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Car reviews - Citroen - C4 Picasso - range

Our Opinion

We like
Spacious and versatile cabin, comfortable and quiet ride, responsive engine, excellent feature list
Room for improvement
Price is a bit steep, quirky gearshifter, long distance from windscreen to driver

Citroen logo13 Nov 2015

By NEIL DOWLING

Price and equipment

IT IS all very well that Citroen believes the Picasso doesn’t fall into traditional body style categories. But to buyers, it’s got to slot somewhere.

Unlike the Grand C4 Picasso with its longer length and three rows of seats defining it as a people-mover, the baby five-seat Picasso is more likely to hit the needs of hatchback buyers.

In this crowded segment, it’s a worthy entrant but suffers only from its pricing that puts it about $5000 ahead of more traditional hatchbacks.

Granted, the Picasso is very well equipped. It has a more embracing inventory than the $32,690 (plus on-road costs) Ford Focus Titanium or flagship Mazda3 SP25 Astina at $37,040 plus costs.

There’s only one model and drivetrain with a $40,990 plus on-road costs tag, though there’s a handful of options including a desirable Drive Assist Pack for extra safety gear.

For $2000, it includes lane-departure warning, forward-collision warning, adaptive cruise control and automatic dipping headlights.

Buyers can also choose 18-inch alloy wheels – it comes standard with 17-inch rubber – for $1500 full leather cabin for $5000 and partial leather for $2500 and an electric tail-gate for $1000.

Out of the box the Picasso gets a tidy sum of equipment, all set in a dashboard that is a carbon-copy of the bigger Grand Picasso.

There’s 17-inch alloys, six-speaker audio with a digital radio, satellite navigation, a 7.0-inch touchscreen for vehicle functions, a built-in eight-gigabyte music storage jukebox, 360-degree cameras and a panoramic glass roof.

One of its key features is the 12-inch screen atop the centre dashboard that relays the basic vehicle operation – including speed, engine revs, fuel and mapping – that can be customised and changed to suit driver or passenger demand.

Safety gear is also comprehensive, though the option pack is recommended to bring the wagon up to the level of its premium rivals.

Interior

It has the biggest cabin in its class but it’s not all about volume.

The Picasso has five individual seats, each on runners for fore/aft adjustment, and each with recline. This, obviously, gives the cabin tremendous flexibility and the configuration extends to carrying just one passenger in the rear on any of the three seats, so making room for particularly cumbersome cargo.

The rear seats fold flat – individually or to create a big, flat floor – so big boxes, furniture or a mountain bike or two can be slipped straight in.

To give an indication of how much space is available in this little car, there’s 537 litres of volume with all the seats in place. Fold down the rear seats and that grows to a whopping 1851 litres.

By comparison, the Ford Focus hatch has 316 litres and the more expansive Peugeot 308 expands from 435 litres to 1274 litres with the seats folded.

The floor is flat so seating is comfortable, while the centre console box between the front seats extends forward and contains enough room for a handbag.

There’s secondary storage in the lidded bin ahead of the console, which also contains the plugs for a USB stick, a 12-volt outlet and a jack for an iPod.

Unlike many of its European contemporaries, the Picasso gets bottle holders in the front and rear doors and two cupholders up front.

There are even fold-down tables at the back of the front seats to allow a child-friendly surface for play or writing, each with an indentation for a cup.

A lot of work has been done in organizing this interior and the fresh news is that it’s created from a clean piece of paper. Nothing that’s in the Picasso is seen in other brands.

As an example, there is a 30cm adjustment of the roof panels above the front occupants that expands the standard glass roofline. It gives a seamless outlook from the bonnet to above the heads of the passenger and driver.

The dashboard is a flowing sculpture of soft-touch plastic, textured and coloured contrasting shades of grey and with a single, central binnacle that holds a 12-inch TFT screen.

This screen can be altered to become a full-width sat-nav screen, or with a minimalistic speedometer or audio readouts or even show personal photos downloaded via the USB port.

Look closely and there’s two buttons on the main dashboard – the starter button and the volume dial.

The rest of the switches are on the steering wheel hub or activated via the touch screen. It’s simple, easy to use, clean and makes life for the driver a whole lot easier than some alternatives.

The gearshifter is a small, chrome-tipped lever erected drunkedly from the top of the dash ahead of the steering wheel. It’s odd to use – until familiarisation – yet is actually more logical than the right-hand gear shifter now used in Mercedes-Benz cars.

Engine and transmission

Though it is a chopped version of the Grand C4 Picasso, the smaller Picasso doesn’t share the drivetrain.

Instead of a 2.0-litre turbo-diesel mill, the Picasso gets a 1.6-litre turbo-petrol from the PSA-BMW family. In this car, it delivers a respectable 121kW at 6000rpm and 240Nm of torque from a mere 1400rpm. The figures look good.

The transmission is one of PSA’s latest six-speed torque-converter automatics, driving the front wheels. This box is just about to bob up in the Citroen DS3 hatch.

Citroen claims a frugal 5.6 litres per 100 kilometres from the wagon’s 57-litre tank. On test, the reality of city and suburbs showed 7.1 L/100km though most owners should be able to attain high-6.0L/100km figures.

A big part of the enviable economy and nimble road manners can be attributed to the wagon’s light weight. At 1280kg, it’s 5kg lighter than the Mazda3 hatch that is renown for its efficient weight-cutting SkyActiv technology.

That relates directly to the Picasso’s ability to feel responsive, though at 9.3 seconds for the 0-100km/h sprint, overall it is a long way short of the Mazda’s 7.5 seconds. The fact is, it feels faster than the figures suggest.

But it’s clearly more a cruiser. It slips smoothly through the six ratios but never appears to be in a hurry. For encouragement, the driver can resort to use the steering wheel paddle shifters.

The engine is relatively quiet – especially when driven without pushing the tachometer’s red line – and combined with the cushy ride, makes it a relaxed commuter and a perfect family hauler.

Ride and handling

If you buy a Citroen because the marque has a respected name for a cloud-like ride, you’re probably a couple of decades out of date. The pneumatic suspension of old is gone and Citroen is back to steel coils.

The latest Picasso uses the EMP2 platform introduced by PSA Peugeot Citroen in 2013 and is shared between the Spanish-made Picasso and Grand C4 Picasso and the Peugeot 308.

In comparison to big sister, the Grand Picasso, the Picasso has a wheelbase chopped by 55mm to 2785mm.

This puts the wheels close to the corners of the car’s 4428mm length, creating an open box for the excellent cabin storage and for a planted road feel.

The shared architecture follows a similar theme to the shared-component policy of Volkswagen Group’s MQB and Volvo Cars’ SPA platforms, though PSA has also found ways to trim a lot of weight.

The Picasso is suspended by double wishbones and coils at the front and a beam at the rear, again with coils. The option of the air suspension, seen on the previous Grand Picasso, is not offered.

Steering assistance is by an electric motor that always feels light – especially at parking speeds – in a style that is typical of French manufacturers.

Regardless, the Picasso is a very comfortable ride. There is some vagueness, first through the light steering feel and then with the softness of the suspension, but that contrasts with the excellent grip of the tyres.

The wide wheelbase and track are also responsible for the wagon’s stability and positive cornering.

Against that is the unusual driving position. The driver’s seat is a long way from the windscreen and the quarter lights are large and supported by extended buttresses. It feels like driving a suburban train (which we haven’t) or a passenger in the London Eye bubble.

But the Picasso is always a comfortable car and is perfectly suited to family tasks.

Safety and servicing

As standard, it gets six airbags, front and rear park sensors, and a reversing camera along with extra cameras to create a 360-degree view from the driver’s seat.

To this is added automated steering for self-parking, a blind-spot monitor, brake emergency display, tyre-pressure device, cornering lights, automatic headlights with washers, LED daytime running lights and auto wipers.

The spare wheel is a space saver though remove the foam stuffing from beneath the cargo floor and a full-size wheel may fit.

Buyers wanting more can opt for the Drive Assist Pack that costs $2000 for the addition of a lane-departure warning, forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control and auto dipping on high beam.

Citroen has an excellent warranty and customer service program, including a six-year warranty, six years of roadside assistance and a capped-price service program also for six years.

Citroen Australia initially offered a free service deal for the Picasso. That has expired and now the service costs for three years totals $1480.

That compares with $1515 for the similar drivetrain of the Peugeot 308, and $976 for the Mazda 3 and $960 for the Ford Focus.

Glass’s Guide estimates that the Citroen C4 Picasso will retain a very strong 59 per cent of its purchase price after three years. That is better than the Ford Focus, Mazda 3 and Peugeot 308 compared below.

Verdict

It’s been said before of Citroen but it still applies: If you knew nothing about cars and designed one for your family, most of the concepts would be similar to what’s in a Citroen.

A bit strange, a bit weird even, but workable and logical. With a dash of flair. The Picasso is sensible, space-efficient and comfortable. It’s not cheap but it will grow with your family and adapt to new challenges such as carting bulky loads.

It feels funny to drive because the windscreen is so far away, but in every other way, it is practical and it is full of character.

Rivals

Ford Focus Titanium hatch from $32,690
New Thai-made Focus gets a peppy 132kW/240Nm 1.5-litre turbo-petrol engine mated to a conventional six-speed automatic for performance, reliability and a decent 6.4L/100km economy. Up against the Citroen, the Focus offers excellent value for money though at 316-litres, it’s not in the same haulage arena as the French car. Standard equipment includes leather and sat-nav, front and rear park sensors with a reverse camera, nine-speaker audio and low-speed collision mitigation with rear cross-traffic alert. It has a three-year or 100,000km warranty and annual servicing. Capped price service costs are $960 for three years and Glass’s Guide estimate resale at a reasonable 53 per cent after three years.

Mazda3 SP25 Astina from $37,040
Ubiquitous Mazda 3 steps up a rung in its Astina guise, collecting all the top-shelf goodies such as low and high-speed collision avoidance, sunroof, sat-nav, leather, bi-xenon headlights, lane-departure warning with blind-spot monitor, and reverse camera and rear park sensors. It gets the bigger 138kW/250Nm 2.5-litre aspirated petrol engine for 6.1L/100km. Boot space is 308 litres. It has a three-year, unlimited distance warranty and needs servicing every 10,000km. Capped price servicing is $976 for three years and the resale value is 56 per cent.

Peugeot 308 Allure Premium from $35,530
Citroen’s sister uses a similar drivetrain but its 1.6-litre turbo-petrol delivers a more modest 110kW/250Nm for 6.5L/100km. But the 308 is very well equipped, including upholstery of leather-look and alcantara material, sat-nav, a glass roof, LED headlights and daytime running lights, reverse camera and front and rear park sensors, low-speed collision mitigation and 18-inch alloy wheels. Though smaller than the Ford and Mazda, boot space is a liberal 435-1274 litres. It needs annual servicing and the warranty is three years or 100,000km. The capped-price service program costs $1515 for three years and the estimated resale value after that period is 51 per cent.

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