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Car reviews - Citroen - C4 Picasso - 5-dr wagon range

Our Opinion

We like
Styling, HDi’s performance and economy, six-speed auto, safety, value for money, comfort
Room for improvement
Tight third row for adults, dynamics not as sharp as they could be

Citroen logo4 May 2007

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

WHAT’S in a name? Plenty, if we’re talking about the new C4 Picasso.

Citroen, its creator, would have us believe that using Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Crispín Crispiniano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso’s surname on a mainstream French vehicle implies inspiration and genius on par with the Spanish artist.

Whatever. In the spirit of the great man himself, may we instead suggest that, to find the true meaning of this predominantly diesel-powered seven-seater people-mover, you take a more compartmentalised (cubist?) approach to its name – and more specifically, the second syllable.

Ignoring any vulgar Americanisms, ‘ass’ is an apt description for the C4 Picasso.

The fantastic Dictionary.com defines an ass as "a long-eared, slow, patient, sure-footed domesticated mammal, Equus Asinus, related to the horse, used chiefly as a beast of burden."

How succinct – except that the Picasso isn’t at all slow, since we drove the eager and spirited 2.0-litre HDi turbo-diesel mated to an equally responsive six-speed automatic gearbox, and we found this combination, with 270Nm of torque available from a little over engine idle, to be amply fast the petrol version may yet prove to be slothful. Citroen didn’t let us drive it...

In HDi turbo-diesel guise, the C4 Picasso is positively long-legged (rather than long eared) in its ability to cruise comfortably, thanks to tall gearing, plenty of accessible torque for plodding up hills, and a willingness to overtake briskly.

After driving on mostly busy urban roads, the trip computer – set amidst a funky and very easy to read once acclimatised instrumentation pod that can change colour and layout at a press of a button or two – returned a fuel consumption readout of 7.4L/100km. That’s very impressive indeed.

However, on certain bitumen surfaces, there is a noticeable amount of road noise permeating the C4 Picasso’s otherwise quiet and refined cabin. Wind noise seemed subdued, though, while the ride on our 17-inch wheeled version was very agreeable.

As a hauler of one adult and six children, or any combination up to five adults and two children, the Citroen really is a beast of burden.

Seats are comfy, the front ones as adjustable as you like, and all pews are accessible with barely more than a pull of a lever.

Better still, dropping the seats is elementary, and the resulting space that is available turns the C4 Picasso into a C4 panel van. Too bad there’s so much window area – great for parking, less so for privacy.

If you long for that tall SUV feeling, you can jack yourself up on the seat’s highest setting – as you might saddle up on an ass – and not feel as if you are peering under the windscreen’s header rail if you choose the optional panoramic glass sunroof, that is.

However, we can’t really recommend the rearmost seats for anybody over about primary-school age. It’s tight. Citroen crows on about how generous headroom is back there, but what about your knees!

Continuing the equine ass theme, the C4 Picasso always feels surefooted, stable and smooth, aided in no small way by a litany of safety-related abbreviations such as ESP stability, ABS, EBD, EBA and traction control.

The flipside is that this Citroen, like most of the marque’s current offerings, is safe, secure but disappointingly uninvolving and leaden dynamically, with responsive but bland steering, for well controlled but dull handling that is marked by a fair degree of bodyroll.

On the other hand, none of the C4 Picasso’s rivals in Australia are any better – in fact, they are probably less interesting to drive full stop.

All we can say on the subject is that it’s a good thing for Citroen and the others that Ford and Mazda don’t import their respective S-Max and 5/Premacy II. Proving that people-movers can be lively and inspiring to drive, both are brilliant to drive, period.

Nevertheless, we came away quite impressed with the overall C4 Picasso picture.

It looks absolutely futuristic but also attractive inside and out.

The designers have really thought long and hard about making the interior work.

The diesel/auto combination seems to work a treat, and has the added bonus of extra torque when fully laden compared to Citroen’s petrol competition, as well as the obvious fuel economy plusses.

And there are a whole lot of appealing options that can turn your people-mover from a necessity buy to a proudly luxury purchase.

But there is one more thing about the C4 Picasso, and – once again – it relates to the ‘ass’ part of the name, and how apt it might prove to be.

Besides being a particularly effective beast of burden, to be an ‘ass’ is "... to be a stupid, foolish, or stubborn person."

If the C4 Picasso fails to catch on in Australia, it will probably be because of stubbornly outdated mainstream notions about Citroens, perpetuated by ill-informed and unyielding people.

We think that Pablo Picasso, for one, would have seen beyond the name on this particularly appealing Citroen.

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