Citroën aims to add pizzazz to practical family travel. Does it succeed?

Find Used Citroen Grand C4 Picasso 2014-2018 review deals
Offers from our trusted partners on this car and its predecessors...
Used car deals
From £3,990
Sell your car
In partnership with
Powered by

The previous-generation Citroën C4 Picasso offered all of the practicality and airiness that we’ve come to expect from a Citroën MPV. Unfortunately, it was also as devoid of driving flair that is expected of a Parisian-branded MPV.

Don’t misunderstand us. We don’t go looking for sportiness or dynamism in a large family car such as this but, as Ford’s Ford S-Max so expertly proved, it is quite possible to make a car that’s as pleasurable to drive as it is to be one of its passengers.

Citroën's first Picasso was the Xsara, which was produced from 1999 to 2010

No matter how many people an MPV is carrying, there will always be someone at the wheel. It does no harm to think of them. The signs this time around, though, are much more positive.

In our experience thus far, the latest C4 Picasso five-seater and this seven-seat Grand Picasso sister model – both of which ride on a new, supposedly lighter and more advanced platform – provide not only excellent surroundings for passengers but are also far more pleasing for the bod behind the wheel. A minor mid-life facelift didn't enhance this formula any further, but focussed on improving the overall ambiance inside the big seven-seater.

Will the new Citroën C4 Grand Picasso leave us as equally pleased after a comprehensive Autocar road test? Let’s see.



Citroën Grand C4 Picasso headlights
Headlights are usually the dominant light feature on a car, but here it's the LED running lights

The first Citroën to use the Picasso name was the 1999 Xsara. That car was such a hit that it remained on sale until 2010, long after the regular Xsara had disappeared and a new generation of Citroëns had been launched, with Picasso becoming longhand for MPV in Citroën-speak in the meantime.

Citroën's last-generation seven-seat C4 Grand Picasso was first launched in 2006, with a five-seat 'un-Grand' variant arriving the following year.

The Citroën's engines are all transverse, driving the front wheels only

The latest C4 Picasso is distinctive and appealing on the outside. What’s beneath is about to get a lot more familiar. Its EMP2 (Efficient Modular Platform) architecture is going to underpin a vast number of new Peugeots and Citroëns, and this is where it gets its first showing.

Some manufacturers can be shy about their platform use and strategy. No such danger of that with PSA Peugeot-Citroën, which is so keen to espouse the benefits of the EMP2 that it even has its own section of the PSA website.

Some 116 patents have been filed in the development of the platform, which will underpin all of Peugeot-Citroën’s C-segment and D-segment vehicles, equalling some 50 percent of PSA’s total production.

The first cars to use it are this C4 Picasso/Grand Picasso, built in Vigo, Spain, and the Peugeot 308, made in Sochaux, France. PSA’s plant in Wuhan, China, will begin production next year. PSA says the EMP2 platform is suitable not only for hatchbacks and MPVs but also for saloons, SUVs, coupés and even cabriolets.

Weight-saving claims come from extended use of high-yield-strength steels, aluminium and composites. The Grand Picasso has an aluminium bonnet and composite tailgate.

Overall, the length of this generation of the Grand Picasso is the same as its predecessor’s, at 4590mm, but the new platform has allowed the wheelbase to grow by 110mm to 2840mm, which is claimed to be the longest in the class. This is the sort of figure – especially given that the front overhang is also shorter by 116mm – that allows significantly improved interior space.

Citroën also claims that the engine is 50mm lower than previously, the floor is 20mm lower and the tracks are wider, by 82mm at the front and 31mm at the rear. So the Grand Picasso will have no excuse not to be airy and spacious inside. Suspension is by MacPherson struts at the front, with a torsion beam at the rear.

The manufacturer also says EMP2 is lighter than its predecessor by up to 100kg. However, when we last weighed a Picasso, in 2006, it was 1603kg, and this time around the car is 1685kg. Even accounting for additional equipment on today’s model, that’s heavier than we’d expect.

Still, there are improved CO2 emissions and fuel economy. The engine line-up stars a 1.6-litre e-HDi 100 Airdream unit with 99bhp, and impressive class-best CO2 emissions of 99g/km and 74.3mpg when mated to the standard six-speed manual gearbox.

A 118bhp 1.6-litre e-HDi 115 is also offered with a six-speed manual or optional ETG6 auto, alongside a new 148bhp 2.0-litre BlueHDi 150 engine. That unit offers CO2 emissions of 107g/km with the standard six-speed manual gearbox and rolling on 17in wheels.

The petrol line-up has been revamped, with the 2016 facelift including the addition of a new gasoline unit to the line-up - a turbocharged 1.2-litre producing 128bhp and seen previously in the rather odd-looking C4 Cactus.


Citroën Grand C4 Picasso interior
There's good provision of space in the airy-feeling front

Departure from convention has become the convention in the medium-size MPV design textbook, but that’s in no small part thanks to the popularity of the quirky original Xsara Picasso, a car to whose interior this Citroen C4 Picasso pays homage.

But this is not all that Citroën had in mind, and you can tell because the eccentric touches appear on a classier and more upmarket canvas than we’re used to. This is an MPV that does ‘plush’ at the same time as ‘peculiar’ – and in all but one or two places it does both well.

The rear-most seats are fine for children, but taller adults will begin to suffer on anything but short journeys

A Picasso wouldn’t be a Picasso without an instrument panel offset to the centre of the fascia. But no Picasso that we’ve seen before has featured a customisable colour LCD screen in place of normal dials, a chic-looking two-tone dashboard, or air vents, steering wheel grips and centre stack zones edged in ritzy satin chrome.

There are three trims to choose from - Touch Edition, Feel and Flair. Entry-level models come with 16in alloy wheels, hill start assist, cruise control, a panoramic windscreen and rear parking sensors as standard on the outside, while inside there is dual-zone climate control and a 7.0in touchscreen infotainment system complete with DAB radio, Bluetooth and USB connectivity all included.

Upgrade to a Feel adorned model and you will find luxuries such as front parking sensors, sat nav, Citroën's 12in configurable display, massaging front seats and 17in alloy wheels, while the range-topping Flair model adds a self parking mode, blind spot monitoring, automatic opening tailgate and a panoramic sunroof.

You perch fairly high in the driver’s seat, as you’d expect, but the controls are well placed and generously adjustable and the front seats are large and comfortable – our only gripe with them being a lack of adjustment in the headrests. The cabin is bathed in light via both an extended windscreen running back above your head and a large panoramic glass roof.

Meanwhile, practical features, such as storage cubbies and picnic tables with neat retaining straps, abound. Space in the second row of seats is generous by class standards and legroom is particularly good.

Sitting three adults side by side will still be a squeeze and any adult in the third row won’t thank you for being asked to ride back there. But those limitations are common for the medium-size MPV class and we wouldn’t criticise the Picasso for imposing them.

The standard Bluetooth worked well for our testers, pairing quickly and providing a reliable connection with good call quality. The Picasso’s bigger trick is the optional Multicity Connect, which offers 3G mobile connectivity to applications such as Trip Advisor, ViaMichelin, Facebook and an email reader. It’s quite expensive, though.

The DAB tuner isn’t the most intuitive to use, but reception seems good. A six-speaker set-up is the only stereo offered. It’s nothing special, but its power and clarity are more than adequate. The Multicity Connect system adds games and social media functionality into the mix.

The Citroën's eMyWay multimedia system set-up has full European mapping, comes standard with Feel-spec cars and also gives you a second USB input. Not the most detailed factory system we’ve tested, but relatively quick to program.


Citroën Grand C4 Picasso MPV
The BlueHDi model completed the standing quarter mile in 17.7sec at 80.9mph

Both Peugeot and Citroën have promised great things from the 2.0-litre BlueHDi turbodiesel powertrain. It certainly has potential, and as well as delivering a big slug of torque, it achieves a good score on the official NEDC emissions test.

It works well in the Picasso but, like so many brand-new engines, it’ll need further development before it can be considered exceptional – or anything like it. In normal day-to-day use, the Picasso’s headline diesel is quite hushed, smooth and responsive for a motor of its type.

Engine options include 1.6-litre petrol and diesels, and the range-topping 2.0-litre 'BlueHDi' diesel

The ratios in the six-speed manual gearbox seem well spaced, but there’s an unwelcome bit of notchiness in the gear linkage, most notably between first and second gear, that can trip you up now and again. That notchiness isn't present in the e-HDi 115 version, though, with the 114bhp diesel performing strongly throughout the rev range.

Conventional autos are a rare find on Citroëns these days, the French car maker preferring automated manuals that suffer from slow, irritating shifts. Shifts are much slicker with the BlueHDi 150’s six-speed automatic, however. Its ratios are nicely spaced and it is quick to respond should more performance be desired. Full manual control of the gearbox is also available through steering wheel-mounted paddles.

Go beyond the bounds of typical usage, though, and the powerplant shows some shortcomings. While pulling from low revs in a higher intermediate gear, it’s slow to get its act together – as our in-gear acceleration figures evidence. It’s also quite clattery and rough at low crank speeds under load, and equally coarse beyond 4000rpm.

Most Picasso owners will doubtless stay in the meat of the rev range and, by doing so, might not encounter the harsher extremes of the engine’s operating envelope. If they do, they’ll have few causes to complain about the fuel efficiency – we saw better than 50mpg on our touring test – or the in-gear tractability. This is a 148bhp, 273lb ft 2.0-litre diesel MPV, after all, with emissions that it would take a much less powerful 1.6-litre oil-burner to match in most rivals.

Keep that in your head and you’ll be broadly satisfied with what’s on offer here. People movers have never required underbonnet brilliance to perform their primary function, and the Grand Picasso doesn’t need it, either – although, from a brand-new engine, we can’t help thinking that it would have been nice to have.

We’re concerned that performance may be more sluggish on diesels lower down the range, however. The BlueHDi 150 has the right amount of performance and is thus nicely matched to the car. We fear smaller engines may struggle to propel a car of the Grand C4 Picasso’s size, making you work the throttle pedal more and harming economy.


Citroën Grand C4 Picasso cornering
It has a pliant ride, yet body control remains good

This is where the new Peugeot-Citroën vehicle platform begins to come to the fore. First acquaintance with the smaller Citroen C4 Picasso suggested that a good-sized step had been taken by Citroën in bringing its family monocab up to the class’s prevailing dynamic standard, and the Grand Picasso confirms as much.

The car has a suppleness of gait that feels entirely appropriate for a big passenger car but doesn’t pay for it with any glaring lack of body control, high-speed stability, all-corner grip or steering consistency. Although it’s not outstanding in any particular discipline, we’d rank it very close to the best cars in the class in most important respects.

The Citroën's brakes stand up to abuse very well, resisting fade

The steering wheel itself is quite large, and its flat-bottomed rim can be a bit annoying while you’re passing it through your hands.

Still, it’s a sensibly paced system and operates in harmony with some well balanced but sensible grip levels and a chassis that allows some body roll but controls the rate of that roll, as well as its ultimate angle, very consistently indeed.

Negligible feedback is transmitted through to your palms and the rack can feel spongey as you initially load it up, but steering weight is just right and stays the same as you turn the wheel, and there’s no sudden deterioration in front-end bite as lateral forces build.

All of that combines to make the Picasso handle tidily and seem easy to manage in most circumstances, with the agility and grace of a considerably smaller and shorter car, but with good rolling comfort, too.

The Picasso’s Michelin Pilot Sport tyres are notoriously good in the wet, but Citroën still deserves bags of credit for endowing such a large car with great stability and steering precision, a sweet balance of grip and a particularly intelligent ESP system.

Although it’s always on, the ESP acts very subtly to begin with, rewards smoothness and accuracy and saves you from excess but won’t prevent you from acting to manage a developing slide by applying power.

In the dry, the Picasso is a bit less sweetly balanced, responding to excess speed with slowly gathering understeer, but that’s exactly as we prefer from this kind of car. Pitch and roll are always effectively checked.

The ride is a tiny bit fussy and abrupt now and again, but that was only the unsprung mass and shortness of sidewall associated with the 18-inch alloy wheels fitted to the model we tested presenting, we suspect.

This is not an engaging car to drive and, ultimately, doesn’t transcend your expectations of an MPV quite like a Ford S-Max does. And yet the big C4's handling still seems impressive – more highly polished than you’d imagine it might be, either as a Picasso, or even a Citroën, full stop.


Citroën Grand C4 Picasso
The car shares some of its styling features with Citroën's premium DS models

No Citroën has glacial depreciation, but the C4 Grand Picasso’s results are as strong as you’re likely to see from the manufacturer and on a par with those of non-premium rivals.

Its residual values even shade the Vauxhall Zafira Tourer, which is remarkable for a Citroën. Neither is a benchmark performer, however, with both typically being outperformed by the Ford Grand C-Max.

Citroën's C4 Picasso earned five stars in Euro NCAP testing, which bodes well for the seven-seat Grand Picasso

Avoid models with the automated manual gearbox and get a specification that includes the natty colour central display rather than the disappointing monochrome monitor. Other than that, spec as you please.

Most of Citroën's engines should prove both reliable and economical. The best bet in the range is probably the BlueHDi model, which returned 44.2mpg during testing with us overall, and a very tidy 51.1mpg on a touring run. That's impressive for a near-1700kg seven-seater.

Service intervals are 20,000 miles and the benefit-in-kind burden, for the BlueHDi, is 17 percent.


4 star Citroën Grand C4 Picasso
Added plushness and dynamic polish make for a more complete package

Over the years, the Citroen C4 Picasso has relied on its quirkiness to succeed. And succeed it certainly has.

But this new version is a different prospect – a more complete car with the performance, practicality and fully developed driving experience to sell not only in the mainstream, but also to those attracted by its eccentric sense of boldness.

I think that, for the price, the C4 Grand Picasso offers up a great interior

Level-headed buyers will respond to its spaciousness, versatility and fuel efficiency. Citroën has also injected extra style, colour, class, standard specification and material richness into the car – and then put it within touching distance of the best in class on driving dynamics.

The Picasso has some familiar failings, too. It still isn’t the last word on quality or fit and finish, the engine leaves room for improvement and some secondary systems don’t work as well as they should.

But there is, however, an appreciable breadth of dynamic talent here – and a new dimension in desirability. There’s certainly no major flaw that should strike it off your seven-seat MPV shopping list.

There are sharper cars to drive in the class, but its good-looking and airy interior, flexible seating arrangements and vast amounts of space tick the boxes of what buyers in this segment are looking for.

Matt Prior

Matt Prior
Title: Editor-at-large

Matt is Autocar’s lead features writer and presenter, is the main face of Autocar’s YouTube channel, presents the My Week In Cars podcast and has written his weekly column, Tester’s Notes, since 2013.

Matt is an automotive engineer who has been writing and talking about cars since 1997. He joined Autocar in 2005 as deputy road test editor, prior to which he was road test editor and world rally editor for Channel 4’s automotive website, 4Car. 

Into all things engineering and automotive from any era, Matt is as comfortable regularly contributing to sibling titles Move Electric and Classic & Sports Car as he is writing for Autocar. He has a racing licence, and some malfunctioning classic cars and motorbikes. 

Citroen Grand C4 Picasso 2014-2018 First drives