What is it?:
The all-new Citroën C4 Picasso is still its maker's medium-sized MPV, but apart from the name, it shares little in common with the model it replaces.
It’s the first of more than 20 models that’ll use the new EMP2 platform from the PSA Peugeot Citroën group. Following the trend, the new model is claimed to be 140kg lighter than the old one, with half of that weight loss coming from the platform and the rest from a body construction that uses an aluminium bonnet and a composite tailgate. Launch models are five-seaters; a seven-seat version will come later in the year.
The new platform allows the C4 Picasso to be 40mm shorter overall than before, but with a 55mm-longer wheelbase.
Citroën's rival to the Ford C-Max and Renault Scenic sends a strong message about what the company is planning for its renewed C-series models, both in terms of styling and engineering. A wild front end with slim LED daytime running lights makes it look a bit outlandish, but Citroën promises that from now on it's not only its DS models that will have a strong personality.
What's it like?:
We drove the 1.6 e-HDi diesel version with 115bhp, which is expected to be the best-seller. The engine has been updated with its compression ratio reduced to 16:1, new five-hole injectors, a new EGR valve and new pistons. Power is the same as before but there’s more available torque at low revs and fuel economy now hits a claimed 70mpg. Top speed is 117mph and the 0-62mph sprint takes 11.8sec.
The engine is nice responsiveness at low revs during city driving, and the six-speed manual gearbox is slick and easy to operate. There’ll be an improved version of the old robotised ’box, too. It offers a tight turning circle of 10.8 metres, and visibility is good thanks to slim front pillars.
This, coupled to a typically high driving position, makes it an easy MPV to drive around town – as long as the Tarmac is smooth. If it’s not, the ride isn't as comfortable as you may expect.
On winding, the new C4 Picasso handles safely and predictably, although it fails to inspire. However, thanks to a lower centre of gravity it leans less than the old car and is more precise in every situation. The new car's increased torsional stiffness is also evident, but the steering lacks feel and understeer comes relatively soon, in turn putting the ESP to work in a most decided manner. Motorway cruising is much better, with low wind, engine and road noises.
This is a car more about its cabin than the joy of driving. Interior space impressed, particularly in the rear where you'll find three seats. These can be folded or slid forward, increasing boot capacity from 537 litres to 630 litres. The front passenger can also enjoy an optional 'Relax' package that includes an electrically operated calf rest, headrests with side flaps and even back massage.
The one stand-out in the new C4 Picasso is the increase in perceived quality. It's much better than the old model and could be the best Citroën yet in this regard.
A pair of digital monitors take care of all the on-board multimedia. A panoramic 12in screen includes all the usual driving instruments and sat-nav, and can be configured to show other information or even a picture uploaded by the owner. A separate 7in touchscreen with seven buttons commands everything else, from the air conditioning to internet access, which is made possible via a USB key.
Should I buy one?:
If you’re looking for a roomy and versatile medium-size MPV with decent city performance and very good fuel economy, this might be the right car. Providing, that is, you can live with the UFO styling and don’t care much about driving dynamics.
Citroën C4 Picasso 1.6 e-HDi
Price: tba; 0-62 11.8sec; Top speed 117 mph: Economy 70mpg (combined); CO2 105g/km; Kerb weight 1298 kg; Engine 4 cyls, 1560cc, turbodiesel; Power 115bhp at 3600 rpm; Torque 200lb ft at 1750rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual