Citroen invited us to a special bloggers day tacked on the end of the press launch of their new C4 Picasso people carrier. Are they still called people carriers? Who knows- they’re probably referred to as Lifestyle Choice Vehicles or something now. Anyway, as per usual I digress. If you want to see me stall a car within 2 meters of driving off then this video is the one for you:
The car itself manages to look spacious but compact at the same time. I wouldn’t have any issues taking it into a multi storey car park for example but once you get in the car, it’s anything but cramped. I was (as I say in the video) surprised to find that I didn’t need to have the drivers seat fully back to get comfortable. I think the only other car I’ve driven that I can say this about is the current Mondeo.
Although the look has thoroughly been updated on the outside, and there is more than a nod to the DS3 in my mind from the front grill and lights, inside it still has all the signature features that make the Picasso a very practical MPV. You’ll struggle to find a car that has more cubby holes or compartments to store stuff in than the C4 Picasso. There are even storage compartments secreted in the driver and passenger seats at the front. Useful for sunglasses or sweets.
The model we drove had a punchy 1.6 turbo diesel under the bonnet. Whilst we didn’t drive the car loaded up with luggage for a week away, it felt like it had plenty of oompf but with a fuel consumption that would put a smile on your face (well over 50 to the gallon apparently). The top end model has a lot of toys on it- from blind spot radar, to a semi automatic gearbox with steering wheel mounted paddle shifts, and even an automatic parallel parking mode- but we didn’t get to have a go in that. Whilst the gadgetry was nice, I suspect the lower end models will be the best sellers, so it was good to go out and test one of those.
Talking of loading luggage, the boot is reasonable. If you don’t spec a spare wheel, there is plenty of room in a hidden under carpet compartment for storing additional stuff, which is a bonus. The parcel shelf is clever enough to cope with the rear seats (which fold flat but aren’t removable) being shunted backwards and forwards too.
The suspension was fairly soft, but I didn’t manage to get too much body roll or tire squeak as I went round corners, and it absorbed the speed bumps as well as did the terrible road surface we have to put up with. The steering wheel itself had about as many buttons on as an F1 car and was nice and chunky to hold but there wasn’t a great deal of feedback through it. So whilst the car is good to drive in terms of an MPV, it’s not as good as a nicely balanced hatchback.
The dashboard is entirely virtual- although there is a speedo with a needle and everything, it’s a graphic. In fact it took me a couple of minutes fiddling to replace the image of a mountain range with a rev counter next to the speedo. Likewise, the only physical button on the central console is the stereo’s off/on volume button. Everything else is operated via a touchscreen. This give a wealth of options but can be a bit fiddly. I’m used to reaching out and twiddling a knob to adjust the fan or heating, maybe pressing a button to put the aircon on or off and I can do this without looking away from the road. Virtual, context sensitive buttons make it a bit harder.
The rear seats are brilliant. There are 3 individually made seats that each move backwards and forwards independent of the other two. All three also have isofix fixings, something I’ve found isn’t always the case with the middle of three in the back of cars. Having said that, our three car seats were a bit of a squeeze, not as bad as they are in our Zafira but it took some wriggling around to get all three in without banging the door cards when shutting the kids in. A few people have commented that one of our seats is unusually large, but this isn’t an issue we’ve noticed in a Ford Focus or a Mondeo (the Volvo V50 was even worse to be honest).
With the extra legroom afforded by me not having the drivers seat all the way back, our eldest was able to sit behind me, something he can’t in our existing MPV. They kids liked the trays on the back of the seats and also the blinds that retracted into the door sills. They are a very good idea although a part of me worries about their longevity when they’re being manhandled by kids all day long.
The Citroen C4 Picasso starts at £17,500 on the road and is one of the more innovative people carriers I’ve driven in recent years. It’s definitely worth having a look at if you’re in line for a new car and need intelligent seating for 5 people.