As its name suggests, the C4 Picasso uses the same platform as the C4 models. The manufacturer may claim the C4 Picasso to be a Compact MPV and so competing against the likes of the best selling Vauxhall Zafira or revised Ford C-Max...
A new year – time for a new motor
One in ten new cars sold in 2006 was an MPV, multi-purpose vehicle or people carrier, as we know them. The MPV sector was one of only three new car segments in which new car sales grew in 2006.
Travel anywhere, at home or abroad in Europe and you see MPVs and not just being used by large families. Whether you are an active twosome who need a spacious vehicle or a larger family, the modern day MPVs, in their ‘compact medium’ and large sizes fit the bill. On sale in the UK from 15 January 2007 the new C4 Picasso is the latest addition to the Citroen line-up. Citroen are now of one of the biggest players in the UK MPV market, and the C4 Picasso joins the five seat Xsara Picasso Compact MPV, the Berlingo Multispace Budget MPV and the C8 full-size MPV. Later in 2007 Citroen will also introduced a five-seat version of the C4 Picasso.
The new C4 Picasso seven-seat range starts at a bargain £14,995 for the 1.8i petrol seven-seater and ranges up to £21,695 for the 2.0HDi with Citroen’s fuel saving electronic manual/auto transmission. The main seller overall is likely to be the 1.6HDI SX with the electronic transmission with a price tag of £17,995. We know Citroen are the price champions and their dealers are only too willing to do a deal so expect to get a discount on those prices. Citroen are launching the new range with a 0%, 3-year finance package anyway.
The new C4 Picasso range is powered by a choice of four engines: 127hp 1.8i 16V and 143hp 2.0i 16V petrol units, as well as 110hp 1.6HDi and 138hp 2.0HDi diesel powerplants. Both diesel engines are fitted with Diesel Particulate Filter Systems while CO2 emissions are as low as 150g/km. Fuel economy for all four versions is impressive, with the 1.6HDi capable of returning some 50mpg on the combined cycle.
Depending on model, buyers can select either a 5-speed manual transmission, or Citroen’s advanced new 6-speed electronic gearbox system. With a choice of manually operated paddleshift gearchange or an automatic mode, this hi-tech system offers the benefits of ease-of-use and lower fuel consumption.
As its name suggests, the C4 Picasso uses the same platform as the C4 medium-sized hatchback and coupe models. The manufacturer may claim the C4 Picasso to be a Compact MPV and so competing against the likes of the best selling Vauxhall Zafira or revised Ford C-Max in the sector, but the Citroen newcomer is much bigger. At 4,590mm in overall length it is only marginally smaller than the large Citroen C8 MPV but with much more versatile and flexible interior seating and load carrying combinations. With its egg-shaped profile the newcomer accommodates seven passengers with three rows of seats but where it scores over the C8 is that the rear and middle rows of seats fold in various combinations away into the floor to give a flat floor to the load area. The vehicle can be used in this load-lugging configuration or with any combination of left and right hand seating but still with a long flat area to carry things like skis. Another bonus is that these seats can be operated by just one finger, they are really easy to fold up or down.
Reinforcing its versatile nature, the C4 Picasso offers the largest boot space in the class when in the most common five-seat configuration, with an available 576 litres beneath the luggage cover. This can be extended to a massive 1,951 litres with the second row seats folded away.
To stow away everyday paraphernalia there are a number of useful cubbyholes dotted around the interior, which can include a 5.4 litre ‘coolbox’ in the centre of the dashboard, underfloor storage space in the boot and two illuminated dash-top compartments.
Access to the middle and rear row of seats is through side-hinged doors, not the electric sliding type used for the C8 MPV.
Space and light are just two of the superlatives which can be used to describe the C4 Picasso. Citroen say it also has the biggest windscreen that forms part of the largest glazed area; the least cluttered dashboard design is complemented by the most innovative use of lighting sources; the simplest folding rear seating system contributes to the largest boot volume; there are class-leading levels of elbowroom and the best all-round visibility, while for added reassurance the C4 Picasso has recorded the highest Euro NCAP score for adult occupant protection.
The new C4 Picasso brings to market a whole host of unique and innovative class firsts. A parking space measurement system, Hill Start Assist, air quality sensor and scented air freshener, Lane Departure Warning System, self-levelling suspension and paddleshift gearchange all make their debuts in the range, although some of these features are not available on all models.
On the inside, the most immediately striking feature is the deliberately uncluttered look and feel in the front, achieved by removing the handbrake and, on most models, the gear lever. These are replaced by a dash-mounted automatic electric parking brake and a paddleshift gearchange and mode selector stalk behind the steering wheel.
This modern design approach helps create the clear, fluid and simple dashboard layout. Many of the usual buttons that litter other MPVs are cleverly incorporated into the C4 Picasso’s innovative fixed centred controls steering wheel but are initially confusing to use.
Separate individual controls for the vents and air conditioning are conveniently positioned at either end of the dash so as not to clutter the centre of the facia. Key driver information is communicated via a centrally located multi-function screen that can be customised to offer a choice of colour settings. The attention to detail in where controls are placed, the number of controls and functions available and the design of such items as the extending windscreen visors is very impressive and well thought out. I have a few concerns about the durability of some of the fixtures and fittings but time will tell on how they stand up to long-term use.
The huge expanse of glass creates a light, bright and attractive environment for all on board. The wide angle panoramic windscreen rises up and over the heads of the front seat occupants, providing a field of vision that is double that of a standard MPV. However the facia panel is quite high and the front bonnet declines sharply so even with this large windscreen it is difficult to judge parking distances at the front. The larger C8 has a much lower facia and you can see the bonnet, making for better vision for the driver, I think.
Light, both natural and artificial, plays a key role in the relationship between the occupants and the vehicle. Depending on the model there are up to 32 different light sources onboard, ranging from the innovative use of subtle strip lighting in the doors, headlining and dash to the door bins that are automatically illuminated when a hand is placed inside them, plus a boot light that doubles as a hand-held torch. There are even welcome lights in the door mirrors that bathe the ground with light when approaching the vehicle in the dark.
The impressive list of equipment offered on most models includes front and rear parking sensors, cruise control and speed limiter, a high quality hi-fi system developed with Philips, and a NaviDrive colour satellite navigation system with built-in telephone and voice recognition facility.
In another class first, top-of-the-range models are fitted with self-levelling pneumatic rear suspension. By maintaining a constant ride height, regardless of load, this system benefits handling and safety. It also allows the height of the rear sill to be raised or lowered independently for easier loading. The self levelling suspension will be favoured by users that tow caravans, boats, jet skis or trailers and I think the 2.0HDi, 138bhp, 199lb.ft, turbodiesel engine model with this suspension will be potentially an excellent tow vehicle, especially as it includes a hill start function. The downside is the maximum towing weight is only 880kg.
However my test model was the 1.6HDi with the electronic 6-speed gearbox which is really a manual; gearbox without a clutch pedal and only costs an extra £500, less than half the price of a conventional automatic transmission. It can be used in manual tiptronic form or you just leave it to do its own thing in Auto mode. Once you get used to its performance it works very well. Price of this vehicle in VTR+ trim level is £18,695 but you will get a deal once the vehicle has been on sale for a few months.
I thought that with such a large vehicle and one loaded with specification and seven seats the overall weight of the C4 Picasso would take its toll on the performance provided by the 1.6-litre direct injection turbodiesel engine. Not so, the 110bhp and 177lb ft of torque available from only 1,750rpm makes it a responsive performer with a top speed of 112mph and a 0-62mph acceleration time of 13.4 seconds. Official fuel economy figures say 49.6mpg, my vehicle returned 47.4mpg which is very impressive. Citroen’s electronic transmission must play a big part in giving this level of performance and fuel economy for such a large and heavy vehicle. It is just what real customers want.
The only negatives about the C4 Picasso is the suspension which is set on the soft side for comfort and that allows significant bodyroll during cornering however road grip negotiating bends is very good. The rear beam axle and suspension layout does not absorb impacts as well as it could and the rear wheels seem prone to following the tramlines created in our modern day roads by heavy traffic. I found the more weight I had in the vehicle the better it handled. The steering is a little too light and vague at cruising speeds and gives very little feedback to the driver. Passengers will love it, drivers will find it less rewarding.
In all other respects, design, application, versatility and value for money specification, the C4 Picasso is a very impressive newcomer to the 2007 new vehicle market.
- Citroen C4 Picasso1.6HDi VTR+. Price: £18,695 but haggle.
- Engine: 1.6-litre, four-cylinder, direct injection turbodiesel, 110bhp and 177lb.ft of torque.
- Performance: 112mph, 0-62mph 13.4 seconds, 49.6mpg (47.4mpg actual), CO2 150 g/km.
- VED: Band C £110.
For: Class leading design, versatile easy to use seating, space and light, well thought out and comprehensive specification, price, safety rating, smooth and fuel efficient engine/transmission.
Against: Durable build quality of interior fixtures and fittings, unsettled ride, poor steering feedback at cruising speeds, difficult to see bonnet for judging parking distances, not rewarding to drive.