Long-term tests

Citroen C4 Picasso

The chance to work outside London saw our Citroen C4 Picasso head for rural England – loaded with a fortnight of luggage and a bike

  • CABIN Not only is the cockpit bright and roomy, it’s comfortable and has great visibility – adding to car’s M-way cruising appeal.<BR><BR>STOWAGE A massive boot and well designed folding rear seats make loads easy to handle.
  • SPARE TYRE There isn’t one – it’s a £100 option. All you get is foam sealant, which is rritating.<BR><BR>MP3 LINK All the auxiliary inputs in the Citroen deliver poor sound quality and low volume levels. Are we missing something?<BR><BR>SAT-NAV This is the worst system I have ever used! And once you manage to get it working, the speech is broken and difficult to understand.

I can’t deny it, I’ve had a bit of a wandering eye recently. The past fortnight has seen me helping out at our performance car sister mag, evo, in Northamptonshire. And it’s very hard not to cast longing looks over the hot metal in its car park.

Yet at the same time, I have reason to be grateful for being given the keys to our Citroen C4 Picasso – it can perform tasks beyond the wildest dreams of most German or Italian exotica.

As I live in London, I usually cycle to Auto Express HQ – a 20-mile round trip. The thought of staying in the countryside for two weeks with no opportunity to put on my Lycra and do some exercise worried me. But the Picasso saved the day. With the rearmost seats folded flat and only one of the three middle-row chairs stowed, it easily held my bike, plus all the luggage I need for my stay here.

An added bonus is the tinted security glass. I feel comfortable leaving my bike in the back of the car overnight, as it won’t attract any unwanted attention.

The French MPV is also very comfortable to drive. The ride is soft and relaxing, and the cabin is a pleasant place to spend time in. I have to admit I’m struggling to get on with the EGS paddleshift transmission – everyone who has written in the car’s logbook has criticised the lurching shifts it provides, plus its slow reactions.

Even more frustrating for me, though, has been the sat-nav – it’s a hair-pulling nightmare. Every time you input a character, the screen displays a loading icon, which stays for about a minute. So I’ve given up on the electronic guidance and gone back to the old-school method: a trusty road atlas.

My next complaint arose after dropping off a friend at Luton Airport. A warning came on screen: “Puncture detected”. And, sure enough, there was a large bulge in the front offside tyre. Thing is, the Picasso has no spare wheel (it’s a £100 option) – you only get a can of foam, which is a temporary fix.

Since the tyre wasn’t flat, I decided to drive to the nearest fitter to see if I could replace it. Luckily, it had the correct rubber in stock, and I was back on the road in 40 minutes – although my wallet was £145 lighter.

Despite these glitches and niggles, I’m impressed with how well the Picasso has risen to the challenge of the past two weeks. But no matter how practical it is, if I was offered the keys to any of the cars at evo, I’d jump at them!

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