credit: Matthew Howell
Citroen's new Grand C4 Picasso has loads going for it, says motoring editor Andy Russell.
I find it hard to believe that it is five years since I first took my elder son to university in an estate car loaded with just about everything but the kitchen sink.
Five years later, when moving him out of his student house, I could not believe how much extra 'truck' he had accumulated.
Fortunately this time I took the new Citroen Grand C4 Picasso which became part of the family 'mucking in' with the 'mucking out' – and the cleaning, rubbish disposal, removal and transport team could not have managed without this enormously practical people-carrier. It highlighted why multi-purpose vehicles are popular with families and people leading active lifestyles.
The Citroen Grand C4 Picasso did everything we asked of it, taking practicality to the max with the minimum of fuss.
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It's also one of the best-looking people-carriers – but it wasn't until I parked next to an original model that I appreciated how much better.
What I most appreciated was its sheer versatility – carrying four people in comfort and a boot full of cleaning paraphernalia, then dropping all five rear seats flat to turn it into a small van to transport a treadmill and then taking bags and bags of rubbish and an old mattress to the dump.
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The great thing is you don't have to leave anything behind in the garage when transforming its load-lugging ability. Rasing the two rearmost seats from the boot floor is a one-handed action, and the three separate middle-row seats also drop flat and have flaps on the back that fold out to cover any gaps to make an uninterrupted load bay floor. Those middle-row seats also slide back and forth to expand the boot or legroom, have adjustable backs and, to make access to the rearmost ones as easy as possible, the outer seats' cushions flip upright, cinema-style, before the whole thing slides forward to leave a sizeable gap through which to get in and out. Despite being classed as a compact MPV, it can carry seven adults on short journeys but the rearmost seats are best for children. Loads of cabin storage, including lidded lockers in the rear footwells, add to the family-friendly feel.
The boot is also 56 litres bigger, ranging from 632 to 793 litres in five-seat mode, depending on the position of the middle row of seats.
The cabin has an upmarket feel with quality trim and interesting curves and contrasting materials and I really like sliding back the huge front sun visors to expose the vast windscreen. Combine it with the panoramic glass roof and big windows and the cabin is flooded with light which adds to the sensation of space.
A good range of adjustment makes it easy to tailor the driving position but the complexity of the hi-tech fascia can be daunting at first. But it is testimony to the ergonomics that you soon feel at home with it. All vehicle functions are controlled via an intuitive seven-inch touchscreen while the top two models also get a 12in panoramic HD colour central display instead of traditional dials which also shows vehicle and driver information – you can even display your favourite photographs on it for the ultimate in personalisation! And because it is set in the centre of the fascia there's nothing in front of the driver to distract attention from the road.
While the new Grand C4 Picasso is virtually the same length as its predecessor, an all-new platform with a longer wheelbase is at the heart of creating a cleverly-packaged cabin that is even more accommodating and also makes this compact MPV even better to drive.
Diesel power will be the preferred choice of most owners with 90 and 115hp 1.6-litre turbos and a 150hp 2.0-litre turbo – there is a 120bhp 1.6-litre petrol and 155hp 1.6-litre turbo petrol.
If you regularly lug large loads or tow, the 2.0-litre Blue HDi is a good choice – it has just won best MPV at the Tow Car Awards. It pulls strongly from low revs but is noisy when worked hard so it's better to keep the revs down and maximise MPG – I got 45 running around and 50 with longer runs. The optional automatic gearbox has a smooth shift once warm or you can use the flappy paddles to shift manually.
The Grand C4 Picasso may be classed as a compact MPV but it is still a big vehicle but doesn't feel so to drive. The ride is supple and well controlled over poor roads while the handling is surprisingly agile and responsive given its size – keen drivers certainly won't feel they are missing out.
Citroen has a good track record for producing practical people-carriers and multi-purpose vehicles and all those talents come together to make the Grand C4 Picasso so clever and capable in a package that is hard to beat.