Citroen C4 Picasso review
The mid-sized Citroen C4 Picasso rewrites the book on MPV styling, and throws in a massive dose of practicality too
The C4 Picasso is a fine example of Citroen doing MPVs well. It’s one of the most spacious and economical mid-sized people carriers on the market and it’s also an interesting looking car with a futuristic interior.
The most efficient model in the range, the BlueHDi 100 diesel, claims 74.3mpg fuel economy and CO2 emissions of 99g/km – astonishing figures for a car of this size. The Citroen is also impeccably refined and comfortable, so if you take all of that into account, it does everything a family car should do well.
Also available is a seven-seat Grand C4 Picasso, which will appeal to larger families who need more space.
Citroen's Picasso nameplate dates back to 1999, when it appeared on one of the original trendsetters - the popular Xsara Picasso compact people carrier. The model then moved into the C4 family car range in 2006, and it was rebadged as the C4 Picasso.
That car then remained on sale for seven years in both C4 Picasso and seven-seat C4 Grand Picasso forms, which both proved wildly popular. When the replacement came along in 2013 it refined the formula further, adding a healthy dose of style. The package as a whole works brilliantly, and it's won Best MPV at every Auto Express awards ceremony since its release.
Citroen offers a wide range of efficient petrol and diesel engines in the current car, and the entry-level PureTech 130 model has a small, three-cylinder petrol turbo that delivers low running costs and strong performance. It’s only available with the basic VTR and VTR+ trims, but it’s a great little engine and also comes fitted with Citroen’s S&S stop/start system as standard.
Elsewhere in the range you’ll find a 98bhp BlueHDi 100 diesel, with emissions as low as 99g/km for free road tax, as well as a more powerful 118bhp version, which is a great all-rounder. Top-spec cars also get the option of a 148bhp HDi diesel and a 163bhp THP petrol engine. The latter is only available with Citroen’s EAT6 automatic gearbox.
Image 2 of 11
Trims range from the basic VTR, through VTR+, Exclusive and Exclusive+, while the mid-spec Picasso Selection is a special edition that comes loaded with extra standard kit such as a panoramic roof.
The latest C4 Picasso was the first car to be based on PSA Peugeot-Citroen’s EMP2 platform. This new technology helps reduce the car’s weight by 140kg to a total of just 1,252kg – the same as the smaller C3 Picasso, which sits below the C4 Picasso in Citroen’s range.
In recent years, Citroen has undergone something of a rebirth, and is once again producing quirky cars that receive widespread acclaim. The C4 Picasso is a fine example of this. The egg shape of the original remains, but the distinctive front end sets the latest car apart from more conservative alternatives in the MPV class.
And inside, there’s a high-quality finish that allows the C4 Picasso to take on upmarket rivals such as the Volkswagen Golf SV and Ford C-MAX, although it also occupies a similar area of the market to the Vauxhall Zafira Tourer, the Renault Scenic, the Mazda 5 and the Toyota Verso.
Engines, performance and drive
Citroen’s cars have always tended to be comfortable, and the C4 Picasso upholds that reputation. There’s very little road, engine or wind noise at any speed – even on the motorway – and the soft, supportive seats make it an even more relaxed car to drive.
Image 3 of 11
It suffers from a fair amount of body roll in corners, which is to be expected from a big MPV with soft suspension, but the C4 Picasso isn’t what you’d call an engaging car to drive. There’s not much feedback from the steering, while the five and six-speed manual gearboxes (it varies depending on the model) are a bit on the notchy side and don’t have a particularly fluid action. The Ford C-MAX is way ahead in terms of fun, but the Citroen serves up plenty of grip and is easy and relaxed to drive.
Elsewhere, the panoramic windscreen and thin A-pillars offer unparalleled visibility, although the multitude of controls on the steering wheel can be a touch confusing.
The basic 128bhp 1.2-litre petrol engine is actually one of the best. Even though it has only three cylinders, it’s hushed around town and punchy enough on the open road – making overtaking simple and straightforward. Specify this PureTech model in VTR trim, and it’s also the cheapest C4 Picasso to buy, plus it’s quicker from 0-62mph than all but the most powerful diesel and petrol versions, taking 10.1 seconds.
Although the 98bhp 1.6-litre BlueHDi 100 diesel has the lowest CO2 emissions and best fuel economy in the range, it isn’t much of a performer. It’s quite sluggish in comparison to the other models in the range, covering 0-62mph in 12.7 seconds, and as you have to push the engine a bit to get the car moving, this takes the edge off the Citroen’s otherwise excellent refinement.
The 118bhp version of the same engine is a much better bet – it’s still very economical but is much more flexible, with a lot more pulling power, and is capable of 0-62mph in 11.3 seconds.
Image 4 of 11
At the top of the range is a 148bhp 2.0-litre diesel engine, known as the BlueHDi 150. Although this isn’t quite as frugal as the 1.6-litre versions, it’s still very cheap to run and quite a bit faster, with plenty of mid-range pull and a 0-62mph time of 9.7 seconds.
The fastest C4 Picasso of the lot is the 163bhp 1.6-litre THP petrol, which claims 8.4 seconds for the benchmark sprint. But it’s only available as an automatic and is by far the most expensive version to run, so it doesn’t make a great deal of sense in an MPV such as this.
MPG, CO2 and running costs
The most efficient C4 Picasso is the BlueHDi 100. According to Citroen’s official figures, this model returns 74.3mpg fuel economy and emits just 99g/km of CO2 – no mean feat for such a large car.
Our choice would be the BlueHDi 120, though – this more powerful diesel model is still exempt from road tax as it emits 100g/km of CO2, yet it feels much faster day-to-day and promises an identical 74.3mpg. The most potent diesel C4 Picasso, the BlueHDi 150, is barely any less efficient, as it’s capable of 70.6mpg and 102g/km. That puts it in tax band B, which means annual road tax bills of just £20.
Buyers who are watching the pennies on running costs shouldn’t discount the petrol models, though. Even the brilliant PureTech 130 will return 56.5mpg and emits just 115g/km of CO2; that means road tax band C, which costs £30 a year. If you spend most your time in town, this is the car we’d go for.
Image 6 of 11
The most expensive and most powerful C4 Picasso THP 165 emits 130g/km or 134g/km depending on the trim, and claims 50.4mpg or 48.7mpg fuel economy, so it’s the least efficient model by a long way.
The C4 Picasso range starts in insurance group 14 for the entry-level VTR model with the 130 PureTech engine. This rises to group 15 for the BlueHDi 100 diesel and the PureTech petrol in VTR+ spec.
The BlueHDi 120 models sit in group 17 or group 18 depending on the trim level, while the BlueHDi 150 versions range from group 17 to group 24. Buyers are looking at group 22 insurance for the THP 165 petrol model. For comparison, the C4 Picasso’s main rival, the Ford C-MAX, will usually work out cheaper to insure as it spans groups 11-20.
Citroen models have traditionally struggled to hold on to their price over the years, but our experts predict that the C4 Picasso will buck the trend, largely because it’s such a desirable choice in the MPV class. Residual values stand at 40.8 per cent after three years, which are only slightly behind the Volkswagen Touran.
Interior, design and technology
If you thought MPVs were boring, the C4 Picasso might just change your mind, as Citroen has adopted a bold, modern look for the car.
The high-set chevron grille and LED running lights are combined with small headlamps and a wide lower air intake that give the C4 Picasso’s rounded nose a futuristic appearance that certainly stands out compared to some of the less adventurous choices in this market. Think of the front end of any of Citroen’s recent concept cars, and you’ll be half right.
Image 7 of 11
The C4 Picasso’s rear end is a little less avant-garde – it’s not that dissimilar to the previous-generation model’s – but overall it fits well with the rest of the car.
Citroen’s smart use of glass on the C4 Picasso adds to the space-aged feel established by the front end, and the C-shaped silver window trim looks like something from one of the upmarket DS models.
Styling cues from the DS range have also been carried over to the interior of the C4 Picasso. The dashboard is a simple mixture of curves and angles, and has a centrally mounted instrument binnacle.
The touchscreen centre console has a high-quality feel that helps the C4 Picasso take the fight to rivals from Ford and Volkswagen, and it ensures the dash stays clutter-free. The steering wheel, however, can seem a little complex, as it has a lot of buttons to navigate.
In general, the C4 Picasso is well screwed together, while it features decent-quality plastics and comfortable seats. All models come with a panoramic windscreen that extends to just above the front seats, although 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 quarterlight windows in the A-pillars; these give the car a sense of space its rivals can’t match.
Image 9 of 11
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
The space-aged look continues inside the C4 Picasso, and the central touchscreen system is large and clear. Exclusive and Exclusive+ models also get a bigger screen set into the top of the dash that displays other information such as speed and range. The only frustration is that the touchscreen is fiddly and can occasionally be unresponsive – so despite its clarity, it isn’t the most intuitive system and can take a while to navigate.
All models from the basic VTR upwards come with Bluetooth, plus auxiliary and USB connections, and while standard sat-nav is reserved for Exclusive and Exclusive+ models, it’s an option on the VTR+, which is the second rung on the spec ladder.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
Interior storage is yet another strong point for the Citroen. There’s a large bin under the centre console, complete with a 12V power supply and USB socket, as well as underfloor cubbyholes in the rear footwells, drawers under the front seats, deep door bins and lots of cup-holders. Unfortunately, as with many Citroen models (and French cars in general), a big fusebox renders the glove compartment almost useless.
Top-spec Exclusive+ models get individual climate controls in the rear, built-in roller blinds in the back doors and an extra ‘conversation mirror’ that allows the driver and front passenger to keep an eye on children seated behind them. Also included are picnic tables that fold out of the front seatbacks.
Image 5 of 11
The C4 Picasso is a five-seater, but if you need to carry more passengers then there’s always the Grand C4 Picasso, which is essentially a seven-seat version of the same car.
The C4 Picasso is 4,428mm long, 1,826mm wide and 1,625mm tall. That makes it significantly longer than the Ford C-MAX, and about as wide and tall. It’s also longer and wider than the Volkswagen Touran.
Leg room, head room & passenger space
Unlike many of its rivals, the Picasso gets a trio of identically sized seats in the back rather than a smaller central seat, so it can accommodate three Isofix child seat mountings. Adults will find plenty of leg and headroom, while the completely flat floor means more space for feet, so it’s very roomy, even for an MPV.
At the rear, the clamshell tailgate lifts out of the way (electrically on all but the basic VTR) to reveal a wide opening and low load lip. Boot space can be extended from 537 to 630 litres by sliding the rear bench forward, while folding the seats down presents a completely flat load area and a vast, 1,851-litre capacity. The boot light also doubles as a neat, handheld rechargeable torch.
The Citroen comfortably outdoes the Ford C-MAX in terms of boot space, as that provides 432 litres, although the Volkswagen Touran offers 695 litres and a huge 1,989 litres with its rear seats folded flat.
Image 10 of 11
Reliability and Safety
Citroen finished in 20th place overall in the manufacturers’ chart of our Driver Power 2015 satisfaction survey. While that doesn’t sound great, it’s six places up on its 2014 ranking. Owners praised the brand’s brilliant running costs, with poor scores for build quality, performance, road handling and ease of driving letting the side down.
The C4 Picasso placed 77th in the Driver Power top 200 – comfortably in the top half of the individual model chart – with owners ranking it highly for practicality, ride quality, seat comfort and, of course, running costs.
Euro NCAP awarded the car five stars in its independent crash tests, and all models have six airbags, stability control and a speed limiter. The top-spec Exclusive+ trim level adds the likes of adaptive cruise control, forward collision alert and blind-spot monitoring. Lane-departure warning and adaptive headlamps are part of the £300 optional Serenity Pack, while surround-view cameras are £450 more.
The Citroen C4 Picasso comes with a three-year/60,000-mile warranty. That’s the same level of cover as you get with direct rivals such as the Ford C-MAX and Volkswagen Touran, but the Renault Scenic and Toyota Verso MPVs offer longer warranties. You get a four-year/100,000-mile package with the Renault and a five-year/unlimited mileage guarantee with the Toyota.
Citroen recommends servicing petrol versions of the C4 Picasso every year or 20,000 miles. Diesels also need attention annually, with the 1.6-litre HDi models’ service intervals set at 16,000 miles and the 2.0-litre versions’ at 20,000 miles.
Pre-paid maintenance plans for new Citroens or models up to a year old that have yet to have their first service cost £400 or £11.11 a month. That buys the scheduled services for three years and up to 35,000 miles. For cars over three years old, a basic check-up costs £115 and a full service sets you back £195. Citroen also offers bundle deals with annual MoT tests, so owners can pay £149 for a basic service with an MoT or £229 for a full service and an MoT.