This is the Grand version of the Citroen C4 Picasso. It’s longer, taller, and boxier, and more expensive than the C4 Picasso we drove in 2013. Sounds like a raw deal, huh? The upside is that this car will now seat seven people (up from five in the non-Gran C4 Picasso), and has a bigger boot when you’re not at maximum occupancy.
In fact, with the Ford S-Max getting so long in the tooth it’ll be appearing on cave paintings with its sabre-gnashered brothers, and VW/Seat’s family buses having about as much ‘auto emocion’ as a wet Tuesday night on the M25, the C4 Picasso could well be a shining light.
Another good-looking Citroen MPV!
Funny, isn’t it? Ask Citroen to draw a normal supermini, family hatchback or saloon and they turf out anonymous products like the C3, C4, and C5. Yet when they come to doing an MPV – normally a style-free zone – the C3 Picasso and C4 Picasso are thoughtfully detailed and dripping with up-to-the minute edginess.
Just look at how the roof rails swoop into the C-pillar, in a contrasting matt finish. The ‘upside-down’ face, with the headlights positioned well below slim LED clusters. You can spec 18in alloys which look frightfully close to the turbine-aping rims on the Lamborghini Reventon supercar, if you want to really nobble the manners. Fortunately, the 17s fitted to our test car (standard across most of the range) are almost as attractive and don’t spoil the C4 Grand Picasso’s pillowy ride.
Yes, it’s as clichéd as a mime artist wearing an onion necklace and a beret to say so, but the French really are at their best when designing quirky, avant-garde wheels talented at carting around a rowdy brood. The C4 Grand Picasso is yet another example of the stereotype. Now we’re hoping it’s not a case of all face and no talent, as with the stunning but poorly set-up DS5…
Looks like the design budget stretched to the cabin too…
You’ve seen the frontal portion of the C4 Grand Picasso’s interior in the five-seat C4 Picasso. It’s pretty cool for a van with windows. Infotainment and climate control is managed by a touchscreen centrally plugged into the dashboard. It’s the same slick system fitted to the Peugeot 308, miles superior to the horridly clunky system in the 208 supermini.
What the interface gives in minimalist design it takes away in convenience – having to prod a screen three times to switch the air-con on (while looking away from the road) is a right leap of faith, but, like the dash-mounted electric parking brake, operating it quickly becomes second nature.
The main screen up top is huge and fussy – speed, revs and fuel economy fight for attention with the audio source, odometer and even the clock. In total, 14 separate pieces of numerical information are beamed at you from this readout – enough to bring Daddy out in sweat-dripping flashbacks of the maths lessons he’s off to pick the kids up from. Again, familiarity breeds friendliness, and we can’t fault the build quality.
Make no mistake, Peugeot and Citroen’s latest offerings are, at long last, up there with VW for material choice, nosing ahead of Seat and Skoda for ambience and thoughtfulness, too. The product has finally caught up with PSA’s rhetoric.
When the C4 gets facelifted, a little more bolstering for the flat front seats wouldn’t go amiss. Even at school-run friendly speeds, negotiating a roundabout will leave the driver clinging, white-knuckled, to the button-festooned steering wheel to stay upright.
But there’s more space in the back here?
Enough for two small jump seats to set up shop in the boot, or fold flat to leave a 632-litre cargo bay behind. Though the rear-most seats enjoy a wealth of headroom thanks to the tall roofline, legroom isn’t what we’d deem generous. Put the kids in the back row, where they can amuse themselves making rude hand gestures at lorry drivers.
Adults will have little to grumble about in the middle row, however. There’s enough space to seat three side by side, and when you’re not in full minibus mode, the out seats’ squabs can be folded upwards, cinema style, for more loading space. Folding the entire row flat is something of a workout, but worth it for the capacious 218 litres left behind. Plus, slim pillars and the option of light, earthy tones inside mean the Citroen feels spacious, airy, and not at all dark or overbearing. Not Germanic, in order words, despite being built like it was born in the Rhine valley.
Any good to drive?
MPV buyers have driving dynamics further down their priorities list when car shopping, but the Ford S-Max has proved MPVs can be an entertaining steer. The C4 Grand Picasso’s not in the same league.
Comfort (correctly) usurps handling in the chassis department, and the electric steering weights up so alarmingly as you add speed, it’s best to just take everything steady. The six-speed manual gearbox trades old-Citroen sloppiness for a tighter, notchier action, but are you really going to be aiming to beat the 12.1sec 0-62mph time? Instead, enjoy the fact that those upright split A-pillars cut through the air with admirably little wind whip, and that the uninspiring diesel engine can return almost 50mpg when you’re setting a careful driving example to the little ones.
Insert MPV verdict here. Boring to look at, stupefyingly dull to drive, but you won’t care because it’s frugal and swallows children like a fairytale monster. Right? Wrong. The C4 Grand Picasso looks special, has a cabin imbued with as much wellbeing as a luxury limousine, while none of the above impinges on its talent as a family mover. There’s a joke about a French renaissance coming here, but we’re better than that. Vive la Grand Picasso…