By Andy Enright
We've become used to the Citroen C4 Picasso being one of the slinkiest of MPVs, with strong design values and a decent array of engines. Yet it took some time for this model to cement its reputation with the British public; a clientele who were more accustomed to paying very little for the somewhat rough and ready Xsara Picasso. Educating this group of buyers into the ways of new Citroen took a little time but by the time the facelifted C4 Picasso arrived in 2010, the message was hitting home and sales have been encouraging. Here's how to bag one of the 'Gen 1.5' C4 Picassos.
It's easy to forget quite what a departure the C4 Picasso was when it first arrived in 2006. Here was a car vastly more sophisticated than its predecessor, the Xsara Picasso, which commanded a higher price and which Citroen didn't fully commit to, selling it alongside the bargain basement Xsara Picasso for quite some time. A subtle but important set of updates arrived for the 2010 model year. The interiors got cleverer. The value proposition improved as customers received more standard equipment. There were small styling tweaks to the exterior. Perhaps the most significant was the ditching of the old 1.8-litre diesel engines in favour of vastly more efficient 1.6-litre e-HDI powerplants.
This car, in both standard and long-wheelbase Grand Picasso versions, ran all the way through to the 2013 model year when it was replaced by an all-new C4 Picasso.
What You Get
This remains a good looking car, with a completely different body shape from its 7-seater Grand C4 Picasso stablemate from the A-pillar backwards. As for the changes visited upon this improved version, well, you'll need to be something of a spotter to identify them. On plusher models, LED daytime running lights sit around a revised front bumper, there are redesigned tail lamp clusters and more prominent double chevron badges on the front grille and tailgate. Otherwise, things are much as before, this remaining as versatile a vehicle as most small families will really need.
Inside there are plenty of storage bins and cupholders: even storage space under the floor at the rear. Particular thought though, has gone into making the luggage bay as versatile as it can be. The boot features 500-litres of space, not much less than you get in the 7-seat version of this car. To give you a better idea of what that means, that's 40% more room than you'd get in the kind of Ford Focus-class family hatchback that would cost you a similar amount and occupy approximately the same footprint in the road.
To help make the best use of it, Citroen's designers came up with the 'Modubox'. It's an internal storage device designed to take care of all those little items that would otherwise roll around the boot floor. On top models there's even air suspension with a button to lower the ride height for easier loading. But if all of this room isn't enough, then you've simply to push forward the rear seats. A quick tug on the release strap folds them flat into the floor. They're individually mounted so that you can choose between space allocation for people or packages. And with all three flat, 1,734-litres opens up.
What to Look For
Unlike its rather utilitarian predecessor, the C4 Picasso is a distinctly complex car, bringing to the mass market many technologies previously only seen on high-end luxury models. As such, it will pay the potential buyer dividends to do a painstaking check of the electronic functions. Of particular importance will be a check of the EGS auto gearbox where fitted, this to make sure that it engages gears cleanly and does not drop into a false neutral when it is decelerating to a standstill in 'automatic' model. Apart from a rather insubstantial parcel shelf, the interior feels sturdy, although the dealer-fit satellite navigation can be frustratingly idiosyncratic in some of its route selections.
(approx based on a 2008 C4 Picasso 1.6 VTR+) Consumables for the Citroen C4 Picasso are reasonably priced. An air filter is around £10 with an oil filter retailing at approximately £15. Spark plugs are £9 each with a timing belt weighing in at the £30 mark.
On the Road
Climb aboard a C4 Picasso and before you even set off, it's clear that this is going to be a somewhat different experience. The first thing that'll probably grab your attention is a windscreen that stretches up and almost over your head, affording a panoramic view, not just of the road ahead but also the sky above. If you're worried that'll fry your head on a hot day, then don't be: a pull-forward sun blind augments the usual sun visors to solve the problem. If you don't use it and find yourself in a car in which the original buyer ticked the box for the optional full-length glass sunroof, then the cabin takes on a very airy feel indeed.
So it's different to sit in. But will it be so to drive? If you've opted for the one of the semi-automatic EGS models, the answer is definitely yes, though to begin with, not always for the right reasons. Until you master it and lift off between changes made via the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, this is a transmission that can seem jerky and unresponsive. Once you adjust though, the system actually works fairly well. We can see though, why many would be more comfortable with a more conventional manual 'box. Whatever transmission you choose, one thing remains constant: the silky smooth ride, floating you over the imperfections of our appalling road network, even if you're not lucky enough to be riding in the plushest Exclusive model which also includes air-sprung self-levelling rear suspension.
Citroen offered two 1.6-litre petrol options, a base 120bhp unit and a turbocharged 155bhp THP variant capable of sixty from rest in 9.4s on the way to 127mph. As for those diesels, there's a two-way choice when it comes to the 110bhp 1.6-litre HDi that most customers choose: buyers got either a conventional 6-speed manual transmission, or they went for the e-HDi version that included a package of energy-saving measures linked to an efficient 6-speed semi-automatic EGS gearbox. Neither option has the power to really set the heart racing, sixty from rest in the e-HDi variant needing nearly 13.5s, so if you do yearn for something still sensible but a little pokier, there's a 150bhp 2.0-litre HDi C4 Picasso that can cut nearly 3.0s off the 1.6's 0-60mph sprint time on the way to 121mph.
Although this Citroen C4 Picasso was replaced by an all-new car in 2013, there's still a lot to like about it. It looks good, the interior is smart and well screwed together, the 1.6-litre diesel engines are brilliantly economical and the car rides well on our scabby roads. In fact, it's probably fair to say that although sales were respectable, the C4 Picasso was a little bit of an underachiever. This should have aced cars like the Mercedes B-Class and even put a lick on the Ford C-MAX in the sales charts but it was never quite like that. All that means is that it's a better used buy than ever. You know what to do.