BY ANDY ENRIGHT
Sometimes you just need a little more. You pay that bit extra to upgrade to Club Class, you upsize your takeaway order, you value the utility of a spare bedroom, even if you never invite guest s to stay. More isn't always better, but every now and again, it's reassuring to have a little extra in hand. That's Citroen's take anyway and in the slinky shape of its Grand C4 Picasso, it offered its compact MPV in a form that didn't mean you had to pack light. Here's how to track down a used example.
The Grand C4 Picasso arrived on these shores in early 2007. Its path was eased by the enthusiastic reception enjoyed by the standard length car a year earlier and it soon became one of the best-selling seven-seat MPVs. Buyers chose between 1.8 and 2.0-litre petrol engines and 1.6 or 2.0-litre diesels. 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 ran all the way through to the 2013 model year when it was replaced by an all-new Grand C4 Picasso, the streamlined shape giving way to more cubist exterior architecture.
What You Get
Most people we've spoken to reckon the Grand C4 Picasso remains one of the best looking MPVs on sale and the styling tweaks on the post-2010 models didn't change that view. These changes were relatively minor, comprising LED daytime running lights, a revised front bumper, redesigned tail lamp clusters and more prominent double chevron badges on the front grille and tailgate. There are seven seats in all Grand models and, unusually in this class of vehicle, there's space for a couple of soft bags in the boot with all the seats in place and stowage can be augmented by useful cubbies.
Even if you're tall, getting into the rearmost row of seats isn't too taxing, thanks to the clever way the outside seats in the middle row fold up like cinema seating and slide forward with the tug of a handle for easier access. You wouldn't want to stay cooped up in the back for long though. It's far better to leave these berths for the kids or fold them under the floor to take advantage of 672-litre capacity that's then created. Fold all of the seats down, a feat which can be performed in an impressive 20 seconds, and there's a massive 1,951-litres to play with.
There's no handbrake in the C4 Picasso, at least not in the traditional sense, and the gearlever is either dash-mounted - or completely absent on the EGS-equipped automatic models which use a column-mounted stalk and paddle shifters to operate the transmission. This creates a wide space between the front seat and a feeling of openness around the whole front of cabin area. Storage bins pop-up at every turn in this vehicle, including a particularly neat air-conditioned one beneath the dash to keep drinks cool. And although some of the plastics seem less than robust in places, the build quality is generally impressive.
What to Look For
The Grand 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 to make sure that it engages gears cleanly and does not drop into a false neutral when it's decelerating to a standstill in 'automatic' mode. 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 Grand C4 Picasso 1.6 VTR+) Consumables for the Citroen Grand 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
Climbing aboard the Grand C4 Picasso for the first time may leave you a little taken aback. The glass area would do justice to a modest greenhouse. The panoramic windscreen arcs overhead and after just a short interruption for the panel holding the extendable sun visors, there's an optional full length sunroof that extends all the way back to the third row of seats. Wishbone-shaped windscreen pillars have glazed centre sections to further boost visibility and the sun visors can slide forward when needed to shield the eyes of front seat occupants on sunny days. Factor in the low window line and Citroen have created the lightest and airiest of interiors for the growing family where all seven occupants get an unhindered view out.
There's space aplenty up front and excellent headroom everywhere. The facia has a typically quirky Citroen flavour with a stubby high-mounted gearlever for the six-speed gearbox, a centrally-located instrument display (which, incidentally, can be illuminated in five different colours) and separate control panels for the heating and air conditioning at either end. If you've been used to a more conventional layout, it will take a little getting used to. The driving position is high but benefits from a tilt and reach-adjustable steering wheel and well-spaced pedals, which makes it easy to get comfortable. And although the seats look quite thin, they're well proportioned and supportive on long trips.
There are few thrills to be had behind the wheel, even in sporty-sounding VTR models, but the Grand C4 Picasso is safe and reassuring on the road. While lacking the sharpness and feel of more dynamic rivals, it still turns into corners with confidence and despite more body movement, always remains composed. The ride is also accomplished - it soaks up bumps with ease and is supple enough to isolate imperfections from the cabin. The 1.6-litre HDi diesel boasts smooth power delivery, fine mechanical refinement - especially at motorway speeds - and enough pace for most situations. If you want an easier drive still, there's Citroen's EGS semi-auto, complete with steering wheel paddle shifters, which is standard on higher-spec diesels. It has a slightly jerky shift in auto mode, but is smoother if you use the paddles and suits the relaxed nature of the vehicle.
The Citroen Grand C4 Picasso is a used car bargain. We'd counsel finding a well-looked after diesel car that hasn't covered a huge mileage and then negotiating hard on it. As family transport, it barely puts a foot wrong. The 1.6 HDI engines get great economy, they offer decent pull when fully loaded and the interior, especially with the glass roof, feels a very special place to sit. Reliability isn't at all bad and the interior on facelifted cars is better than the early models. If the family budget is feeling a bit stretched and you need the extra space, the Grand C4 Picasso shouldn't prove too much of a stretch.