Mileage: 8,880 miles
Real-world fuel economy: 40.2mpg
Our Citroen Grand C4 Picasso leaves the Auto Express fleet having changed my perception of MPVs. Forget boxy ‘bus-like’ exteriors, sluggish under-powered engines or cramped rear folding seats, because the level of light, comfort and flexibility the Citroen possesses is remarkable. Perhaps most impressive of all, though, is the style with which it ticks all those boxes.
I love the sleek dashboard design with its simple touchscreen controls, and all the interior materials feel lovely. The soft textures on the dash and the armchair-like leather seats in our Exclusive+ model really give a feeling of luxury.
Yet, however futuristic and clean the interior lines might appear, it’s not just about style. The lack of knobs and buttons on the dashboard helps to create a feeling of space, as does the steering column-mounted gearshift, which opens up legroom in the front of the car. Combine this with the light-coloured leather interior, panoramic glass roof and generous headroom and you get an effortlessly roomy vehicle.
And all this space has been particularly useful for family visits over the summer holidays. I’ve moved plenty of passengers in the Picasso, as its large size and versatility meant we could give people lifts or invite them to join us on days out.The ease with which the C4 converts from five to seven seats is impressive.
One thing I did need to remember, however, was to leave the removable parcel shelf at home. It’s clunky and awkward to store, and has to be removed to access the fold-out rear seats which glide out of their stowed position before they click reassuringly into place.
Access to the third row is simple, as the second row of seats can be folded individually, allowing each one to slide forward, giving access to what I jokingly referred to as the ‘Granny storage area’ – although in reality it was my kids who wanted to sit in the back seats of the Wilson bus (some things never change).
Driving the Citroen has been a pleasure, too. It was most at home on our holiday in France, where the open autoroutes highlighted its comfort and refinement. Elsewhere it was quick and responsive, while the auto stop-start cut in to help boost the C4’s fuel return to 40.2 mpg, despite it spending plenty of time in congested London traffic.
The C4 comes packed with other great tech, too, from massaging front seats to auto dip headlights. The danger is that with all these electrics comes the increased risk of glitches. It’s happened a handful of times, with a few warning lights flashing on and off. They wouldn’t be that noticeable, if it weren’t for the stressful warning chime which accompanies them. Still, I’d rather the alerts than not. The tyre pressure warning system has twice notified me of nails embedded in the rubber.
Driving the Citroen C4 Grand Picasso has reaffirmed that I like practicality and versatility, with comfort and technology... but what I really love is good design and styling. And no car combines these qualities better than the brilliant Grand C4 Picasso. Its replacement certainly has a very tough act to follow.
Spacious, smooth Citroen Grand C4 Picasso is perfect companion for trip to south of France
Mileage: 7,433 miles
Real-world fuel economy: 46.0mpg
Since my last glowing report (see below), the impressive Citroen Grand C4 Picasso has scooped the Best MPV prize at the Auto Express New Car Awards 2014. And it seems our seven-seater is doing its best to ensure it holds on to the title in 2015.
Since late March, the stylish MPV has coped effortlessly with family days out and my daily commute, but a recent trip to south-west France really highlighted the Citroen’s talents as a spacious, family friendly, long-distance cruiser.
For starters, the 793-litre boot was big enough to swallow 10 days’ worth of holiday gear for my family of four. And after the wide leather seats of our Exclusive+ model had already made most journeys easy, I wasn’t surprised how comfortable they were for our French trip, despite the long hours we spent in them. Rear passenger blinds and the sunroof cover provided shade from the sun, yet the expanse of glass helped us enjoy the French scenery.
I haven’t always found navigating the controls easy on Citroens or Peugeots in the past, but this car’s ergonomics are wonderful and the touchscreen display is really easy to use. Converting the speedo from mph to kph took just a couple of taps on the screen, while entering our remote rural holiday destination into the sat-nav was equally simple, and the guidance itself was easy to follow. The clear turn arrows with a distance countdown were especially helpful when navigating busy French market towns and the speed limit detector kept me aware of limit changes.
Another highlight is the fact that you can have the mapon the large 12-inch TFT screen, or you can display it on the seven-inch screen ahead of the driver.
Where the Picasso really excelled was on the country’s autoroutes. It’s obvious that this car has been designed with fast dual carriageways in mind, as it was very comfortable, and the active cruise control was in its element. A quick toggle on the steering wheel set the limit, then the car took over.
It’s the closest I’ve come to autonomous driving: the Picasso would slow if the radar sensed another vehicle two seconds in front, but as soon as I pulled into the empty fast lane it accelerated back to the desired speed.
However, if I changed lanes without indicating, I’d get a pull on the right shoulder from the lane assist system, which comes as part of the £300 Serenity pack. This feels like a child repeatedly tugging on your belt from the back seats, which can be irritating – although as with most of the Citroen’s driving aids, it can be turned off.
Once we were at our holiday home, the flexibility of the seven-seat layout came into its own, and we could double up with the rest of the family on day trips. This was helpful, if not essential, but the ability to fit all of our homeward-bound luggage and seven people into the Citroen enabled us to take two family members to the local train station for their journey home.
The only real surprise was how many heads the C4 Picasso turned. Perhaps it was the classy trim and tinted glass that give our car some extra kerb appeal.
Any negatives? Well, there was one after we returned to the UK. The standard tyre pressure sensor indicated a loss of air from the rear driver’s side.
It turned out two nails were embedded in the sidewall. Apart from that, the C4 Picasso hasn’t put a foot wrong.
All aboard the luxurious Citroen Grand C4 Picasso seven-seater as we get ready for take-off
Mileage: 4,139 miles
Real world fuel economy: 38.7mpg
“Good morning ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. I hope you’re enjoying your journey on board the Citroen Grand C4 Picasso. We are cruising at a steady 38.7mpg, and as you can see through the panoramic sunroof, the weather is typically awful. Radar collision alert is active, and for your personal comfort, feel free to adjust your seating position and climate control...”
Yes, it’s big and practical, which is exactly what you would expect from a seven-seat MPV, but the levels of comfort and refinement have been a revelation.
Our Exclusive+ model comes with leather front seats that are exceptionally comfortable. They adjust electrically, and have heating and massage controls to the side. The passenger also has the option to recline and raise a footrest, which gives my wife the option to nod off on long journeys.
Plus, the dash layout and displays are simple and elegant. They hide a depth of technology, media and safety controls that take time to master, but are intuitively designed without the need to reach for the handbook.
Cabin materials mirror this simplicity, with a top-quality look and feel to the touch-sensitive controls and trim.
Aside from the comfort, the option to transport seven people rather than five is a real luxury. One-car journeys are now the norm, so extra passengers in the form of grandparents, cousins or school friends can all be accommodated – even with guitar-shaped luggage!
These passengers have been overwhelmingly positive in their response to the Citroen. They love the widely adjustable rear seats with their acres of legroom. In fact, they’ve praised everything – from the individual rear climate control switches to the vast headroom and huge panoramic sunroof – and made references to ‘flying first class’ and ‘travelling in style’.
Any car would struggle to compete against a Prius Plug-in for economy, and the C4 is currently returning a mere 38.7mpg on my daily city commute. It’s made for fuel-sipping on long French autoroutes, but the responsive diesel makes the Picasso surprisingly fun on twisty country lanes; it’s less exciting in town, although stop-start does kick in to make the best of my daily delays. It also records time spent stationary – up to a quarter of my daily commute!
My next big trip will take the Citroen to the Dordogne in France for a family break. Many people would dread such a long drive, but I can’t wait for take-off.
*Insurance quote provided by AA for a 42-year-old living in Banbury, Oxon, with three points.