Citroen C4 Picasso review

Our Rating: 
5
5.0/5.0
By Auto Express Test TeamComments

Citroen’s mid-sized C4 Picasso aims for the higher end of the compact MPV market

For: 
Desirable styling, efficient engines, practical interior
Against: 
Could be sharper, short warranty, entry-level diesel is slow

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The first Citroen Picasso was launched in 1999 and based on the Xsara hatchback. This Citroen C4 Picasso shares its underpinnings with the C4 hatch and is the latest incarnation of Citroen’s compact MPV to adopt the iconic Spanish artist’s name.

When the Xsara was phased out of production in 2006 Citroen decided to continue to use the Picasso name on its C3 supermini, and the Xsara’s replacement, the C4 family hatchback.

Like on previous models, Citroen offers the C4 Picasso in four trim levels - the VTR, VTR+, Exclusive and Exclusive+ - and buyers can choose from four diesel engines (the 90 HDi, eHDi 90, eHDi 115, Blue HDi 150) or two petrol units (the VTi 120, or THP 155).

• Best MPVs currently on sale 

Citroen also offers the Grand C4 Picasso, which arrived on British shores in early 2014. The Grand comes with seven seats, but interestingly, was not launched simultaneously with its smaller, five-seater cousin.

Introduced in 2013, the latest C4 Picasso is the first car to be based on Peugeot/Citroen’s new EMP2 platform. This new technology helps reduce the car’s weight by 140kg to a total of just 1,252kg; the same weight as Citroen’s smaller C3 Picasso.

In recent years, Citroen has undergone a rebirth and in a trend not too dissimilar from its heyday, is once again producing quirky, high quality cars. The C4 Picasso is no different. The egg shape of the original remains, but the the distinctive front end sets it apart from its more conservative rivals, and the interior boasts a premium, high-quality finish which allows the C4 Picasso take on upmarket rivals such as the Volkswagen Golf SV and Ford C-Max.

Our choice: Exclusive e-HDi 115

Styling

4.3

If you thought MPVs were boring, the Citroen C4 Picasso might just change your mind. Citroen has adopted a bold, modern look for the car that seems certain to please buyers.

The high-set chevron grille and LED running lights which are combined with small headlamps and a wide lower air intake give the C4 Picasso’s rounded nose a futuristic look compared to some of its less adventurous rivals. Think of the front end of any of Citroen’s recent concept cars, and you’ll be half right.

The C4 Picasso’s rear-end is a little less futuristic as it’s not dissimilar to that of it’s predecessor, but overall, it fits in well with the rest of the car.

Citroen’s smart use of glass on the C4 Picasso carries on the futuristic feel established by the front-end, and the C-shaped silver window trim looks like something that could be found on one of Citroen’s upmarket DS models.

Citroen has also taken styling cues from the DS range over to the C4 Picasso’s interior. The dashboard is a simple mixture of curves and angles, and has a centrally mounted instrument binnacle.

The touch-screen centre console has a quality feel that sees the C4 Picasso take the fight to rivals from Ford and VW, and it helps keep the dash free from excess clutter. The steering wheel, however, could feel over-complex to some drivers as it has a lot of buttons to navigate.

In general, the C4 Picasso feels well screwed together with decent plastics and comfortable seats. All models come with a panoramic windscreen that extends to just above the front seats, but blinds can be used to block out intrusive sunlight.

Citroen adds to the car’s airy and relaxed atmosphere, by making good use of a large glass area that includes quarter-light windows in the A-pillars that give the car a sense of space its rivals can’t quite match.

Driving

3.6

Citroen’s cars have always tended to be comfortable and the C4 Picasso is no exception to the rule.

The C4 Picasso moves with little road, engine and wind noise at any speed and its soft, yet supportive seats add to the overall feeling of relaxation that surrounds it.

Citroen offers six engine levels, but the 1.6 e-HDi has the best acceleration. A possible downside to driving the C4 Picasso, is that its gearshift can feel notchy at times, and while the large, thick-rimmed steering wheel delivers positive turn-in, its feedback could be better. As expected for a five-seat MPV, there’s a fair amount of body roll in corners, but it’s more controlled than some of its rivals.

Citroen C4 Picasso rear

The centrally mounted instruments on the C4-Picasso’s dash take a while to get used to, but once you do, the controls are easy to get along with and the view out of the cabin is great. However, one niggle concerns the scrolling menus on the centre console’s touchscreen.

It’s not easy to sweep your finger across the screen to choose the right function when you’re on the move, as this requires you to take your eyes off the road for too long. Another criticism of Citroen’s touchscreen system, is that it isn’t as intuitive to use as the simple set-up on the Volkswagen Touran, or the Renault Scenic’s traditional centre-console mounted control wheel and buttons.

Reliability

3.5

Reliability is an area where Citroen needs to raise its game but it’s hoped that the C4 Picasso’s EMP2 platform will help revive the French firm's flagging reputation in this area.

If the results of our latest Driver Power survey are anything to go by, restoring the faith in Citroen's customers will be an uphill struggle; the C4 Picasso placed 24th in out manufacturer rankings, whilst the company’s dealers came 27th.

The previous generation of the C4 Picasso was 131st in our model ratings, but the new car looks more promising where safety is concerned thanks to scoring 86 per cent for adult occupant protection in its five-star Euro NCAP test, and an outstanding 88 per cent for child safety.

One of the C4 Picasso's safety highlights is that the back row of seats has three Isofix points, meaning that when you belt-up, the seatbelts pull automatically to optimise passenger protection. However, they can - albeit briefly - tug quite hard and feel constructive.

Question marks also remain around the car's electronics due to Citroen's past lack of quality in this area. The C4 Picasso's touchscreens, TFT dashboard and electronic driver aids will all need to remain robust after a couple of years to re-instil consumer confidence.

Practicality

4.2

MPVs have practicality at the heart of their appeal, and the Citroen C4 Picasso makes a strong case for itself.

Access to the boot is made simple by a clamshell tailgate with built in lights, and with the seats up, boot space can be varied from 537 to 630 litres by sliding them backwards and forwards. The seats also fold to leave a completely flat loading area.

Citroen C4 Picasso interior

The C4 Picasso's maximum boot capacity of 1,851 litres isn't quite as big as the Touran, but unlike the VW, the Picasso's seats do not have to be removed to achieve this. The rear seats are also all the same size, so three adults can sit comfortably when each chair is pushed back as far as it will go.

The C4 Picasso in Exclusive spec and above gets built-in roller blinds in the rear doors as standard, and a second wide-angle view mirror, so you can keep an eye on rear passengers.

Storage in the C4 Picasso is also a strong point - the electric parking brake frees up space to accommodate a large storage bin with 12v and USB sockets under the centre console and similar to the Renault Scenic, there are front and rear under floor bins, plus drawers under the front seats. However, fusebox intrusion means the glovebox is small.

Running Costs

4.2

The C4 Picasso is based on the new EMP2 platform shared by Citroen, Peugeot and General Motors for a variety of mid-sized and compact cars. The platform, made of steel and aluminium plus a raft of revised engines, make the C4 Picasso more efficient than ever.

The most economical model, the e-HDi 90 boasts a combined cycle of 74.3mpg with CO2 emissions as low as 95g/km. However, it can feel a little sluggish due to a 0-62mph time of 15.3 seconds. Our choice is the e-HDi 115, which is much quicker, but still claims 105g/km of CO2, and a combined economy of 70.6mpg.

As well as displaying impressive economy figures, Citroen has stuck to its ethos of offering a lot of car for the money, and offers a three-year, 35,000-mile servicing package for under £500.

Citroen also offers so impressive additional kit at a reasonable price, such as massage seats, a panoramic sunroom, surround-view cameras and a powered tailgate.

The C4 Picasso’s predicted residual values are also good at 40.8 per cent, only slightly behind the VW Touran.

Disqus - noscript

So the C4 Picasso gets 4 stars because:

1) the entry level engine is slow
2) short warranty
3) could be sharper to drive

1) Most reasonably priced cars do come as standard with less powerful engines and prices reflect this. The HDi 90 doesn't appear shockingly slow on paper and would suit small families who prioritise fuel economy over high performance.

2) The majority of brands still only offer a 3 year warranty so as a justification for losing a star, it's a little irrelevant when Fords and Volkswagens offer 3 year warranties and can easily gain 5 stars without this criticism.

3) I can imagine that the C4 Picasso could be sharper to drive. But it doesn't claim or imply to be a 'drivers car', a hot hatch or low slung sporty saloon. What's more, the 5 star rated VW Golf could be sharper as we're forever told the Focus is best in class to drive, yet this has no impact on its rating despite it being a slightly less family orientated car than the Picasso.

Sorry to be a grump but the motoring press' pre-determination of rating for cars that aren't Ford or have German roots is really annoying. Especially when the reviews for some cars such as the Picasso struggle to fault the car.

My bet is that Peugeots new 308 will be raved about but given 4 stars to keep the Golf firmly on top.

AE certainly is the home of "received opinion"! The comment in the review about warranty is indeed ludicrous. It would be better by far if no star rating at all were given, good, bad or mediocre.

Absolutely. I'm not slating Volkswagen's for getting 5 stars. I've sat in the MK VII Golf and driven the new Leon and they're lovely cars.

It's just I've driven a Citroen C4 GP, new Scenic and the now old shape Clio too in the last few years and they've been thoroughly brilliant in their niche.

AE don't seem to appreciate the purpose the car is built for. Why would Citroen (of all brands) put all their investment into making their MPV the best handling in class? Instead they've compromised between the two, very well it seems. Plus I'm not sure a Picasso would make the shortlist of buyers looking for a sharp driving experience.

So losing a star for not being the fastest or sharpest car money can buy is ridiculous.

My experience over many years with Citroens particularly,but many other cars of all types, leads me to the conclusion that Citroen do build the most comfortable cars for passengers. And after all that is what MPVs are all about.

Well said. I have driven Citroen's BX, XM, C4 Grand Picasso for a total of 15 years and never experiences a breakdown of any sort - save punctures. However, Citroen was the only car that ever got me from Cherburg to San Sebastian in one hit on a tankful of diesel.

Last updated: 2 Sep, 2014
AEX 1,341
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