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Car reviews - Citroen - Grand C4 Picasso - Exclusive

Our Opinion

We like
Design inside and out, spacious, comfy, modern multimedia, clever detailing, gutsy diesel, low consumption, best-ever warranty, long spec list, high safety rating
Room for improvement
Some off-the-line hesitation, engine can sound clattery at idle

Gallery

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Citroen logo14 Nov 2014

Price and equipment

CITROEN’S Grand C4 Picasso is so adept at transporting seven people around, it is a stylishly convincing argument against SUVs.

The French of course have decades of form in this field, from the glorious elongated Citroen DS Safari and generations of Peugeot wagons, to the genre-defining Renault Espace and all of its copycat disciples.

In execution, the Grand C4 Picasso is actually a spin-off from another Renault-aping concept, the wildly successful (in Europe) Megane small-car derived Scenic.

And therein lies the Citroen’s fundamentals. It is essentially a stretched C-segment hatch for lightness, economy, efficiency and agility, without the unnecessary weight, bulk and tight packaging compromises equivalently priced seven-seater SUVs such as the Toyota Kluger suffer from.

Now in its second generation in Australia, the $43,990 Grand C4 Picasso Exclusive is $4500 more expensive than the outgoing Seduction, but boasts an additional $9000 worth of goodies, or so the importer Sime Darby Motors says.

It includes cruise control with a speed limiter, leather steering wheel with audio controls, electronic handbrake, kerb-tilting mirrors in reverse, rain-sensing wipers, automatic headlights, sat-nav, rear camera offering 360-degree vision, automatic park assist, parking sensors, blind spot monitoring, dual-zone climate control with second-row vents, keyless entry, push-button start, panoramic glass roof with electric sun-blind, auto-fold mirrors with puddle lights, Bluetooth connectivity, digital radio, USB and auxiliary jack, tyre pressure monitors and 17-inch alloy wheels.

On the safety front you’ll find six airbags, sudden deceleration hazards, stability control, anti-lock brakes with Electronic Brake-force Distribution and hill-start assist.

Another $2K buys you a Drive Assist Pack (lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, anti-collision warning, active seat belts and a smart high-beam function) an electric tail-gate adds $1K, bi-Xenon headlights are $2K, part-leather seats are $2.5K and $5K nets full hide upholstery.

Finally, the Grand C4 Picasso is bang up to date, brandishing an all-new front-drive architecture that will underpin literally scores of future Peugeot, Citroen and related product.

The Kia Rondo Si and SLi undercut it at $32,490 and $36,490 respectively, as does the older Peugeot 5008 (from $36,990 to $40,490), while Honda’s $39,990 to $47,620 Odyssey straddles the Picasso.

Only the outgoing Kia Carnival diesel ($44,990 to $56,290) and Toyota Tarago (from $48,990 to $71,490) are more expensive in the car-based people mover field – though they’re both usefully larger to boot.

Interior

Built using PSA’s new Efficient Modular Platform 2 (EMP2) that is about to be seen under the next-generation Peugeot 308, the 4590mm long Grand C4 Picasso has a wheelbase that has been stretched 110mm compared to the previous version at 2840mm.

The result is a palpably roomier body, and one that should surprise and delight most Australians. Key numbers to remember: 217mm of second-row knee room (up 55mm) and 108mm in the retractable third row (up 16mm).

Cargo space also rises (by 69 litres to 645L) with five seats up, and there is 1.170 metres of width waiting between the wheelarches.

Citroen says quality is up due to an obsessive desire to quell noise intrusion and banish that flimsy old French cheap feel. To that end, there’s even been “controlled ageing” of the appearance of interior and exterior items. So revolutionary!What’s even more striking, however, is the cabin’s sci-fi dashboard presentation, led by a 12-inch panoramic screen that’s big enough to disgrace a ‘70s cathode ray television set.

It offers three distinct instrument designs including digital analogue-look dials, as well as sat-nav, audio, camera and climate control info. Owners can personalise it with images of their own.

Meanwhile a seven-inch multi-function touchscreen within hand distance of the front occupants houses the (at times fiddly) climate control, media, navigation, Bluetooth and other car setting features.

Frankly there is too much digitisation going on here. For instance, the temperature control is a series of tiresome button pushes. At least there’s a big round knob for volume and on/off.

Many of the functions are replicated on the flat-bottomed four-spoke steering wheel, while behind that are transmission paddles as well as a small auto stick shifter that is a bit too easy to knock out of Drive.

There’s just heaps of things to savour in the Citroen – from the front passenger seat leg rest that (electrically) juts out like an airliner’s, to the huge storage area options.

The C4 also includes surprise and delight features like retractable roof lining/sunvisors for a truly panoramic view up front, rear-door shades, massaging front seat functions, multi-configurable sliding and folding trio of second row chairs (with sturdy trays for the outboard occupants), a plethora of interior lighting options, a built-in self-rechargeable torch, 12V connectors where you need them to be, and air vents with fan controls just where second-row passengers can use them.

The first and second row seats themselves are firm yet comfy, with ample adjustment, and sufficient space for adults of all sizes, in a quality environment that’s airy and interesting aesthetically thanks to a phalanx of little textures and other fascinating detailing.

Getting to the third row seats is easy thanks to properly old-school French extended rear doors that swing open to a really wide angle.

The middle seats, meanwhile, weirdly sandwich upwards and forwards to allow for fairly easy access to the third row pair of seats that otherwise fold easily into the cargo floor area. Most taller folk will cope with limited journeys there, but it’s mostly a kids-only place. Citroen helpfully provides space for big shoes and feet, the middle-row slides forward to help accommodate longer legs, and there’s actually ample headroom.

More importantly – and are you listening Honda – the rear of the second-row backrests have top tether strap hooks that need not eat into cargo space.

As with all MPVs, the amount of luggage room you have is in proportion to the number of people travelling on board, but the Picasso makes for a large and practical wagon as a five-seater and there’s still a bit of space left when all seats are occupied.

If you tilt the forward-folding front passenger seat down, you can fit objects as long as 2.75m inside the Citroen.

One of the secret footwell cubbyholes holds a tyre inflation kit so no spare wheel is on board (or underneath) the French people-mover.

Quiet in ride, supple in suspension movement and muted in mechanical noise, travelling in the Citroen is a treat wherever you sit, as well as endlessly entertaining visually.

Engine and transmission

That new architecture is 100kg lighter as well as up to 82mm wider and 20mm lower than the old one. That’s a great start, because it bodes so well for the Grand C4’s performance as well as economy.

Under that stubby nose is a newly Euro 6-rated 2.0-litre four-cylinder Blue-HDi turbo-diesel delivering 110kW of power at 4000rpm and 370Nm of torque between 2000 and 2500rpm.

What it loses over the previous Picasso in one regard (minus 10kW) is made up for in another (plus 30Nm).

Driving the front wheels via a new lightweight six-speed automatic, the Blue-HDi takes a moment to spool up before the performance barrels on through, for unexpectedly strong acceleration once the car is on the move. Frankly the transmission isn’t the slickest or most intuitive, but it works smoothly enough slurring through the ratios.

As long as the revs are over 1900rpm (the engine speed when cruising at 100km/h in top), there is always a decent shove on tap to take you up and away in no time. Citroen says 100km/h from standstill takes 10.2 seconds.

On the flipside, the engine is neither especially quiet nor refined in the way some of the latest German, Japanese and Korean turbo-diesels are, but it is certainly hushed enough.

Aided by an impressively quick idle stop function, the Picasso is a frugal family hauler, averaging under 6.8L/100km in our time with it. The official figure is 4.5L/100km, so a conscientious owner ought to expect even better economy.

By the way, the Citroen became the first diesel-powered vehicle to score a five-star rating in the Green Vehicle Guide.

Ride and handling

Nobody expects any people mover to be fun.

But the Grand C4 begs to differ, because its steering is quicker than we anticipated, and with a fair amount of feedback as well. As a result, if you attack a turn with a bit of vigour, you’ll be met with a flat and confident cornerer.

Yes, there is no escaping the tallness of the vehicle, and there is some body lean, but the front wheels grip the bitumen for excellent all-weather grip.

Some of the platitudes here should go to the sticky Michelin Primacy HP 205/55R17 rubber fitted as standard.

The ride’s not bad either, with a muted absorption defining the comfort characteristics of the Picasso. This underlines the six million kilometres of EMP2 platform testing in order to boost strength and rigidity as well as cut noise/vibration/harshness properties.

It is certainly more comfortable and quiet to travel in than most comparably sized and priced SUVs – particularly for persons travelling in the middle and last rows.

Safety and servicing

The Grand C4 Picasso recently scored a maximum five-star ANCAP crash safety rating.

The warranty period is for six years/unlimited kilometres, while a capped price service plan for the same amount of time also applies. It is at 12-month and/or 15,000km intervals until the 72 months are reached.

Verdict

From nowhere Citroen is at the pointy end of the segment with the beautiful and progressive Grand C4 Picasso.

At $43,990 it is not cheap, but nobody offers a better warranty or fuel economy for the size or features for the money. And there’s even something for keen drivers to sink their teeth into.

Citroen has been making cars for nearly a century and its experience shows in the way the Grand C4 Picasso makes you feel every time you sit inside and drive it.

That there are so few flaws is a testimony to the research and development that’s gone into this car.

Before you buy an overweight and underachieving large SUV with seven seats, please consider the quiet revolution that is going on over at Citroen. We think you will be more than pleasantly surprised.

Rivals

1. Honda Odyssey VTi: From $38,990 plus on-road costs
Slick, quiet and a lot more van like than the previous wagonoid versions, the fifth-generation Odyssey is a quality bet with renowned resale, but the looks are challenging and the VTi has a couple of packaging issues.

2. Kia Rondo SLi 1.7D: From $36,790 plus on-road costs
Strong performance and a capable chassis underpin what is one of the most thorough vehicles ever to come out of Korea. The Rondo is a comfortable and well-packaged people mover with a great warranty to boot. The rear seat is very tight for adults, though.

3. Peugeot 5008 Active HDi: From $40,490 plus on-road costs
Getting on a bit now, and with a facelift about to hit, the 5008 is nevertheless a functional and appealing alternative to the Asian people mover set, offering a decent chassis and attractive interior. The rear’s a bit squishy for adults, however.

Specs

Make and model: Citroen Grand C4 Picasso Exclusive
Engine type: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel
Layout: FWD
Power: 110kW @ 4000rpm
Torque: 370Nm @ 2000rpm
Transmission: 6-speed auto
0-100km: 10.2s
Fuel consumption: 4.5L/100km
CO2 rating: 117g/km
Dimensions: L/W/H/WB 4600/1826/1644/2840mm
Weight: 1440kg
Suspension: MacPherson struts/torsion beam rear
Steering: electric rack and pinion
Price: From $43,990

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