In the age of the SUV, a people-mover needs to be unique to stand out from the high-riding crowd – and that’s where the Citroen Grand C4 Picasso comes in.
The French brand’s eye-catching new seven-seat people-mover has arrived on sale in Australia priced at $43,990 - smack-bang in seven-seat SUV territory. Read the full pricing and specification details of the Grand C4 Picasso here.
But unlike many of those wannabe off-road models, the Citroen Grand C4 Picasso feels like it has been designed to carry a family of five, six or seven in comfort, rather than just offering seats in the boot as a bonus.
Citroen claims the Grand C4 Picasso was tested over more than 3.5 million kilometres, with 1000 test drivers across three countries – including mums and dads – offering up their feedback. The company even claims there have been about a hundred tweaks to the car in recent months. It’s no surprise, then, that it feels thoughtfully engineered.
The deceptive Citroen Grand C4 Picasso is only 20 millimetres longer than a Mazda 3 sedan at 4600 millimetres, but at 1664mm tall and 1826mm wide and with a lengthy 2840mm wheelbase, its breadbox body allows it oodles of interior space.
With its standard panoramic glass roof and huge “Zenith” windscreen that stretches well over front seat occupants, Citroen claims there is 5.70 square metres of glazing in each model, and those two items – along with enormous front-quarter windows and slim pillars all around – makes it feel airy inside, and all-round visibility is indeed top notch. Perceived quality is high, too, with soft-touch plastics lathered across the dash and front doors.
The Citroen Grand C4 Picasso is loaded to the hilt with equipment. Along with all that glass, goodies include a self-parking system, surround view camera system with parking sensors all-around, satellite navigation, integrated rear-door sunblinds, second row tray tables and smart key with push button start.
The Grand C4 Picasso’s media system is a standout. The lower 7.0-inch touchscreen has controls for the Bluetooth phone, music, auto-parking, camera and climate settings, and will see plenty of use. The 12.0-inch panoramic top screen shows vital driver information such as the speedometer, acts as a line-of-sight sat-nav display, and displays the views from the front, side, rear and combined surround-view cameras.
Hardcore musos may be upset, though, as there is no CD player – instead, there’s Bluetooth audio streaming, two USB inputs and an 8.0-gigabyte on-board music memory system.
Storage options include a clever removable centre bin that can fit handbags and electronic devices (or perhaps treats for well-behaved kids), and a pair of underfloor storage bins in the second row – one of which holds the car’s tyre repair kit – there is no spare. There are large door pocket slots but with no bottle holsters, and the cup holders are shallow.
At the back there’s a decent 632-litre boot with a flat load space when the sixth and seventh seats are stowed, which increases to 793L with the second row in their forward-most setting. With the back chairs in place, that space drops to a considerably less useful 165L - half of what the much bigger Honda Odyssey offers with all seats up (330L).
Seating is an important consideration in a car like this. Up front, the chairs offer good comfort and adjustment, while the three second-row individual seats each feature a simple flip-slide mechanism that makes accessing the rearmost seats less of a clamber than in some SUVs. They can also be slid fore and aft.
The swinging rear doors are bigger on this second-generation model, allowing parents easy access to children in the back, but their size means eager kids could dent other car doors in tight parking spaces. Second-row occupants get pillar-mounted fan controls and vents, but there’s no direct airflow to third-row passengers.
The rearmost chairs are roomy enough for shorter adults, provided the second-row is in its forward-most position. Headroom in the back is fine unless you’re considerably taller than average, and knee room and toe room is fair. We’d suggest the car will be a better occasional seven-seater, rather than a genuine bus (Citroen agrees – it says most buyers will have two or three kids, aged between two and 11).
Its biggest omission by far is a lack of airbag protection for rear seat occupants – its curtain airbags only reach as far back as the second row (it also has dual front and front-side 'bags). Citroen claims the car has been engineered so the rearmost passengers sit inboard enough from the body of the car that they will unlikely be unharmed in the event of an accident. But as most parents will attest, the peace of mind of having an airbag "just in case" could drive them towards other options in the market.
Under the bonnet, buyers have no choice but to get a 2.0-litre turbo diesel four-cylinder producing 110kW of power (at 4000rpm) and 370Nm of torque (at 2000rpm) mated to a six-speed automatic. There’s no petrol available, and no manual gearbox.
Thankfully, the engine is well suited to the car. It offers decent mid-range response, but can be a little slow from a standstill. It’s not the quietest engine around, but nor is it the loudest or grumbliest diesel we’ve experienced, and its stop-start system works well.
That idle-stop unit helps the new model sip a claimed 4.5 litres per 100 kilometres – considerably less than similar vehicles such the Kia Rondo (6.4L/100km), and only marginally more than the smaller Toyota Prius V hybrid (4.4L/100km). During our 240-kilometre test loop north of Auckland, New Zealand, we saw around 6.0L/100km, though our test vehicle had travelled less than 750km, and Citroen claimed it would offer better use once it is run-in.
Automatic transmissions by French car companies generally aren’t the best, but this six-speed torque-converter unit with paddle shifters (no matter how silly that seems) was better than expected. It offered decisive shifts, was quick to react to sudden throttle inputs and, while perhaps not as smooth as some transmissions in rival diesel auto vans, it seemed well suited to its task. However, its odd, space-saving column-shifter could take some getting used to.
Cabin comfort is good thanks to a supple, well-sorted suspension setup. The ride offered no sore points despite riding on 17-inch alloy wheels with 55-aspect tyres, ably dealing with large speed humps, and never jarring over potholes. Through corners it held its line quite well, albeit with some body roll, and when pushed it felt more nimble than a minivan arguably should – we’ll put that down to its low 1440kg kerb weight - and at highway speeds things were very cushy indeed.
The Grand C4 Picasso’s steering is light and well suited to city duties, and offers a tight turning circle of 10.6m. And if you're not a confident parker, there's a self-parking function that allows you to let the Citroen do the turning for you (while you control throttle, braking and gear selection). While the steering feels slightly heavier at higher speeds and is quite quick to react, we noticed a hint of kickback through the wheel over mid-corner bumps.
On the ownership front, shoppers may wish to note Citroen doesn’t offer a capped price service program for its C-line models – only the premium DS range comes with that peace of mind. However, the company now offers the longest warranty in Australia - a six-year, unlimited kilometre program which also includes six years of roadside assistance.
The Citroen Grand C4 Picasso is the best non DS-line car the brand currently offers, and a commendable option for families after an occasional seven-seater.