Citroen Grand C4 Picasso review
Stylish Grand C4 Picasso MPV that’s strong on economy, safety and practicality, with a surprising amount of quality and tech on board
The Citroen Grand C4 Picasso has always been one of the best 7-seat MPVs and this latest model takes things a stage further. It recently retained its MPV of the Year title in the Auto Express New Car Awards 2016, having won in the same category in 2015 and 2014.
It has strong economy credentials with the Airdream model offering superb mpg, while top-spec versions have the sort of equipment levels that you’ll struggle to find from premium brands of a similar price.
Practicality is superb with one of the best folding seat arrangements we’ve seen, while room in the most often-used middle row is truly capacious. On top of all that, it looks great – unusual for an MPV – with a mix of French flair and Germanic solidity.
It's not the most fun to drive, but MPVs are more about ferrying plenty of passengers and their luggage in comfort, and that's something the big Citroen does incredibly well.
The Citroen Grand C4 Picasso is the longer, seven-seater version of the regular C4 Picasso. There’s an obvious family resemblance between the two, although Citroen spotters will notice some design differences. They’re mainly focused around the windscreen and rear pillars and roofline, and it’s fair to say the Grand version is a little less ‘avante garde’ in its styling.
The two cars share an identical interior and are underpinned by the same platform and engineering. While the wheelbase of the Grand C4 Picasso is only stretched 55mm compared to the five-seater, there’s also an extra 115mm tacked on at the rear. 17cms may not sound much, but it’s enough to turn the Picasso into an extremely versatile family hauler.
The Picasso name has been associated with Citroen – and indeed with good value family motoring – from the late 1990s when it was first used for the cheap and cheerful Xsara MPV.
The first Grand C4 Picassos emerged in 2006 with a dramatic and much more contemporary new look courtesy of Italian designer Donato Coco, and a five seat version followed a year later.
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This second generation arrived in 2013 following a debut at the Geneva motor show when it became clear that Citroen wanted to push the model even deeper into the design territory explored by its predecessor. The latest car has an even sleeker, more stylish and contemporary look, which has clearly been designed to stand out in a class that includes the Ford S-MAX, Seat Alhambra, Renault Grand Scenic and Toyota Verso.
Under the skin, the Grand C4 Picasso features the PSA Group’s latest ‘Efficient Modular Platform 2’, which is said to add rigidity and save weight. Like its sister-model the car is available with a choice of two petrol and three diesel engines, and mainly six-speed manual or automatic transmissions.
Trim levels run from VTR, through VTR+, Selection and Exclusive, to the Exclusive+ range-topper. Equipment levels are generally high, with all versions getting (at least) stop & start, air con, cruise control, hill-start assist, tyre pressure monitors, driver’s seat height adjustment, and a 7ins touchscreen infotainment centre with Bluetooth and six-speaker audio system.
Engines, performance and drive
Focusing more on comfort and convenience than driving thrills, the Grand C4 Picasso isn’t the sharpest car to drive, but it’s certainly fit for purpose. Soft suspension means the car does roll through corners – especially if it’s loaded with people and luggage – but the ride quality is great.
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The car floats over surface imperfections and absorbs big bumps with composure, which makes it comfortable in most conditions for all seven occupants. Poise is more important than cornering ability in a full car – although there’s still enough grip to give a reassuring feeling when travelling faster.
There’s a fraction more road noise than you get in the some of the quietest 7-seat MPVs also on the market, and the 2.0 Blue HDi is a little noisy at idle. Performance from the 148hp unit is strong but we’d prefer one of the other, more sedate diesels that are just as refined, cheaper to buy and more frugal. Petrol MPVs are rare and in low demand used, so best avoided.
With little feedback through the flat-bottomed steering, a notchy gearshift and a fair amount of body roll, the Picasso is far from sporty, but there’s plenty of grip and the kit list includes active cruise control, a reversing camera and blind spot warning which all contribute to a relaxing experience behind the wheel.
Few people seem to want a petrol MPV, but Citroen provides a couple of options. The first is the small but efficient normally-aspirated three-cylinder PureTech 130 which makes 129bhp and 230NM – enough to speed the Grand C4 Picasso to 62mph in 10.8 seconds and on to a 125mph maximum. It’s only available with a six speed manual box. The turbocharged 1.6-litre 161bhp four-cylinder 165 THP engine comes only with a (traditional torque convertor) automatic gearbox, and will do 0-62mph in 8.7 seconds with a 130mph maximum.
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Diesel drivers have a little more choice. The entry-level oil-burner is the BlueHDi 100, a turbocharged 1.6-litre four-cylinder unit making 99bhp and 254Nm, which is good for 109mph and a 13.1 second sprint to 62mph. You can only have it with a five-speed manual box.
The BlueHDi 120 is a more powerful version of the same engine making 119bhp and 300Nm, with a top speed of 117mph. It comes with six-speed manual or auto gears, and the auto is actually a tenth quicker to 62mph at 11.5 seconds. The third turbodiesel option is the BlueHDi 150 which is a 2.0-litre boasting 148bhp and 370Nm. With manual gears it tops out at 130mph with a 9.8 second 0-62mph time. The automatic version’s figures are 129mph and 10.2 seconds.
MPG, CO2 and running costs
Citroen has managed to offer a seven-seat MPV that comes with CO2 emissions below the magic 100g/km figure – 98g/km to be precise. It’s the BlueHDi S&S manual model which also claims a combined fuel economy figure of 74mpg.
So you’ll be able to buy a Grand C4 Picasso and not have to pay any road tax, while company car tax bills for family-orientated company car drivers will be temptingly low, too.
The BlueHDi 120’s claimed figures are 68.9 to 72.4mpg and 103 to 105 g/km, depending on transmission and wheel sizes.
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Even the most powerful diesel, the BlueHDi 150, claims an impressive 72.4mpg and 102g/km on 17ins wheels and in manual guise. Pick the same engine with the auto gearbox and 18ins alloys and the claimed figure drops to 64.2mpg.
However, on our test of the BlueHDi 150, the 34.6mpg we averaged was some way below the official figure. All manufacturers optimise engines to official MPG test regimes of course, but if other models in the C4 Picasso line-up present as much ‘real world’ disparity from the claimed figures, you’ll need to drive extremely carefully to get anywhere near the advertised mpg.
Petrol efficiency looks great on paper too, with Citroen claiming up to 56.5mpg (combined) and 115g/km for the PureTech 130 engine, and 48.7mpg and 134g/km for the THP 165 engine.
Purchase prices are set competitively against MPV rivals, and all models are very well equipped. So you shouldn’t find your budget becoming overstretched by the need to tick option boxes in the showroom.
A Grand C4 Picasso with the three cylinder petrol engine falls into insurance group 14, while the flagship BlueHDi 150 diesel is group 25. The rates mirror performance-matched versions of the Ford S-MAX almost exactly.
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In recent memory Citroen has always suffered on the depreciation front, and the latest Picasso line-up is not likely to be the exception to the rule. Pay out £25k+ for a high-spec diesel model, and you could face the prospect of £16,000 of depreciation over three years – a strong argument for getting a deal up front on the list price.
Interior, design and technology
Some people carriers are dowdy and dull, but the Grand C4 Picasso is anything but, as it blends space with stand-out styling. At the front, the low-line headlamps are incorporated into Citroen’s double chevron front grille, which runs the width of the car. This means the C4 has a minimalist yet smart appearance, helped by the wide-set second pair of light clusters and fog lights lower down the bumper.
Citroen’s designers have managed to keep the car’s side profile visually appealing – there’s masses of metal, but also enough glass to balance it out, so the overall shape doesn’t look awkward. The doors feature some gently sculpted surfaces, while the large, matt-grey roof rails that run from the base of the windscreen to the rear of the car add extra interest, along with the 18-inch turbine-style wheels on top-spec models.
The design is more reserved at the rear, with the tail-lights acting as the main styling element. This does mean it’s incredibly practical, as the lights are mounted on the boot lid, so it lifts to reveal a massive opening with a low loading lip.
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Inside, the Picasso is just as fresh and funky and with soft-touch materials throughout, it feels every inch the plush people carrier, although a leather interior is a £2,000 option. The Grand C4 Picasso’s real plus point is space, as its crisp design is also incredibly functional and is very roomy. The large glass area – including the big front quarter light windows and standard panoramic roof – means the cabin feels light and airy, even in the rearmost seats. Citroen’s brochure says the feel is akin to ‘loft living’, and we can see what they mean.
Standard kit is also generous, while top of the range versions come with electric, heated and massaging front seats included, alongside sat-nav, Bluetooth, DAB radio, all-round parking sensors with park assist, a reversing camera, climate and cruise control and keyless go. When you consider the £27,110 price tag for the Exclusive+ BlueHDi model we tested, it’s easy to see the Citroen’s appeal; plus, it doesn’t feel like you’re scrimping.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
Climb into the driving seat, and your eyes are immediately drawn to the 12-inch TFT colour screen mounted high up in the middle of the dashboard – it’s fully customisable, so you can select one of three themes and also display pictures uploaded to your car.
Just below this, there’s a slightly smaller seven-inch touchscreen that operates everything from the radio and sat-nav to the climate control. Once you’ve got used to the system, it feels slick; plus, its futuristic layout and mix of colours add visual appeal. However, we found that if you have navigation in the top display, it disappears if you switch the lower display to operate a different function – very odd.
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The tech-filled cabin sometimes over-complicates the driving experience, too. For example, a simple task such as adjusting the temperature forces you to take your eyes off the road as you navigate sub-menus in the central touchscreen.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
From a driver’s perspective, it’s easy to get comfortable in the Picasso thanks to a wide range of adjustment – including height – on the driver’s seat, plus rake and reach on the steering wheel. Visibility is exceptional too, thanks to the extensive glass areas.
While the instruments and controls look nice, they are not always located with the sort of Germanic rigour that makes everything intuitive. It’s all easy enough to get used to, though the touchscreen isn’t particularly easy to operate when driving.
As you might expect from a dedicated family hauler, there are plenty of neat practical touches for odds and ends all around the car. Up front you get a deep bin behind the gearlever and a useful cubby in the middle of the dash. It’s not perfect, though – the door pockets are narrow, while Citroen hasn’t moved the fuse box in the switch from left to right-hand drive, so the glovebox is small.
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The electric parking brake is fiddly and we found that the auto release only worked intermittently. Plus, some of the seat levers and latches feel a little flimsy and require more effort to operate than would be ideal.
At 4,597mm long the Grand C4 Picasso splits the 4,535mm Kia Carens and the 4,658 Vauxhall Zafira Tourer. Its 1,656mm roof height splits the other two as well, but at 2,117 wide the Citroen is broader than both. The Zafira is 2,099mm and the Kia 1,805mm.
Leg room, head room & passenger space
Although it’s the same length as its predecessor, the new Grand Picasso has a stretched wheelbase – so there’s 11cm more space in row two and it’s easier to spread legroom between the back rows.
The three middle-row seats slide independently, while the outer pair flip up cinema-style before sliding forward, allowing decent access to row three.
While the Citroen has excellent middle-row legroom, tall passengers’ knees will rub against the tray tables.
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Importantly for families, all three middle-row chairs are the same width and all have Isofix mounts. Space right at the back is tight but it trumps the smaller Kia Carens with better headroom, while roof-mounted vents, climate buttons, and cup-holders mean third-row passengers don’t feel ignored. To keep all the family gadgets charged up, there are 12V sockets in the front and middle rows, plus the boot.
With all seven seats in place, the Grand C4 Picasso has a small-ish boot of 165 litres volume below the load cover.
However the rear seats fold into the floor easily to reveal a decent boot that’ll swallow 793 litres of luggage when the middle row is slid into its furthest forward setting. Folding the middle row is easy, too, and if you do you’re faced with a cavernous flat load deck with a 2,181 litre volume.
The clam-shell style tailgate opens wide with no load lip, and for really long loads the front passenger seat folds as well. While the range-topping model features a powered tailgate, it’s a £400 option elsewhere in the line-up.
Towing capacity varies from 1,300kgs to 1,700kgs depending on model.
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Reliability and Safety
Citroen improved its result in our Driver Power 2015 satisfaction survey, climbing six places to 20th overall. For reliability alone, it took 18th spot – but the manufacturer still has plenty of room for improvement as a delve deeper into the results reveals.
The Grand C4 Picasso (and the five-seat C4 Picasso) was voted the 77th-best car to live with out of 200 (and second-best MPV), which is a reasonable higher/mid-table score with readers praising its low running costs, decent practicality and impressive ride comfort. Sadly they didn’t rate the model’s reliability or build quality so highly, as the C4 Picasso was ranked a fairly dismal 160th and 156th out of 200 on those two specific parameters.
When it comes to safety though, the family-focused Citroen definitely delivers the goods.
All models come with a panoply of safety features including ABS with Emergency Braking Assist, ESP, Hill-Start Assist, automatic hazard lights, and curtain side airbag protections for both front and middle-row passengers.
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When awarding the closely-related five-door C4 Picasso five-stars in 2013, EuroNCAP rated adult occupant safety at 86 per cent, child occupant safety at 88 per cent and pedestrian safety at 68 per cent. Highlights reported by the testers include good protection in a frontal impact, and maximum points in a side impact. Maximum points were also scored for toddler protection – at least when seated in rear-facing child seats mounted in the middle row.
With curtain airbags to protect rear passengers, lane departure warning with an active seatbelt system and optional adaptive cruise control, the top-spec Exclusive+ model adds extra peace of mind over and above its maximum Euro NCAP safety rating.
Citroen’s standard warranty runs for three years with a 60,000 mileage cap, which isn’t great when you consider the Kia Carens offers seven years and 100,000 miles.
Citroen has a fixed price menu of repair items for cars under three years old, which includes front brake pads at £115, windscreen wipers at £35 and a new clutch at £699. Intermediate and main services are charged at £115 and £195 respectively, but Citroen also offers monthly plans to spread the cost.