Citroen C4 2006 review

When is a compact MPV not a compact MPV? When it’s Cit­roen’s new high-tech seven-seater C4 Picasso

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

The new C4 Picasso is the roomiest, airiest, most technologically advanced compact MPV yet, and it’s a delight to travel in. It follows the worrying trend towards ever-bigger cars, but that’s the price you have to pay for the space inside. And talking of costs, in the usual Citroen tradition, it’s likely to be very good value. But will the company be able to resist making cashback offers this time?

When is a compact MPV not a compact MPV? When it’s Cit­roen’s new technology-packed seven-seater C4 Picasso, that’s when.

The futuristic family car is charged with taking on the Vauxhall Zafira and the Renault Grand Scenic. But as it’s only 2cm shorter than the firm’s full-size C8 MPV, and 1.83m wide (that’s six feet, even before you count the electrically folding mirrors), the C4 Picasso would look at home with cars in the class above.

Not that this worried Citroen. It’s more than happy to explain exactly how much space its latest offering has, particularly when compared to the competition. First up, the Picasso is said to have more elbow room than any compact MPV rival. Its middle and rear-row seats fold flat into the floor, and the outer chairs of the middle bench can flip their cushions up and slide forward to give easy access to the back. It’s just a pity the centre seat doesn’t do the same.

And there’s no denying that this is one airy interior, helped by unusually slim A-pillars and a windscreen that extends a long way back to meet the optional glass roof. A retractable front sunblind keeps sun glare at bay.

There’s plenty of engine choice, too, and Citroen expects many Picassos to be sold with either a full four-speed automatic gearbox (for the 2.0-litre petrol) or a six-speed clutchless semi-automatic with paddle­shifters (on 1.6 and 2.0-litre diesels only).

With the gearlever of the manual models gone, there’s room for a big drop-down, air-conditioned glovebox in the middle of the dash, below the control for the electric parking brake. The gear selector is moved to the steering column. There’s a central LCD facia display which includes a digital speedo­meter, while the fixed-hub steering wheel that operates minor controls is carried over from the C4 hatch. It means the dashboard is left looking clean and simple, and allows large covered storage areas to be built in. One can contain a CD stacker with room to spare.

All C4 Picassos have interior trim materials of a quality unimaginable in a Citroen a few years ago, with soft-touch surfaces and chrome accents. The top-spec Exclusive model gets strips of gentle lighting along the door openings, under the facia and along the front sunblind housing, as well as trays in the backs of the front seats which drop down to reveal the optional DVD screens.

What’s more, there’s clever lighting outside, with Citroen double-chevron motifs flashing in the front indicators and tall, LED-illuminated, zig-zag columns in the tail-lights, either side of the rear window, which opens separately.

On the downside, the Picasso’s size means it’s very heavy, even though it has aluminium and plastic panels and magnesium seat frames. But even the lowly 1.6-litre, 110bhp HDi diesel unit pulls the car along spiritedly, and it’s probably a better bet than the 2.0-litre, 143bhp petrol, which is quick but has to be worked hard. Still, both are quiet. In fact, the C4 Picasso is an amazingly calm place in which to spend time.

Overall, the best engine has to be the 138bhp, 2.0-litre HDi, with 320Nm of torque. Its power delivery is effortless and the semi-automatic transmission is Citroen’s slickest yet in manual mode. The automatic setting is equally smooth, too. The Picasso Exclusive comes with self-levelling air-suspension at the back, and it offers a superb ride.

Lesser models use rear coils, and although not quite as controlled, they’re still comfortable. Both diesel Picassos handle tidily, but our 2.0-litre petrol ver­sion felt vague at speed. Improvements are promised by the time cars reach the showroom. All models have smooth, snatch-free brakes, unlike the C4 hatch, and in an innovative touch, the Picasso can measure a parking space as you crawl past, and tell you whether it’s big enough. Quite simply, it’s brilliant!

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