We find out if the new 1.6-litre diesel C4 Picasso is a worthwhile option for those seeking a practical and comfortable new MPV

What is it?

Given that Citroën has managed to shift a huge 394,584 examples of the Citroen C4 Picasso MPV (and of its various predecessors) in the UK since the first Xsara Picasso launched in 1999, this is plainly a key model for the brand. So you'd expect Citroën to really put the boat out for the latest version.

They have. Citroën is rediscovering its mildly eccentric design mojo and the latest five-seater C4 Picasso continues that trend. The Picasso's nose is the most striking feature of the car, with those LED daylight running lights looking to many (including me) as though they're a space-age version of full-on headlights – the real ones are just below. It's a very cool visual effect.

There's drama in the profile, too, with a deeply sculpted character line along the lower body and an 'alloy-alike' surround around the side glass that adds a real dash of class. Even if, on closer examination, you realise its plastic.

The back end of the Picasso is the most ordinary feature of the exterior, until you turn on the lights. Then it looks like something out of the Volkswagen stable when those 3D LEDs fire up (can you patent an LED light pattern? Guess not). Either way, it’s a very good look.

What's it like?

Citroën has made an equally big splash with the interior. That familiar massive front screen, which feels a bit like a helicopter canopy, makes a return. But the big news surrounds the two large displays, including a touch screen that looks after regular control functions.

I'm really not sure about this - if, for example, you've got the navigation playing on the lower screen and you want to lower the fan speed, you've got to come out of nav, go into the air-con setting screen and then prod the fan icon. If you had a simple rotary dial, that palaver would take about a second and a half, and you can do it without taking your eyes off the road. Otherwise, this cabin is a very pleasant place to spend time - with the huge panoramic sunroof and that front screen, it's a marvelously airy environment. 

Built on PSA's new EMP2 platform, which will spawn a multitude of new models, the Picasso is 40mm shorter, but with a significant 55mm more wheelbase. That means there's a little more legroom in the back, and even though the new car's roofline is a bit lower, headroom all around is still generous. The quality and finish are still leagues ahead of earlier Picassos, although some of the lower dash plastics are slightly low rent.

We drove the 1.6-litre 115bhp e-HDi diesel, which Citroën reckons will be the UK's favourite. At launch, there will also be a 90bhp diesel as well as a 155bhp petrol option. 

You could live happily with this refined engine, but not so much if you live around a lot of hills — in higher gears, constant downshifts are needed to maintain any kind of progress on inclines. If that's a big issue for you, there will be a 150bhp diesel coming in November.

The new Picasso has a lower centre of gravity than the previous car, and weighs a remarkable 140kg less. But there's a bit more roll through the corners than I'd like, and the speed-variable electric steering isn't particularly feelsome. 

The upside is quite a decent ride quality, arguably the more important feature for a car doing the Picasso's job. Which is carrying five people and their luggage whilst looking like a bit of a Dan Dare hero.

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Should I buy one?

While the latest Citroën C4 Picasso isn't as dynamically accomplished as some rivals, it does offer a lot of interior space and styling, particularly from the front, that sets it apart. Mostly in a good way.

Most prominently, the front LED lights add a dramatic bit of style and the panoramic windscreen makes it feel like you're flying a Bell Jet Ranger helicopter. The boot space volume is also one of the best in its class and motorway cruising is a refined affair.

So, the Picasso has a fair amount going for it. It's not without fault, mind. The touch screen marks quickly, some of the plastics are a little low rent and — as mentioned — the 115bhp diesel can struggle a little on inclines.

Those looking for a practical and interesting MPV that's easy to live with, however, could find much to like in Citroën's intriguing new C4 Picasso.

Citroën C4 PIcasso e-HDi 115

Price £17,500; 0-62mph 11.8sec; Top speed 117mph; Economy 70.6mpg; CO2 105g/km; Kerb weight 1252kg; Engine 4 cyls, 1560cc, turbodiesel; Power 115bhp at 3600rpm Torque 270lb ft 1750-2500rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual

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Add a comment…
catnip 7 June 2013

I've noticed a slight shift

I've noticed a slight shift in attitude with the motoring presss towards touch screen control panels. Initially, they were the must-have item, and comparable models without them were criticised for having old fashioned, less up-market fascias. Now I've seen a few reviews actually daring to suggest that having a traditional control dial might be the better (and) safer option. Who'd have thought it..

Suzuki QT 7 June 2013

Hmmm ...

I'm glad Citroen has got its design mojo back (unlike its stablemate, Peugeot) and look forward to seeing a "DS" version in the not too distant future ... Now, all we need is a replacement for the tired C1 (perhaps modelled on the funky-looking Mitsubishi i-MiEV/C-Zero) and all will be well ...