While they often get hammered for it, manufacturers who don’t follow convention should really be applauded. Thinking outside the box is the reason we end up with cars like this, the 2015 Citroen C4 Picasso.
The cookie-cutter alternative isn’t especially appealing whichever way you look at it and there’s nothing same/same about this French people-carrier.
We refer to them as MPVs, but the C4 Picasso sits somewhere between a higher riding (higher roofline specifically) hatchback and a crossover SUV. In short, the C4 Picasso is one of a select group of vehicles that are masters of many trades, and its individualistic styling is only one weapon in its armoury. Think of it as the vehicle for savvy family buyers who are smart enough to know they don’t need an SUV.
Don’t get this Citroen C4 Picasso confused with the Citroen C4 Grand Picasso either. The larger vehicle has been on sale in Australia for some time, but where the Grand is a seven-seat people mover with a diesel engine, the model on test here is more compact, with five seats and petrol power. It’s more nimble around town and nowhere near as bulky overall when it comes to daily running round, making it more practical.
You won’t confuse the C4 Picasso as anything other than a Citroen. Its edgy styling ensures that looks like nothing else running round town and also that you’ll stand out from the crowd while also being pragmatic.
On a side note, you can read our Citroen C4 Picasso pricing and specification break down here and Tim’s initial launch review here. The C4 Picasso also compares strongly against its competitors as you can see in our multi-car test against the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer and Mercedes-Benz B-Class here.
We’ve effectively got the entry model variant of the C4 Picasso on test here, with the C4 Picasso range being incredibly easy to understand unlike some of its competitors. Basically, buyers start with the base car starting from $40,990 plus on-road costs (as we have here) and then add options, as they like.
Our test C4 Picasso has only one option – the Citroen Driver Assist Pack which costs $2000, taking the price to $42,990 plus on-road costs. There’s plenty of included technology as standard, but the clever driver assistance package adds lane departure warning, electrochrome rear view mirror, smart beam function, active cruise control, active seat belts and collision warning system. Given most C4 Picassos will be family vehicles, this technology is a worthy addition over the basic buy in price and packs plenty in for the ask.
As you’ll see in our breakdown, there’s a long list of standard equipment. Some of the highlights include: 360-degree vision and a reverse camera, LED daytime running lights with 3D LED taillights, automatic dual-zone air conditioning, automatic lights and wipers, blind-spot monitoring, cruise control with speed limiter, seven-inch touchscreen with DAB+ radio and an 8Gb jukebox, front and rear parking sensors with park assist, panoramic windscreen with sliding sun blinds and a panoramic sunroof with dark tint and electric sliding blind. The C4 Picasso has a space saver spare wheel and tyre.
There’s so much glass that it changes the overall perspective of the C4 as you look at it from outside. The huge windscreen area just about becomes one with the expansive glass sunroof, which itself flows into the rear glass section. You get the sense from the outside looking in, that visibility from the cabin won’t be an issue. It’s not – more on that in a minute.
Initially I was a little skeptical about using the large, central information display. Configurable to suit your personal tastes, it rapidly becomes second nature to glance quickly to your left to check speed or navigation directions. The display is clear, regardless of ambient light and while in theory it might seem strange to have the sat-nav display visible on both screens (to use one specific example), it actually makes sense the more you use the system. The smaller screen, mounted lower down in the centre console looks after less important tasks such as audio, HVAC controls and general settings - like the ECO stop/start disable function, which was annoyingly difficult to find the first time around.
The Bluetooth phone and audio streaming connection proved easy to set up, and reliable once connected. I found the general menu system and settings easy to use as well. CarAdvice team members generally reported back that they didn’t need to sit there trying to work things out for too long before getting the hang of them. The iPod interface, when directly connected, is also easy to use and provides quick search functionality.
Around town, the Citroen e-THP 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine is a punchy unit despite its diminutive size, matched well to the six-speed automatic transmission. The gearbox shifts smoothly regardless of road speed and once you get accustomed to the dainty shift stalk (mounted at the upper right of the steering column), rapid-fire three-point turns can be executed easily too.
The engine generates 121kW at 6000rpm and 240Nm at 1400rpm but in reality feels more powerful than that. The C4 Picasso can be pointed toward gaps in traffic confidently and gets off the mark with a turn of speed that’s initially surprising. Better still, the engine/gearbox combo loves being worked through the middle of the rev range. You don’t need to thrash the C4 Picasso to extract its best around-town performance, which is crucial in ensuring the C4 Picasso never feels too urgent or overworked.
A top speed of 210km/h and a 0-100km/h sprint taking 9.3 seconds are inconsequential in this class, but give some pointer to what the C4 Picasso is capable of in an outright sense. The combined ADR fuel figure of 5.6L/100km will impress those on a tight budget and our indicated real-world figure was 7.7L/100km.
The ride is what impressed us the most. Numerous members of the CarAdvice team who spent time behind the wheel of the C4 Picasso noted the all-round quality of the ride. Comfort is a factor, as you’d expect, with the solid feel of the C4 Picasso ensuring it’s almost silent inside the cabin. Bump absorption is also excellent, with poor road surfaces and speed humps not even remotely interrupting the sense of calm. That remains the case even with four adults on board. We didn’t find a single driving situation around town - or out on the open road for that matter - that could rattle the C4’s sense of composure.
The steering and turning circle are also exceptional and for a vehicle that will spend most of its time negotiating the urban jungle. I particularly appreciated the steering weight at low speeds, it never felt sloppy or soft, but was easy enough to make city driving pleasurable. The tight turning circle made U-turns at dead ends for example a piece of cake.
Outright handling isn't going to set any racetracks alight - that tends to be as much to do with the high-riding centre of gravity as anything else - but the high seating position rewards with the extra visibility it affords. The seating position is adjustable to the point that should allow any driver to get comfortable and being able to lower yourself down into a taller vehicle is something I appreciated. If you want to sit up a little taller, you can.
The view from the driver’s seat is difficult to get your head around if you’ve spent time in just about any other modern vehicle. Difficult in that it’s broad and tall. It makes the C4 Picasso especially easy to position in narrow lanes or tight parking spots. Even with the adjustable sun visors pushed out to their ‘closed’ position, the view forward is as good as you’ll experience. Retract the sunvisors back when the light drops off and you’re left with even more glass to look through. The ‘proper’ cover for the sunroof keeps plenty of heat out when the vehicle is stationary too, a must for Australia in summer.
I spent some time being chauffeured around in the back seat and found the legroom to be exceptional and the airy sense delivered by all the glass something to enhance the experience too. The individual seats in the second row are comfortable, but it’s the view out and the feeling that you’re never cramped that make the experience so much more pleasant.
Storage space is both plentiful and flexible. The second row seats can be moved fore and aft to favour either legroom or luggage space. Slide the rear seats all the way backwards and there’s 537 litres of storage. Slide them all the way forward (where there will still be enough legroom for the kids) and that space opens up to 630 litres. Fold the seats flat and the space opens right out to 1851 litres. The C4 Picasso’s strongest point is that it doesn’t sacrifice luggage space for legroom and vice versa. You can definitely have the best of both worlds.
The Citroen C4 Picasso comes with Citroen’s six-year, unlimited kilometre warranty and six-year capped price servicing schedule. This long warranty is second only to Kia, and should put a few concerns over French reliability to rest.
There are very few reasons you wouldn’t buy a C4 if you were comparing vehicles in this class. There’s no diesel option on the cards for buyers wanting an oiler. The petrol engine, while more than adequate, isn’t as powerful as some of the other Euro competition as well – a point that won’t bother many buyers but needs to be made. The three separate seats across the second row, while clever, can be a little tight for broad-shouldered adults and headroom is also a little tight too.
Reasons as to why the C4 Picasso is such a clever car are numerous, and there isn’t much that detracts from its appeal. It fits the bill of city runaround with aplomb and will appeal to the family buyer thanks to its capacious interior space, varied storage options and all round comfort. The C4 bucks the often-boring family city car trend in impressive fashion.
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