It wasn’t long ago that MPVs like the Citroen Grand C4 Picasso were little more than boxes on wheels, designed to deliver as much interior space as possible.
However, the family car class has become hugely fragmented, with buyers able to choose from traditional hatches, rugged off-roaders, practical estates and trendy crossovers. So the latest people carriers are out to prove they have style as well as substance.
Citroen’s new C4 Picasso is already a road test winner in five-seat guise. With its bold styling, the new seven-seat Grand C4 aims to inject desirability into the sensible MPV market. But it faces tough competition from the latest Kia Carens. All-new from the ground up, the Kia has impressed with its quality and value.
The newcomers also have to take on the recently revised Renault Grand Scenic. Still a strong contender, the Scenic is the cheapest car here and has the biggest boot. So which of this trio is going to start 2014 in winning ways?
Most buyers in this class only use the third row of seats occasionally. None of the cars in this test has space in the back for adults to sit comfortably – for that you’d need a SEAT Alhambra or Ford Galaxy.
However, the extra flexibility is a big part of this trio’s appeal. The Renault has most room, but the Citroen isn’t far behind. The Kia is a bit tighter, although there’s enough room for kids.
Rather than folding flat, the Scenic’s middle-row seats tumble forward and can be removed altogether. This gives you a bigger van-like space, but they’re heavy to lift out and you’ll need somewhere to store them.
The Grand Picasso features hi-tech kit normally found on luxury cars. Exclusive+ models get collision warning and blind spot monitoring, plus radar cruise control – although the adaptive cruise regularly shut down when traffic in front slowed on test.
The Carens 3 comes with some luxury kit, too, including a heated steering wheel and heated electric front seats. Opt for Renault’s £650 Technology Pack, and you get a rear parking camera and lane departure warning.
The C4 Grand Picasso’s innovative looks and cabin combine with a practical seat layout and decent luggage space to create a compelling MPV. A comfortable driving experience and clean engines are the icing on the cake, however Exclusive+ trim is expensive and electrical glitches remain a concern.
The 1.6-litre eHDi 90 Airdream emits just 98g/km of CO2 and Citroen claims average economy of 74mpg. Fitted with the company’s ETG6 automated manual gearbox, it costs £20,595 in VTR trim.
With lots of passenger space and plenty of clever storage, the Grand Scenic’s cabin is just as practical as the Citroen’s, while the dCi engine blends strong performance and low emissions.
It’s good value, too. But the slightly dated cabin and non-fold-flat seats consign it to second place.
Like the Renault, the Kia wasn’t far behind our winner. It’s slightly smaller than its rivals, but with loads of standard kit and a well built, functional cabin, it should be your choice if ultimate space isn’t priority number one. What also pegs it in third place are relatively high emissions.
|Citroen Grand C4 Picasso Exclusive+||Renault Grand Scenic 1.6 dCi Dynamique||Kia Carens 3 1.7 CRDi SatNav|
|On-the-road price/total as tested||£26,855/£28,425||£23,395/£27,820||£24,845/£24,845|
|Residual value (after 3yrs/30,000)||£10,527/39.2%||£8,984/38.4%||£7,876/31.7%|
|Annual tax liability std/higher rate||£911/£1,822||£794/£1,587||£1,036/£2,072|
|Annual fuel cost (12k/20k miles)||£2,176/£3,626||£1,896/£3,160||£2,133/£3,554|
|Ins. group/quote/road tax band/cost||25/£400/C/£3 0||24/£417/C/£30||16/£/E/£125|
|Service costs||£499 (3yrs/35k miles)||4yrs free||£329 3yrs|
|Engine||4cyl in-line/1,997cc||4cyl in-line/1,598cc||4cyl in-line/1,685cc|
|Peak power||148/4,000 bhp/rpm||128/4,000 bhp/rpm||134/4,000 bhp/rpm|
|Peak torque||370/2,000 Nm/rpm||320/1,750 Nm/rpm||330/2,000 Nm/rpm|
|Transmission||6-spd man/fwd||6-spd man/fwd||6-spd man/fwd|
|Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel||55 litres/sealant||60 litres/sealant||58 litres/space-saver|
|Boot capacity (7/5/2 seats)||165/632-793/2,181l||464/564-702/2,063l||N/A/492/1,650 litres|
|Turning circle/drag coefficient||10.8 metres/N/A||11.3 metres/0.32Cd||11.0 metres/0.30Cd|
|Basic warranty (miles)/recovery||3yrs(60,000)/3yrs||4yrs(100,000)/4yrs||7yrs (100,000)/1yr|
|Service intervals/UK dealers||20,000 miles (1yr)/196||18,000 miles (1yr)/248||20,000 miles (1yr)/170|
|Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos.||24th/27th||21st/9th||7th/10th|
|Euro NCAP: Adult/child/ped./stars||86/88/68/5||91/76/42/5||94/76/64/5|
|0-60/30-70mph||10.4/9.5 secs||10.4/10.2 secs||11.2/11.9 secs|
|30-50mph in 3rd/4th||3.9/7.4 secs||4.4/6.9 secs||4.4/5.9 secs|
|50-70mph in 5th/6th||8.6/12.4 secs||8.5/10.7 secs||8.0/12.7 secs|
|Top speed/rpm at 70mph||130mph/2,000rpm||121mph/2,000rpm||119mph/2,000rpm|
|Noise levels outside/idle/30/70mph||72/44/61/72dB||60/43/60/70dB||71/47/59/71dB|
|Auto Express econ (mpg/mpl)/range||34.6/7.6/419||39.7/8.7/524||35.3/7.8/450|
|Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket||219/113g/km/17%||191/114g/km/17%||214/132g/km/21%|
|Airbags/Isofix/rear parking sensors||Eight/yes/yes||Eight/yes/£275*||Six/yes/yes|
|Climate control/leather/heated seats||Yes/part (full £2k**)/no||Yes/£1,800**/£1,800||Yes/yes/yes|
|LED running lights/stability/cruise ctrl||Yes/yes/yes||Yes/yes/yes||Yes /yes/yes|
|Met paint/xenon lights/keyless go||£520/£750/yes||£495/£750/yes||£495/no/no|