The Citroen C4 Picasso gets a new name, the C4 SpaceTourer, along with a fresh diesel engine and a smoother auto gearbox. Plus it's still an interesting and stylish 5-seat mid-sized MPV. Jonathan Crouch reports.
Ten Second Review
The second generation Citroen C4 Picasso has become the C4 SpaceTourer and gets a more sophisticated top-spec engine and auto gearbox comination, plus extra safety kit. It remains a strong package.
Citroen has finally parted company with the Picasso name for its mid-sized MPVs in favour of the 'Space Tourer' badge that for some time has been used on its largest van-based People Carrier. As before, there's also a seven-seat 'Grand' version of this model, but our focus here will be on the standard five-seat variant, which continues to compete against Ford's C-MAX and Renault's Scenic. With both those two rivals significantly improved, Citroen has moved to improve the C4's safety technology and has added a fresh BlueHDi 160 diesel engine paired with a new EAT8 automatic gearbox at the top of the line-up.
As ever, the engine choice is naturally weighted towards diesels because that's what Citroen does very well and it's also what British customers expect to buy. The 1.6-litre BlueHDi 120 will continue to be the big seller, but the economical BlueHDi 100 powerplant is sure to claim more than a few sales. There's also a pokier 2.0-litre BlueHDi 160 diesel option too, mated to a new 8-speed EAT8 auto gearbox. Petrol customers get a PureTech 110 entry-level unit with manual transmission; or there's a pokier PureTech 130 powerplant, mated with the brand's smooth EAT6 auto transmission.
Stick with the diesel and you'll find that the 120PS unit offers reasonable acceleration, the engine note is muted and it shares the same improved body control and sharper steering that's engineered into all of the latest C4 Space Tourer models. Citroen also claim that the suspension has been tuned to work with a variety of wheel sizes, so you won't be punished with an unduly harsh ride if you opt for a bigger set of alloys.
On the move, don't be put off by initial unfamiliarities of design and drive. After all, you probably wouldn't be looking at this Citroen in the first place if you didn't want something just that little bit different from the usual character-free compact people carrying experience. Just enjoy this car for what it is as you float over road imperfections, marvel at the unusually hushed levels of refinement and enjoy the benefits of a commanding driving position that's a huge help at roundabouts or when parking and, with the standard panoramic screen, makes it seem like you're suddenly viewing the world in high definition.
Design and Build
The change of name hasn't come with a change of look, so these revised SpaceTourer models keep the previous C4 Picasso's three-tiered light signature at the front, which is synonymous with Citroen's contemporary design language. The grille is separated into two parts by the body-coloured bumper and sports a glossy black registration plate mount and a second air intake. Plus there are smart 3D-effect rear lights, classy 17-inch diamond-cut alloy wheels and buyers get the option of a black two-tone roof.
Inside, there's clever interior packaging that designer Frederic Soubirou is clearly proud of. We like the optional lounge-style front passenger seat that features an extendable footrest and massage function. On a more practical note, there's a 537-litre boot that's 60-litres bigger than that of a Ford C-MAX. Slide the rear bench forward and you get up to 630-litres. We'll deal with the long wheelbase Grand C4 SpaceTourer Picasso separately, but the standard length car features three rear seats that can be slid back and forth, reclined or folded flat independently of one another. What's more, the floor is devoid of a raised tunnel, aiding utility still further. The side windows do angle in fairly sharply which can make taller rear seat passengers feel a little pinched but other than that it's hard to find fault. Materials quality in the cabin is smart, with classy metal finishes and simple yet effective ergonomics, something we have rarely been able to say of previous Citroens.
Market and Model
The prices are still reasonable, with an entry-level model costing from around £21,000 and the BlueHDi 100 diesel setting you back from just over £22,000: that's a fraction above what you'd pay for a comparable Ford C-MAX. It's fairly easy to see why customers would pay a small premium for the C4 SpaceTourer though. It's the reason why buyers will pay more for an Apple versus a Dell - slicker design values.
Recent media developments include a Citroen Connect radio that includes Apple CarPlay and MirrorLink smartphone connectivity. And a 'Citroen Connect Nav' system with connected services that can tell you everything from weather forecasts to local parking and fuel station info. These functions, like many others in the cabin, are marshalled by the big touch screen display. We know some of you prefer the tactility of a switch or button and there are occasions when the C4 Picasso's screen demands your attention for longer than is ideal, such as when adjusting the cabin temperature settings, which will require you to navigate away from, say, the sat nav or stereo functions and find the ventilation screen. Yes, it helps clean up the fascia but at some cost to actual everyday utility. Even entry-level C4 SpaceTourers are fitted as standard with alloy wheels, Bluetooth and a six-speaker stereo with a USB socket. Range-topping 'Flair' models get features such as adaptive cruise control and the rather lovely lounge-style front passenger seats. It's just like being in a TGV. Except slower and without French school kids constantly running past. 'Flair' trim also now gets you extra standard safety kit, including Driver Attention Alert, Speed Sign Recognition and Recommendation, and Active Safety Brake.
Cost of Ownership
Citroen has worked hard to improve the efficiency of its engine range in recent years and it can now stand toe to toe with the very best. The 1.6-litre BlueHDi unit in 100 or 120PS guises remains the default choice if you're looking to keep a lid on day-to-day running costs. In both forms, it returns 74.3mpg on the combined cycle and 99g/km of CO2. Citroen is also keen that we should talk about the petrol engines in the line-up. The PureTech 130 EAT auto variant manages 55.4mpg and 115g/km.
What else? Well maintenance costs will be aided by the option of an affordable three year servicing plan. Plus there are reasonable insurance groupings rand the usual three year / 60,000 mile warranty.
Not every family needs seven seats in an MPV and for those that don't, this appealing C4 SpaceTourer offers a smartly-styled, hi-tech equipped and very practical alternative. Though not especially enjoyable to push hard, that's because it's aimed exactly where it should be targeted - at mums and dads rather than at driving enthusiasts, with impressive long distance comfort you'll also appreciate on the school run day-in and day-out.
It's an MPV that really seems to have been created with a bit of love. From the panoramic windscreen to the lounge-style massaging passenger seat, from the widescreen HD instrument display to the fact that you can sit and Facebook your friends on the touch screen, it's a car that's a joy to operate. And for us, a joy to look at, as different and refreshing in design as it will be to own. It's good that the Citroen we used to know is back. The manufacturer that took risks, created magic and brought us cars that sat apart from the ordinary norm. Cars exactly like this one.