I’m 32-years-old, recently married and even more recently, a new father. With the little lad but four-weeks-old, my CarAdvice colleagues decided to hand me the keys to the new Citroen C4 Picasso for the weekend, to put Australia’s newest multi-purpose vehicle (MPV) through its paces.
I must confess that being a new – and first time – dad, the concept of a ‘people mover’ is something totally foreign to me. It’s therefore more than a little understandable that when I first get my hands on the Citroen C4 Picasso I’m a little indifferent.
MPVs are a very odd shape. Not an SUV – though the driver and passenger seats are somewhat elevated – but not a station wagon either. Perhaps the best way to approach it is as a hybrid of both. Whatever your view, the look of the French five-seater grows on me over the weekend.
Sitting inside, you immediately notice the bright and futuristic design Citroen has managed to create in the cockpit. The sheer amount of space taken up by the expansive wrap-around windows creates a bit of an illusion, making things feel more glasshouse than car, while the centre-mounted driver display completes the ‘spaceship’ feel.
The C4 Picasso’s contrasting two-tone leather, featured on the seats, dash and inserts, tends to divide opinion. Personally, I’m a fan. To me it feels stylish and quintessentially French. Overall for mine, the whole interior befits the Citroen’s luxury Euro tag.
Teaming a 121kW/240Nm turbocharged 1.6-litre four-cylinder with a six-speed automatic, the front-wheel-drive Picasso proves far more enjoyable to drive than I had expected. I’m sure I’m not the first father to say this, but since the arrival of the little one, I don’t seem to drive at a million miles an hour any more. It goes beyond that too.
Rather than being fixated on 0-100km/h times and razor sharp handling, I now find myself far more concerned with safety, comfort and overall ‘driveability’. And for me and my wife – and let’s assume my son – it’s in these criteria that the Citroen delivers in spades. Even on the odd occasion that I do put my foot to the floor, the car doesn’t miss a beat.
Perfection, though, is notoriously hard to attain and ergonomically the Citroen C4 Picasso takes a bit of time to figure out, The unconventional positioning of almost everything, for example, is enough to drive (pun intended) you spare.
From the steering column-mounted automatic shifter to the almost-hidden door handles and centre dash-mounted handbrake, decisions made by Citroen’s layout engineers leave me constantly trying to remember where everything is. As is often the case, though, things get easier to adjust to as the weekend wears on but it remains a recurrent frustration.
With the weekend well underway, it was time to put the MPV’s practicality to the test. Now, neither my wife nor I are the tallest people in the world. I’m five-foot nine inches on a good day and we both find getting in and out of the C4 Picasso a far easier task than climbing up and into the BMW X3 we currently own.
Thanks to the Citroen’s ISOFIX child seat anchorage points, fitting in (and later removing) our compatible child safety seat is also quick and easy. And even with the child seat in place, the 4428mm-long Citroen provides quite a bit of room for the front passenger – another luxury not afforded to us in our current car.
With the little fella comfortably settled in and all the accompaniments packed away, it becomes clear just how capable the car is for small families like ours. The generous open plan boot – expandable from 537 litres to 630L thanks to sliding rear seats – allows us to fit our large pram and nappy bag and still have room for more.
Other family-friendly toys I previously wouldn’t have been overly excited by include windows with built-in sunblinds, fold-down tray tables fixed to the back of the front seats and ‘soft light’ globes – the latter focusing light on the child seat anchor points, ensuring baby isn’t startled every time a door is opened.
Valuing my wife’s opinion – and our new marriage – I give her some time in the driver’s seat. She immediately praises how light the car feels compared with our car. And, of course, she’s right. At 1310kg, the compact Citroen is 410kg lighter than the longer BMW.
She likes that she still feels “high up” and “safe” and, according to her, “Everything just feels light and smooth.” My wife also doesn’t struggle any where near as much as I did when it comes to familiarisation with the Citroen’s cabin ergonomics, but she dislikes the two-tone interior.
We both note how quiet things are inside too, but for us, and this might sound odd, this is more a con than a pro. Allow me to explain.
Our little one seems to like the bumps and white noise our regular SUV provides, with the hushed ambience of the C4 Picasso seemingly a little too quiet for junior. So impressive cabin noise and unconventional ergonomics aside, the Citroen C4 Picasso has the family fairly convincingly won over.
For our small – yet likely to expand – clan, the C4 Picasso works well and makes a lot of sense. Priced from $40,990 before on-road costs (another pleasing fact for the missus), it’s a very tempting proposition in the baby/child-focused market.
Would we buy one? Well, yes. It’s slightly cheaper than some similarly sized SUVs, has the potential to better them in running costs and still offers excellent space, comfort and features.
Clearly designed and built with a family like ours in mind, the Citroen C4 Picasso is not without fault, but as a new parent who is constantly making changes to my lifestyle for the sake of my son, this would be a very pleasant change to make.
Click on the Photos tab for more images of the Citroen C4 Picasso by Benn Sykes.
Read CarAdvice’s full technical Citroen C4 Picasso Review here.