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Car reviews - Citroen - Grand C4 Picasso - wagon

Our Opinion

We like
Pricing, standard features list, loads of technology, ride quality, flexible cabin, sweet 2.0-litre diesel
Room for improvement
No eight-seat option, lack of full-size spare, some road noise, diesel clatter noticeable at idle

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Citroen logo17 Nov 2014

IT seems that 2014 is a year of renewal for people-movers in Australia, with three of the more established names in the segment getting all-new replacements by year’s end.

Honda has just launched its larger, more family friendly Odyssey, Kia is set to replace its aging Carnival by the end of the year and niche player Citroen has just released its completely new-from-the-ground-up Grand C4 Picasso.

Even the name is new. The previous model was called a C4 Grand Picasso, but for ease of reading, we will refer to it from here on simply as Picasso.

Citroen Automobiles Australia is pitching its latest offering at the aforementioned Carnival and Odyssey, but it will also be pitched against the smaller Kia Rondo as well as seven-seat SUVs and larger family wagons.

The French car-maker rarely bothers the top-end of the new car sales charts in Australia, and local distributor Sime Darby is not expecting Carnival-like sales for the stylish new family hauler.

It expects to shift about 250 examples of the model this year, up from the 61 it sold of the outgoing model last year, although the company said there was limited supply of the model in 2013 as it was in run-out mode.

The European designed MPV is an appealing thing to behold in the flesh, which is rare in this segment, and it features smooth, flowing lines, chrome flourishes and Citroen’s new corporate face that will be seen on a number of new C-line models including the smaller C4 Picasso and the C4 Cactus crossover.

One of the key selling points for people-mover buyers is the cabin. They want flexibility, comfort, space, convenience and technology features that suit their needs.

If the new Odyssey pushed the game forward with its larger cabin, eight-seat option, generous leg and head-room and luggage space, the Picasso pushes it further and in a different direction.

Upon entering the Picasso’s cabin, you are greeted by a massive 12-inch screen that displays trip computer info, a reversing camera and a 360 degree camera, while a smaller seven-inch screen sits under it with multimedia, air conditioning controls and sat-nav.

The controls and technology take a while to get used to as they have their own French quirkiness to them, but the sat-nav and trip computer proved relatively easy to manage.

The design of the cabin is very modern and clean with lovely contrasting soft-touch materials with interesting patterns, and there are some appealing styling touches such as the C-shaped (which stands for C4) buttons on the thick, premium steering wheel that mimics the shape of the 3D tail-lights.

Citroen has carried over the split A-pillar from the previous model and this combined with the enormous windscreen and acres of glass throughout – including the panoramic sunroof which comes standard with a sunblind – makes for excellent visibility. If you still have problems seeing then just use the 360 degree camera.

This came in handy when attempting the park assist function which can slide the car into some very tight parking spaces. According to Citroen, it was tested on the very crowded streets of Paris and the system even corrects itself so all you need to do is control the accelerator and brake.

The wheelbase is 110mm longer than the previous model making for more cabin space and improved leg room in the second and third rows. Our time in the second row was pleasant thanks to ample head and leg-room, comfortable seats and airline style tray in the back of the front seats with a light.

Sun-blinds are standard to protect little ones in the second row as are air vents with fan speed adjustment, while 12-volt power sockets are in both the second and third rows.

There are no third row vents, although this may be coming further down the track as a part of the 100-plus engineering changes Citroen has made to the car since its European launch in October last year.

Folding the third row away is easy as it folds under the floor of the cargo area where there is plenty of room thanks to a lack of full-sized spare tyre. A maintenance kit is provided instead which may put some people off who prefer a real spare.

There is storage aplenty throughout the cabin and the centre console is removable if you require extra space between the two front seats, while parents can check on the behaviour of their kids in the back thanks to a nifty little conversation mirror up front.

Busy parents who want to use their time commuting to relax a little can option half or full leather ($2500 for part and $5000 for full) which adds the Lounge Pack. This includes an electric footrest on the passenger’s seat and extra support for the head-rests, but more importantly an electric massage function that is adjustable depending on your preference.

We are happy to report that the massaging function works a treat.

With the third row stowed you can lug between 632-793 litres of cargo, up to 2181 litres with the second and third row stowed and 165 litres with all rows in position.

The Picasso is smaller in the flesh than it appears in press images and measures in at 4600mm long, the exact length of the outgoing model. At 1440kg, it is light for a seven-seat people-mover. This is about 400kg lighter than the Odyssey (1776kg) and even weighs 142kg less than the Kia Rondo (1582kg).

One thing it does share with the Odyssey is its 10.8-metre turning circle which, again for this segment and size, is impressive.

Powering the Picasso is PSA’s new-generation 2.0-litre diesel BlueHDi engine, marking its first use in an Australian product. It produces 110kW at 4000rpm and 370Nm between 2000 and 2500 rpm, which is 10kW less powerful than the outgoing car but 30Nm more torque.

Despite the talk of a sophisticated new-gen engine and the work Citroen has put in to improving NVH (noise, vibration and harshness), there is no mistaking the powerplant for anything other than a diesel, particularly at idle when there was noticeable clatter.

It delivers adequate acceleration from a standing start but the powertrain really shines when accelerating at speed to overtake or simply when traversing a steep incline. At no point did it struggle, and our drive route to the north of Auckland provided a number of sharp inclines that would have challenged a less capable car.

Adding to the “all-new” tag is the inclusion of PSA’s newly developed six-speed automatic transmission, which when matched with this engine is a sweet, smooth-shifting unit.

Citroen is claiming a very impressive 4.5 litres per 100 kilometres on the combined cycle for its official fuel use figures, which in the MPV class is only bettered by the Toyota Prius V petrol-electric hybrid with 4.4L/100km.

Our figure was just above 7.0L/100km which is appropriate given the drive loop and the fact that the test vehicles were fresh off the boat and yet to be driven in properly.

Road noise was noticeable in the cabin, particularly on country highways at speed. Our test car drove on a set of the optional 18-inch wheels (17-inch wheels are standard) which may have impacted this a little.

The suspension set-up makes for a compliant, obviously comfort-biased ride without heading into mushy territory. The steering is nicely weighted and offers acceptable turn-in when cornering.

Without judging potential buyers, most Picasso owners are probably not likely to test the dynamics of their car, but if they do, they might be pleasantly surprised.

There is slight body roll through bends which is not surprising for a vehicle of this shape, size and height, but when punted into corners, the Picasso kept its cool.

We would even go so far as to say it was fun to drive. You know, for a people-mover.

The Honda Odyssey does a lot of things well and offers an eight-seat option, which the Picasso does not, but the French family hauler has it beat for dynamics and overall driving enjoyment.

You would be hard pressed to find a better-equipped alternative for the price and the Citroen offers French style, the latest technology, a flexible cabin and decent space. Work a long, hard look then.

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