Car reviews - Citroen - Grand C4 Picasso
Outstanding interior design, brilliant flexibility, high level of standard equipment, terrific steering, comfortable suspension, smooth turbo-four with potential for excellent efficiency
Room for improvement
Curtain airbags miss third-row, AEB reserved for pricier diesel only, little 1.6-litre works hard to the detriment of economy, not as dynamic as Mazda CX-5 or CX-8
The Grand C4 Picasso is the Citroen that should lessen the need for a medium SUV
6 Feb 2019
HUMANS have become unendingly smarter, pushing forward with engineering and technology that would have seemed impossible in years past. But humans can also be selfish, with our sheer wants often trumping our needs. It really must explain why the Citroen Grand C4 Picasso is so unpopular.
Given how little impact its current hatchback range and this people mover have made locally, Citroen is actually preparing to re-launch its brand in Australia in the middle of next year, when the Subaru XV-rivalling C3 Aircross and Mazda CX-5-challenging C5 Aircross arrive on our shores.
That new SUV duo are what buyers apparently want, even if the likes of this three-year old, but recently facelifted, Grand C4 Picasso could be all that a family buyer needs.
Now cheaper than before – priced like a medium SUV but with the bonus of seven seats instead of five – and with a new engine that delivers sparkling fuel efficiency owing to a lighter kerb weight than the CX-5 breed, on-paper this Cit really looks like it should be a sales hit.
Price and equipment
CITROEN has dropped the smaller C4 Picasso from its local line-up, but has gifted its 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol four-cylinder engine to this Grand C4 Picasso. It now asks $2500 less than its former five-seat sibling, as well, priced here from $38,490 plus on-road costs. Incidentally that is also $6000 less than the alternative 2.0-litre turbo-diesel four that continues in this seven-seat range.
Equipment is close to being Grand with both engine options, too. The most disappointing omissions with this cheaper petrol concern the lack of adaptive cruise control and autonomous emergency braking (AEB) both standard on the pricier diesel, while curtain airbags miss the third-row in both.
Otherwise this enlarged C4 Picasso offers a stellar level of standard equipment for the price. This includes 17-inch alloy wheels, an electric tailgate, panoramic sunroof, front and rear parking sensors with automatic reverse-park assistance, surround-view camera, keyless auto-entry with push-button start, auto on/off wipers and headlights with auto up/down high-beam, auto-dimming rearview mirror, dual-zone climate control with three-row fan control; plus a 7.0-inch touchscreen with satellite navigation, digital radio and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone mirroring tech.
An optional Lounge Package is further available, which for $5000 adds Nappa leather, electrically adjustable and heated front seats with massage function, and a front passenger ‘ottoman’ leg-rest.
The front seats are also gorgeously trimmed and eminently comfortable, with thin A-pillars contributing to an expansive view to each side and the high-resolution central driving display ensuring that a driver’s eyes are kept forward. That display is not to the standard of Audi’s driver Virtual Cockpit, for example, as it lacks sat-nav map versatility, but at least the centre 7.0-inch touchscreen is now faster-acting than before. With easy shortcut tabs flanking it, and a proper volume dial, it is simple to interact with and lacks for nothing in terms of infotainment options.
At this point an owner could simply use this Citroen as a five-seater with a really large boot. With the individually sliding (and reclining) middle row of seats pushed right back, legroom challenges that of large, not mere medium, SUVs. With a flat floor aiding centre-rider legroom, fold-down tray tables, B-pillar mounted air vents and side-window blinds, this is cabin is as clever as there is available for this price. And still there is a 630-litre boot volume, besting the CX-5 (442L) as well as Kia Sportage (466L), Hyundai Tucson (488L), Honda CR-V (522L) and Skoda Karoq (588L).
Consider the third-row a bonus then, or ‘sometimes’ seats given the lack of curtain airbags. The duo of rearmost pews pull up effortlessly from the floor, reducing luggage space to just 167L, but when raised they offer decent comfort, plus reasonable legroom and headroom. Or, in context, about as much as there is to be found in the much heavier, seven-seat Mazda CX-8 or Skoda Kodiaq that sit above this Grand C4 Picasso in price, while adding weight, yet lacking its third-row air vents.
Engine and transmission
This cheaper Grand C4 Picasso gets ‘only’ a 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol four-cylinder engine, with a mere 121kW of power at 6000rpm and 240Nm of torque from 1400rpm. However, this front-wheel drive (FWD) model weighs ‘only’ 1505kg, which is 54kg less than a CX-5 Maxx Sport FWD that merely seats five, with a 114kW/200Nm 2.0-litre naturally aspirated petrol four cylinder. The fact Citroen packs in seven seats and extra luggage space, yet delivers that kerb weight, is superb.
Not that this French model is fast, mind. Its reasonable 10.2-second 0-100km/h claim is certainly plausible, but the little turbo-petrol is felt toiling determinedly and quite frequently. The six-speed automatic holds lower gears often, which aids driveability enormously, but whichever way the performance is delivered, economy suffers considerably. Indeed, on test we exceeded the claimed combined-cycle fuel consumption of 6.4 litres per 100 kilometres by a further 3.2L/100km.
The auto can also occasionally be caught short by the turbo lag of an engine clearly designed for even lighter applications, pausing momentarily before dropping gears when moving from a light cruise to full-throttle overtaking, for example.
Beyond that specific issue, however, this drivetrain is as amenable as any, while being impressively hushed even when (over) working. That said, the (albeit five-seat) Tucson 1.6-litre turbo, and Ford Escape, Holden Equinox and Volkswagen Tiguan 2.0-litre turbos, do feel much faster for this price.
Ride and handling
One of the reasons the Grand C4 Picasso offers such immense interior space is due to its suspension design. It utilises a compact torsion-beam rear-end and, without the need for all-wheel drive, the back floor can be lowered as well. And for 90 per cent of drivers, and driving, this is more than fine.
The ride quality of this French model contains no traces of people mover (or van) origins, which is something that cannot be said for the coarse and lumpy Honda Odyssey. Instead it is beautifully damped, with a loping and long-travel feel that works brilliantly around town or on the open road. And, no doubt thanks to the relatively low kerb weight, body control is impressive despite the relatively soft suspension, which makes for not only an ideal balance but genuine driver enjoyment.
At least when travelling with two aboard, this seven-seater feels light and agile over sweeping country roads, with a fabulously frisky flavour absent from every other people mover. Yet that low mass does not impact on refinement, with road noise being admirably low across all surfaces.
So, then, who are the other 10 per cent of drivers who might want more? Well, there is no real sporty flavour with this seven seater, and both a CX-5 and CX-8 use their more sophisticated independent rear suspension to great effect through really tight roads. The Mazdas are proper driver’s SUVs that step up during spirited driving – just at the point where the friendly fun of the Citroen moves to untidy resistance communicated by early understeer or loss of suspension travel.
Safety and servicing
Six airbags (including dual front, front-side, and front- and middle-row curtain protection), ABS, electronic stability control (ESC), blind-spot monitor, lane-departure warning with active lane-keep assistance, front and rear parking sensors and surround-view camera.
Euro NCAP has tested the Citroen Grand C4 Picasso in 2014, and it achieved 34.53 out of 37 points for a five-star rating.
Annual or 20,000km service intervals are brilliantly broad, with the first three checks coming in at $414, $775 and $414 respectively, to three years or 60,000km.
There is absolutely no cynicism with this Citroen Grand C4 Picasso. There is no attempt to give it big wheels, a sharp roofline, higher ground clearance and all-wheel drive that few will actually use.
Instead, Citroen designers and engineers have nailed a family car brief and then some. This is a model that can challenge, then eclipse, most five-seat medium SUVs for not only space and comfort, but interior design and finish for the price. It then adds a layer of seven-seat (or 5+2-seat) versatility to that equation, with no more or less room than larger and pricier seven-seat SUVs.
If genuinely expansive, seven-seat space is required, then a buyer would have to look to the thirstier and more conservative but otherwise excellent Kia Carnival. But in many ways this smaller model is not a direct rival. Think of it as a smarter mid-SUV with the bonus of a couple of extra seats.
If it had AEB and third-row airbags, plus ideally perhaps a 2.0-litre turbo engine, the Grand C4 Picasso would make for a five-star family car. It is just a shame it would need to look like an SUV in order for the human race to want, and not just need, this otherwise fantastic people mover.
Kia Carnival from $42,490 plus on-road costs
The people mover to buy per square metre also happens to be class leading for its size, refinement and general polish.
Mazda CX-5 Maxx Sport from $33,990 plus on-road costs.
Sales-smashing medium SUV also the class leader, being cheaper and better to drive than the Citroen to drive, but with inferior space and versatility.
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