The Citroën C4 Picasso is a larger, roomier version of Citroën’s C4 hatchback, conceived to sit as a halfway house between the C-segment hatch and the considerably larger seven-seater Grand Picasso. But while a new C4 hatch was launched at the end of 2010, this Picasso remains based on the previous-generation C4.
In truth, however, the ‘all-new’ C4 hatch wasn’t all that all-new, and it still shares some of the mechanical underpinnings with the previous generation hatch. Which means, then, that this C4 Picasso isn’t trailing so far behind from an engineering point of view.
Taking the seven-seat Grand Picasso as its exterior template, the C4 Picasso is 12cm shorter, does away with the third row of seats and has mildly revised suspension.
Past the A-pillar, it's got a completely different body shape from the seven-seater, and has a tailgate with a twin-hatch opening. The car's boot is fitted with a removable ‘Modubox’, which essentially serves as a grandma-style shopping trolley in disguise.
The C4 Picasso’s trim levels follow Citroën’s current convention of VTR, VTR+ and Exclusive, with the flagship 2.0-litre diesel Exclusive receiving a six-speed semi-automatic gearbox, pneumatic rear suspension (which can be used to lower the boot loading deck) 18-inch alloys and bigger, more comfortable seats.
At the other end of the range, VTR models are available with either 1598cc VTi petrol or 1560cc HDi diesel engines making 118bhp/118lb ft and 108bhp/210lb ft respectively. VTR+ trim gets the 1560cc HDi, plus either a 1997cc 148bhp/251lb ft HDi or a 1598cc, 153bhp/177lb ft petrol, while Exclusive models get the far simpler option of either of the two diesels. VTR+ and Exclusive models fitted with diesel engines also come equipped with a six-speed EGS6 gearbox if you so choose.
There are also low-CO2 Airdream versions available in VTR+ and Exclusive trim, using the 1.6-litre HDi engine but featuring a variety of eco tweaks to lower CO2 output from 132g/km to just 125g/km in the VTR+ model and 130g/km in the Exclusive.
Whatever is under the bonnet, the C4 Picasso certainly looks good, with eye-catching styling that makes rivals such as the Volkswagen Touran look decidedly pedestrian. The environment inside is excellent, too, with a modern and uncluttered dash and an expansive glasshouse offering great all-round visibility.
The Exclusive model's oversized front seats look like a pair of armchairs, but are firm and supportive. The second tier of seating is made up of three individually mounted seats that all slide, recline and fold flat with ease. Out on the road, this C4 Picasso feels comfortable, but dynamically unexceptional. The chassis delivers a familiarly relaxed, loping ride that cossets better than it entertains (and you'd certainly expect that of a part air-sprung Executive model), while the 2.0-litre diesel engine make it brisk enough.
The semi-automatic shifter on our 2.0 HDi VTR+ test car was disappointing in either auto or manual mode, but feels particularly jerky when left to its own devices. Admittedly, progression is more fluid when you engage automated manual mode, but you need to drive as if operating a manual 'box, lifting off the throttle before it executes gear changes.
If you require no more than five seats, and you value looks over driver appeal in an MPV, then the C4 Picasso is an attractive, versatile and well-specified family car with an interior that make it the envy of many MPV-makers.
Lower trim levels are competitively priced, too, so save your cash by choosing the 1.6-litre diesel and give the Exclusive trim a miss.