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Citroen C4 Picasso Reviews

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The Citroen C4 Picasso was always one of the better looking MPVs. The latest model demonstrates that style and practicality aren't mutually exclusive concepts. Andy Enright reports.

The second generation Citroen C4 Picasso brings a much needed injection of style to the compact five-seater MPV market. And there's practical substance to this most French of People Carrying propositions.

It's not often that a car magically transforms from good to bad. It's normally a process that occurs over a number of years, but every once in a while it can happen. Ford replaced the abysmal Escort Mk V with the wonderful Focus Mk1 and Land Rover's transformation of the embarrassing Discovery 2 with the futuristic third generation car was like a bolt from the blue. Citroen pulled a similar stunt in 2006 when it replaced the wholly unexceptional Xsara Picasso - a car which nevertheless managed to sell in decent numbers due to bargain basement pricing - with the rather lovely C4 Picasso and Grand Picasso twins. Seven years is about right for a product in this class to hang around for, so it was no great surprise when Citroen wheeled out the replacement for the C4 Picasso at the 2013 Shanghai Show. It was heavily influenced by the Technospace concept seen at that year's Geneva Show, itself a design study that was clearly close to a production reality due to its chassis being the first Citroen model to use the "Efficient Modular Platform 2" (EMP2) underpinnings. So it was all new under the skin and the styling took a bit of getting used to as well. Out went curves and in came angles.

Let's have a look at that chassis in a little more detail. This EMP2 chassis has been co-developed with Peugeot and, like the Volkswagen Group's MQB chassis, is designed to be easily customisable to different configurations, so the vast majority of forthcoming Peugeot and Citroen products will ride on a version of this platform. The new underpinnings help to shave a hefty 140kg from the old car's kerb weight but that's not all. This latest C4 Picasso is clearly shorter and lower which spells less room inside, but clever packaging sidesteps this issue. Parking it is easier than ever with good manoeuvrability and decent visibility. The engine choice is naturally weighted towards diesels because that's what Citroen does very well and it's also what British customers expect to buy. The 1.6-litre e-HDi 115 is expected to be the big seller, but an economical e-HDi 90 powerplant is sure to claim more than a few sales. Petrol customers are going to like the lively THP 155 with its sub-9 second sprint to 60mph. The 115PS diesel engine offers reasonable acceleration, the engine note is muted and it shares the same improved body control and sharper steering that's engineered into all of the latest C4 Picasso models. Citroen also claim that the suspension has been tuned to work with a variety of wheel sizes, so you won't be punished with an unduly harsh ride if you opt for a bigger set of alloys. Once again, the generally accepted wisdom is to stick to the manual gearbox and avoid the jerky robotised EGT6 auto transmission.

So the overall length has decreased but wheelbase has grown significantly. That points to cleverer packaging, something that designer Frederic Soubirou is clearly proud of. He'll also draw your attention to the passenger seat, a lounge-style affair with an extendable footrest and massage function. You'll probably be trying to get to grips with the styling. If, like me, you associate Citroens with being all voluptuous swoops and extravagant Bezier curves, the rather cubist C4 Picasso might come as a bit of a surprise. The face features slits for daytime running lights, extending laterally from the equally slimline Citroen grille feature. Below it is a huge air intake, with the headlights becoming subsidiary styling cues. Although the C4 Picasso is shorter and lower than the car it replaced, there's more leg room in the back and the boot capacity has swelled by 37-litres to 537-litres, fully 60-litres more than you'd get in a Ford C-MAX. Slide them forward and you get up to 630-litres. We'll deal with the long wheelbase C4 Grand Picasso separately, but the standard length car features three rear seats that can be slid back and forth, reclined or folded flat independently of one another. What's more, the floor is devoid of a raised tunnel, aiding utility still further. The side windows do angle in fairly sharply which can make taller rear seat passengers feel a little pinched but other than that it's hard to find fault. Materials quality in the cabin is notably better than its predecessor with metal finishes and simple yet effective ergonomics, something we have rarely been able to say of Citroens.

The C4 Picasso has marched surreptitiously upmarket but perhaps that's no bad thing. The prices are still reasonable, with an entry-level model costing from around £17,500 and the e-HDi 115 diesel setting you back from just over £20,000, but they're a bit above the likes of the Ford C-MAX. It's fairly easy to see why customers would pay a small premium for the C4 Picasso though. It's the reason why buyers will pay more for an Apple versus a Dell - slicker design values. The majority of the car's functions are marshalled by the big touch screen display. We know some of you prefer the tactility of a switch or button and there are occasions when the C4 Picasso's screen demands your attention for longer than is ideal, such as when adjusting the cabin temperature settings, which will require you to navigate away from, say, the sat nav or stereo functions and find the ventilation screen. Yes, it helps clean up the fascia but at some cost to actual everyday utility.Even entry-level C4 Picassos are fitted as standard with alloy wheels, Bluetooth and a six-speaker stereo with a USB socket. Digital radios are found from the second trim level upwards, and the range-topping models get features such as adaptive cruise control and the rather lovely lounge-style front passenger seats. It's just like being in a TGV. Except slower and without French school kids constantly running past.

Citroen has worked hard to improve the efficiency of its engine range in recent years and it can now stand toe to toe with the very best. It was always a smart pick for an economical diesel engine but since the PSA Group joined forces with BMW to develop small, efficient petrol engines, it has left many of its old rivals lagging. The 1.6-litre e-HDi remains the default choice if you're looking to keep a lid on day-to-day running costs. The diesel engines will always be the prime pick in the range and make up the core of the line-up. Of these, the e-HDi 90 model scores the headline numbers, recording 74.3mpg and just 98g/km of CO2. The e-HDi 115 is also capable of generating very good figures, managing 67.3mpg and 104g/km when combined with the EGT6 auto gearbox, although adding just 1g/km by going for the manual 'box isn't going to hurt too badly is it?

The danger in designing such a bold-looking vehicle is that it may well alienate a percentage of buyers looking for an altogether cuddlier-looking MPV. The Citroen C4 Picasso's gimlet-eyed squint and chamfered angles are a lot more extrovert than anything that's preceded it. Still, it may well help to bring down the average age of C4 Picasso buyers - which is never a bad thing. The C4 Picasso is, despite its shorter length and more expressive styling, even more focused on interior practicality than ever, so it offers a cake-and-eat-it scenario. Keener drivers may still feel that the steering and handling don't offer much to challenge something like a Ford C-MAX but, in truth, the majority of MPV buyers just want something comfortable and relaxing to drive and the Citroen certainly hits the mark there. What's more, the design values of this car help migrate it into a more boutique corner of the market, a tactic Citroen has explored with its DS-badged models. It's doubtful it'll ever match the sales numbers of the Xsara Picasso MPV, but the C4 Picasso brings a certain elegance back. It's been missed.

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