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Car reviews - Citroen - Grand C4 Picasso - 1.6T

Our Opinion

We like
Design inside and out, practicality, performance, smoothness, affordability, steering, handling, ride comfort, long warranty, better than most SUVs for moving families
Room for improvement
No AEB or adaptive cruise control – both are available in the more expensive diesel version

Gallery

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Citroen logo9 Apr 2018

Overview

CITROEN is here to stay, PSA’s Australian distributor claims, and the petrol-powered seven-seat Grand C4 Picasso is the proof, with sub-$40K pricing designed to woo style-seeking school-run parents wanting something prettier than the boxy Honda Odyssey.

But while the new turbo-petrol sibling to the continuing diesel is a delightful experience, the absence of autonomous emergency braking (AEB) means buyers might be better off sticking with the more expensive diesel version after all.

It’s a disappointing omission in a family conveyance and a shame considering how complete the newcomer is.

Drive impressions

Citroen is very nearly on the cusp of something special. You can see it in the underrated C4 Cactus and newly released C3 light hatch, and it’s abundantly evident in the Grand C4 Picasso. Fresh, relaxing, cosseting charm. No one else has it.

Released nearly four years ago, the Grand C4 Picasso brought a breath of fresh air to the stale people-mover segment, offering high-end design, a long spec list and decent driving dynamics, in a keenly-priced and very family-friendly proposition. About 300,000 were sold globally in about three years, making the French seven-seater a well-deserved success.

Unfortunately, Australians weren’t quite as enamoured with the diesel-only Grand C4 Picasso imported from Spain, despite positive reviews. And central to that was the lack of petrol availability.

Now, with the subtle facelift launched late last year, Citroen has expanded its repertoire with a sub-$40,000 1.6T, bringing strong and spirited performance against some fairly humdrum rivals such as the patchy Honda Odyssey, compact Kia Rondo and van-based Volkswagen Caddy Maxi. Against these, the French wagon is a people-mover and shaker.

Compared to the torquey but quite vocal 2.0-litre HDi turbo-diesel that’s still available, the turbo petrol is a stormer, with spirited off-the-line acceleration and a slick quietness that adds a new level of racy refinement to the segment. And, perhaps because it weighs about 50kg less than the HDi, the lightweight newcomer’s handling and body control are much more akin to a well-sorted hatchback. Throw in an absorbent ride, and it’s easy to see why so many Europeans have gone gaga over this Gallic party bus.

There are some oddball aspects that require familiarisation, such as the highly customisable but fiddly instrumentation, annoyingly twee gear shifter and central touchscreen interface for all vehicle controls, which can be a bit distracting and very confusing at first. Once acclimatised, though, the whole operation becomes much less intimidating, and you may even see rhyme to the reasoning behind such a layout.

Our brief drive reacquainted us with what remains one of our favourite people-movers on the market, and we believe that the inclusion of the turbo-petrol base variant is exactly what the Grand C4 Picasso requires to gain a foothold in this SUV-obsessed market.

However, unlike in the 2.0 HDi version, autonomous emergency braking (AEB) has been deleted in the 1.6T, and that’s a silly oversight for such a family-focused proposition. The adaptive cruise control with full-stop functionality isn’t available either, and nor is the idle-stop fuel-saving tech. Collectively, they go some way in justifying the $6000 premium that the diesel demands.

If you can see past such disheartening spec oversights, then the Grand C4 Picasso petrol is a belter of a seven-seater, providing a beguiling, life-affirming alternative to a bunch of class dullards. Note that most don’t offer AEB anyway, so at least Citroen can’t be solely singled out for denying consumers such potentially life-saving devices.

We understand that AEB will probably arrive when the upgraded and rechristened 2019 Grand C4 Spacetourer lands sometime late this year or early next year.

Still, until then, the current 1.6T goes a long way in lifting Citroen’s stock in this country. Value-seeking style drivers can do a whole lot worse at this end of the market.

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