Citroen C4 Picasso isn’t an easy car to categorise. While strictly speaking it’s a five-door hatchback it comes with the option of seven seats so can be seen as a mini people mover but also has many of the qualities which attracts buyers to compact SUV crossovers.
Where it does stand alone is in the amount of natural light provided inside the car through the combination of a huge windscreen and panoramic glass roof. The top of the windscreen continues back till it’s almost above the front seats while the large split A-pillar means that it effectively continues around to the sides of the car.
The sunvisor housing can even slide back and forward to access the windscreen even further into the roof.
It’s as close to the open air feel that you get from a top-down convertible as possible but with the protection, both thermal and physical, of a roof. In regard to the first of these conditions we picked up our test car on a sweltering 40-degree Sydney day but felt no effect from the heat throughout our drive.
The interior lightness makes Picasso feel larger inside than it really is.
Citroen is renowned for doing things just that little bit differently so it shouldn’t have come as a complete surprise to find the gear change selector, a thin paddle-shaped silver stalk, sitting on top of the dashboard.
Picasso has the now-conventional push button start/stop facility and we do like the key slot below the button. While the key doesn’t have to be in the slot to start the engine it does provide the added convenience of a fixed storage location.
There’s plenty of storage space with a large, deep central console that can be removed. A closed area at the bottom of the dashboard is useful for storing valuable items and also houses the USB and Aux sockets.
The front seats have adjustments in multiple directions with some of the settings controlled via small buttons on a flat area set into the front corner of the seat.
Picasso has five individual seats, although the rear three are relatively small. Each of the rear seats can slide back and forward to let you juggle passenger legroom and boot capacity. Only with seats in their rearmost positions is there good legroom for adults, otherwise they’re child-only.
Luggage space is good, between 537 and 630 litres depending on the placement of the sliding rear seats then up to 1851 litres when they’re all folded flat. Even the front passenger seat can be folded down to create a van-like interior. A powered tailgate is available as a $1000 option.
The spare wheel is space saver.
ENGINE / TRANSMISSION
Citroen C4 Picasso is powered by a modern 1.6-litre turbo-petrol engine that produces 120 kW and a useful 240 Newton metres of torque all the way from 1400 revs to 4000, the typical engine speed for almost all drivers virtually all of the time. It’s a Euro 6 certified unit that took out its category in the 2014 International Engine of the Year award.
The 2.0-litre diesel used in the previous Picasso has been retained in the seven-seat Grand Picasso although there are whispers that the 1.6 petrol may be added in the near future.
Transmission is through a six-speed automatic transmission that works well with the engine to have it at its best revs. There’s no manual gearbox option in Australia as there is in European markets, a wise decision by the Australian importer.
In addition to the standard and statutory safety features such as airbags, enhanced ABS brakes and stability/traction control C4 Picasso comes with blind spot monitoring; front and rear parking sensors; self-parking; 360-degree birds-eye and reversing cameras; hill start assist; automatic headlights; LED daytime running lights; fog lamps with cornering function; and dipping side mirrors.
A $2000 optional Driver Assist Package adds lane departure warning; smart beam function; active cruise control; collision warning system; active seat belts and electro-chromatic rear vision mirror.
All three rear seats come with IsoFix child seat tethering points.
All instruments and controls are displayed on two screens located in the centre of the dashboard with nothing at all on the dash in front of the steering wheel. Although it does attract its critics we like this positioning especially because the larger of the two screens is 12 inches in diameter meaning that the various driving information displays can be seen quickly with a minimum amount of time taken away from looking at the road ahead.
Importantly the top screen is well shielded and unaffected by the large amount of natural light within the cabin. This screen features include vehicles parameters, satellite navigation, driving aids such as speed limits and all-round and reversing cameras.
The lower (7.0-inch) screen looks after air conditioning, audio and other minor tasks.
The height of the C4 Picasso makes for relatively easy entry and exit as well as providing the high-ish driving position that is such an attraction in the compact SUVs that are selling so well nowadays. The front seats are attractive, comfortable and supportive.
C4 Picasso is not a performance car but then again nor are the vast majority of its competitors, be they hatches, people movers or SUVs.
Ride comfort is everything you expect from a French car, smooth and quiet although there was occasionally more tyre noise than anticipated on some coarse-chip surfaces.
Handling is safe and secure although tall hatches / SUVs like this never feel as good as standard height ones due to the higher centre of gravity.
The outstanding visibility makes C4 Picasso an ideal urban vehicle enhanced by a sharpish 10.8 metre turning circle. The quirky gear selector did take some getting used to with some embarrassing delays when switching between reverse and forward gears for three-point turns. By the end of our week we’d almost got used it but we feel that typical Citroen owners will grow to love it.
Fuel consumption is listed at 5.6 litres per 100 kilometres. We averaged 7.4 L/100 km.
The C4 Picasso is one of the most enjoyable cars we’ve ever driven. Not for its driving characteristics, it sits in the lower half of our pecking order in that regard, but rather because it has so much personality. It really is a car that you feel like jumping into and taking for a leisurely drive for no particular reason except that surrounded by that ambient lightness it just seems to make you feel better, more relaxed.
At just over $40,000 it isn’t cheap but when you factor in its intangible qualities together with its high equipment levels and Citroen’s six-year standard warranty we wouldn’t mind stretching the budget to buy one.
AT A GLANCE
Citroen C4 Picasso Exclusive 1.6-litre turbo-petrol five-door hatch: $40,990 (automatic)
Note: This price does not include dealer or government charges. Contact your local Citroen dealer for drive-away prices.
SPECIFICATIONS (Citroen C4 Picasso Exclusive 1.6-litre turbo-petrol five-door hatch)
Capacity: 1.598 litres
Configuration: Four cylinders in line
Maximum Power: 121 kW @ 6000 rpm
Maximum Torque: 240 Nm @ 1400 rpm
Fuel Type: Petrol 98RON
Combined Fuel Cycle (ADR 81/02): 5.6 L/100km
CO2 Emissions: 130 g/km
DIMENSIONS, WEIGHT AND CAPACITIES:
Length: 4428 mm
Wheelbase: 2785 mm
Width: 1826 mm
Height: 1644 mm
Turning Circle: 10.8 metres
Kerb Mass: 1310 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 57 litres
Front: Ventilated disc
Rear: Solid disc
Six years / unlimited km