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Citroen C4

Good for Picasso-buyers on a budget, but you might want to upgrade to the 1.6-litre HDi diesel instead

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

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The entry-level 1.8-litre petrol engine is adequate for buyers of the five-seat C4 Picasso on a budget. However, most people would be far better off spending the extra to upgrade to the superior 1.6-litre HDi diesel. This engine is easily the pick of the entire range, providing great economy and refinement combined with reasonable performance. What’s more, it works well with the semi-automatic gearbox.

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Enter here! If you want the cheapest possible way into the new C4 Picasso, the entry-level 1.8 petrol and 1.6 diesel are for you. And this week, we got to grips with both!

Citroen is keen that its five-seat newcomer repeats the success of the massive-selling Xsara Picasso. And to help its cause, it’s putting competitive pricing for both base cars first in a bid to tempt family buyers.

As a result, the French giant reckons the 1.8-litre petrol model will be the first choice for many. Starting from £14,500 and with a 127bhp output, the powerplant is only available with a five-speed manual gearbox, yet returns a frugal 35.3mpg.

The unit is pleasant enough to use, but on long journeys you do wish the transmission had an extra gear, as the free-revving engine gets a little noisy at speed.

However the combination of engine and gearbox provides adequate pace, with a 0-60mph sprint of 11.7 seconds. Even so, while throttle response is good, in-gear acceleration can feel a little sluggish in higher ratios.

There’s no such problem with the 110bhp 1.6-litre HDi diesel, though. Its superior torque not only provides more pulling power, but the relaxed nature of the engine means the unit is much better suited to a people carrier. And if you are a high-mileage driver, it could work out cheaper to own than the petrol equivalent, as even though it will cost about £1,500 more, it returns 49.6mpg.

To boost its appeal further, the 1.6-litre HDi is offered with a manual or paddleshift semi-automatic. We tried the latter, and it worked well. A 0-60mph time of 13.2 seconds is reasonable, while the lack of a clutch takes the strain out of town driving. The only real criticism is that the gearbox is jerky in full auto mode.

The front seats are supportive, while the cabin’s airy feel is enhanced by the excellent panoramic windscreen. There’s plenty of stowage, too, with a pair of large bins built into the dash, while automatic models get a cooled cubby in the centre console. Boot space is impressive, too, while clever storage features stop loose items from rolling around. This shouldn’t be too much of a problem, though, as the suspension provides such a smooth ride.

According to a customer study conducted by Citroen, most compact MPV buyers want a car that’s spacious, comfortable and competitively priced. The good news is that both the 1.8-litre petrol and 1.6-litre oil-burning versions of the five-seat C4 Picasso meet this brief in full.

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