Look at the Citroen C4 Picasso, and you’re greeted by a mixture of disjointed lines and awkward angles – just like the paintings of the car’s famous artist namesake! Yet the overall effect is extremely eye-catching.
To our eyes, the C4’s unusual styling is a success – particularly the stepped line of the deep side windows, which give young rear seat passengers a great view out. The large windscreen that extends over the heads of front seat occupants is another neat design feature, and it has safety benefits, too, as it improves visibility.
Elsewhere you’ll spot neat details such as the large headlamps and steeply raked rear screen, which help the C4 appear bold and fresh next to its more restrained rivals.
The same goes for the interior, which features Citroen’s trademark fixed hub steering wheel. This places buttons for the stereo, cruise control and trip computer a finger stretch away from the rim. It takes a little getting used to, but once you’re on the move it soon proves its worth.
The massive dashboard houses two huge lidded cubbyholes and supports the centrally mounted instrument display and perfectly placed gearlever.
Climb into the rear and you’ll find three individual chairs which slide back and forth, fold flat or can be removed completely. With the seats pushed right back on their runners there’s plenty of legroom, while luggage space is a useful 500 litres. Fold the rear bench flat – a slightly fiddly operation – and you liberate a van-like 1,734 litres.
Further storage is available in secret lidded compartments hidden beneath the floor and deep door bins. Plus, our VTR+ test car came with the collapsible Modubox trolley, which can be used to transport shopping and other small items.
On the move, the Citroen’s 1.6-litre HDi diesel is willing and refined, although it can’t match the scorching straight-line performance of the SEAT. The Picasso was at its best in the middle of the rev range, where the 240Nm of torque helps the car easily keep pace with fast-moving traffic.
Nevertheless, its fuel return of 39.7mpg was excellent – and only 0.6mpg behind the frugal Renault Scenic. An extra gear ratio might have boosted the C4’s chances, as it’s the only car in our test quartet to be fitted with a five-speed box.
Citroens are renowned for their ride quality, and the Picasso upholds this – it was the most comfortable model here. But it can’t match the sharp handling of either the Altea or Scenic. Body control isn’t as strong, while the light steering doesn’t serve up any real feedback.
The driving position could be more car-like, too.
The Citroen is at a disadvantage in dealers, as its £18,795 price tag is £1,100 more than the Renault’s. However, this premium does get you supreme practicality and lots of kit. The question is whether it’s worth the extra outlay.
Chart position: 3
WHY: With its spacious cabin stylish C4 Picasso is currently our favourite five-seat MPV.
* Price: £18,795
* Engine: 1.6-litre 4cyl, 110bhp
* 0-60mph: 12.3 seconds
* Claimed economy: 51.4mpg
* Claimed CO2: 145g/km
* Annual tax: £125