New range-topping five-seat Picasso is good-looking and well-equipped, but we'd still go for the cheaper option

What is it?

The Citroen C4 Picasso is a five-seat version of Citroen’s err… C4 Picasso. Recognizing that this model strategy could become a little confusing for customers, the French car-maker has re-labeled the seven-seat version Grand Picasso, allowing this latest MPV, the fourth in Citroen’s range, to use the C4 Picasso badge exclusively.

You’d be right in thinking that Citroen already makes a five-seat midi-MPV, too. Apparently, the Xsara Picasso will co-exist with the C4 Picasso and be marketed as a bargain-hunter’s MPV until 2010.

Taking the seven-seat Grand Picasso as its template, the C4 Picasso is 12cm shorter, does away with the third row of seats and has mildly tweaked suspension.

Past the A-pillar, it's got a completely different body shape from the seven-seater, and a new tailgate with a twin-hatch opening. The car's boot is fitted with a removeable "Modubox", which seems essentially to be a granny-trolley in disguise.

The Grand Picasso’s existing trim levels of LX, VTR and Exclusive will be applied here, 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) 18in alloys and bigger, more comfortable seats.

What’s it like?

It certainly looks good. The new Picasso's eye-catching styling makes rivals such as the VW Touran look sinfully pedestrian. The environment inside is brilliant too, with a modern and uncluttered dash and an expansive glasshouse.

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 Citroen feels comfortable, but dynamically unexceptional. The chassis certainly cossets better than it entertains (you'd expect that of a part air-sprung Executive model), and the 2.0-litre diesel engine make it brisk enough, though it doesn’t feel much quicker than the 1.6-litre diesel.

The semi-automatic shifter is 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.

Should I buy one?

That depends on your situation. If you require no more than five seats, and you value looks over driver appeal in an MPV, then the answer's a resounding yes. The C4 Picasso is an attractive, versatile and well-specified family car with an interior that must be the envy of all MPV-makers.

It might be substantially more expensive than the Xsara Picasso, but it’s more advanced, much better-built and will offer stronger residual values. Save your cash by choosing the 1.6-litre diesel, though, and give the Exclusive trim a miss.

Jon Quirk

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