New Citroen Grand C4 Picasso 2016 review

Can mid-life tweaks keep the seven-seat Citroen Grand C4 Picasso MPV relevant in a market dominated by SUVs?

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Citroen hasn’t done a lot to change our favourite MPV, but it didn’t need to. Even in the context of newer rivals, it still rules the roost in terms of practicality, efficiency, value and comfort. Minor tech upgrades move things along a bit, too. Crucially, the Grand C4 Picasso doesn’t lose its innate sense of style and character that really gives it the edge. Good job, Citroen.

The Citroen Grand C4 Picasso has been our favourite MPV for three years now, and its appeal hasn’t diminished. You’d forgive the manufacturer for not wanting to alter too much for the model’s mid-life facelift, then – but times are changing, because the people carrier market isn’t far from dying on its feet.

Large, rugged-looking SUVs are the order of the day now, with buyers snapping them up at the expense of traditional, less ‘on-trend’ MPVs. So, has Citroen done enough to keep its people carrier relevant in 2016?

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The Grand C4 Picasso’s ace card – with the exception of its impressive versatility – has always been its exterior styling, so little has been changed for the updated car. The tweaks are mostly confined to the front: there’s a new bumper with a larger air intake and integrated foglamps, which now have new chrome surrounds, too.

The number plate is also housed in its own grille section. Elsewhere, 3D-effect LED tail-lights are standard across the range, while there are some fresh colours and new alloy wheel choices. Three years after launch the car still looks incredibly fresh, although to our eyes the front-end revisions make it a bit less cohesive. It’s not a deal-breaker, though.

Inside, the changes are even harder to spot. It’s still a big, light and airy space thanks to the neat extended windscreen, while the minimalist dash design with its big, bright 12.3-inch central dials is unaltered. Citroen has focused instead on improving the fiddly infotainment system, with an updated seven-inch touchscreen now featuring things such as Apple CarPlay and MirrorLink smartphone connectivity. Citroen’s Connect Nav also features on top models, with improved mapping and new pinch-and-swipe functions on the screen.

It is improved, but the touch-sensitive buttons on the side are still unresponsive, and it can occasionally lag between menus. There are still too many buttons on the steering wheel as well. Citroen has added driver-assist tech such as a driver-condition monitor, lane-departure assist and traffic-sign recognition, which helps bring the model back into line with newer rivals.

If what’s on the screen doesn’t interest you, then the surprising amount of soft-touch materials on the dash and the wealth of stowage spaces certainly should. Unlike solid yet dour MPV cabin designs such as the VW Sharan, the Grand C4 Picasso’s interior has a real sense of occasion and quality – something that’s missing from some of Citroen’s older models. Things are clearly on the up, however, and models such as the forthcoming C3 are set to further change public perception of the French brand.

Crucially, the brilliantly versatile and flexible layout remains intact, too. The middle seats slide, fold flat or flip up to allow access to the rearmost seats. These fold out of the floor easily, and although they’re more suited to children, adults could squeeze in for short journeys. On top-spec cars, every row has its own lighting, heating and ventilation controls.

The engine range is the same as before as well, save for a new automatic option on the 1.2-litre PureTech petrol. Until we try that, the 118bhp 1.6-litre diesel we have here is still our pick of the range, thanks to its low running costs, high-speed refinement and smooth six-speed auto gearbox. The power delivery suits the Citroen’s relaxed character, and despite the MPV’s size and weight it doesn’t feel especially underpowered.

If you’re regularly carrying seven or need the extra performance, then the 148bhp 2.0-litre may be worth the extra £1,200 it costs. Not that you’ll want to drive it fast, though; the steering is lazier and body roll more noticeable than in a Ford S-MAX.

That’s not what these cars are about, however – Citroen hasn’t changed the suspension at all, and the ride still glides over bumps and crests with little disturbance. Combine this with the comfortable driving position and relative absence of wind and road noise, and the Picasso makes an excellent long-distance cruiser.

At £28,160, our top-spec Flair might be a touch on the pricey side, but given the level of kit – including both displays, sat-nav, DAB radio, dual-zone climate control, panoramic sunroof and hands-free electric boot – it still undercuts a similarly specced Ford.

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