By Jonathan Crouch
Back in 2018, Citroen's classy, glassy Grand C4 Space Tourer (an updated version of the previous Grand C4 Picasso) aimed to offer the most practical, the most versatile and the most elegant solution to families shopping in the seven-seat mid-sized MPV segment. It's a sector aimed at those who need either a big boot or the option to take more than five folk, but don't want the sheer size and expense of a large segment People Carrier. If that's you, then you'll find that this efficient and sophisticated French contender takes care of the basics of space, safety and cost-effectiveness with ease, but where this model really excels is in the other things: style, technology and a very emotive feel. By People Carrying standards, it's a bit special.
Buying a seven-seat MPV is usually an exercise in sacrifice. You accept the fact that in return for three seating rows, you'll get something boxy, boring and bland. Or will you? With this Grand C4 Space Tourer model, Citroen begged to differ on that score.
You might well know this car better by its previous name, the Grand C4 Picasso. After years of wrangling with the great Spanish artist's family, Citroen finally abandoned using Senor Pablo's famous moniker in the Spring of 2018, adopting instead the 'Space Tourer' badge that the brand wanted to use going forward across its MPV range. The Picasso name had been synonymous with Citroen People Carriers since the turn of the century - and with seven-seat MPVs since the first generation Grand C4 Picasso model was launched in 2006. That car tapped into the major growth area in this segment amongst buyers who really only needed five seats but wanted the occasional versatility of a couple of extra fold-out chairs in the boot. This replacement design, originally launched in early 2014, made that arrangement more usable, thanks to extra interior room provided without the kind of excessive extra vehicle length that buyers in this sector tend not to want. Here, that additional space comes courtesy of the class-leadingly long wheelbase conferred upon this car by a clever, multi-patented EMP2 platform.
It all sounds quite promising, particularly as these practical and dynamic virtues are clothed in what is arguably the most stylish shape ever to clothe a family-minded MPV. Less futuristic at the original launch of this model back in early 2014 was the relatively old-tech engine range and the media connectivity on offer. Both these things though, were subsequently brought up to date, first with a model update in 2016, then with a further package of improvements introduced along with the change to 'Space Tourer' badging in Spring 2018.
These saw the range benefit from the PSA Group's 1.5-litre BlueHDi 130 diesel engine (replacing the previous 1.6-litre BlueHDi unit), with that improved powerplant able on request to be mated to a more sophisticated auto gearbox than had been offered before, the replacement 'EAT8' transmission set-up featuring much smoother shifting and eight speeds. At the summit of the range, there was a (short-lived) range-topping 2.0-litre BlueHDi 160 diesel powerplant. With the plushest variants, original buyers could specify a raft of extra camera-driven safety kit too. In prospect then, what we have here is a very clever People Carrier indeed, with a glassy, futuristic combination of hi-tech style and efficient practicality that ought to stack up as a used buy. Does it? Let's find out.
What You Get
Citroen is a brand with a heritage in design flair. A huge proportion of this vehicle's budget was lavished on aesthetics inside and out, with the result being a futuristic take on family transport that instantly makes almost everything else in this sector from this period look dull and derivative.
We liked it back at this model's original launch in 2014 and with its 'Grand C4 Space Tourer' badging, this Gallic MPV remained an eye-catching thing. That certainly seems to have been Citroen's perspective, for the French maker didn't really make any significant styling changes in all the time this particular design was on sale. The aesthetics still get your attention, with a distinctive three-tiered light signature and a windscreen that flows right up into the roofline.
Up front, the first thing you'll notice is the Panoramic windscreen. Push up the sun visor and your normal upward 28-degree angle of vision is increased to a massive 108-degrees. The dashboard is dominated by twin screens. Virtually all new cars have some sort of central infotainment screen these days like this Citroen's tablet-style 7-inch 'Touch Drive Interface' lower display, but more unusual in period was this model's snazzily futuristic 12-inch panoramic HD panel up top which replaced the normal set of conventional-dialled instrument gauges. We also really like the optional rear-facing 'conversation mirror' which is there to give an unimpeded view of which child has just stuffed its sticky sweet into your 12v socket.
So how will those children fare once they're installed rearwards and ready to plug their gaming equipment into one of the three 12v sockets scattered around the car? Well, pull open rear doors that open wide to a 65-degree angle for excellent access and it certainly looks pretty spacious, with comfort you can properly appreciate thanks to a proper seating arrangement. Unlike many People Carriers, this one doesn't position the unfortunate middle rear passenger with legs astride a central transmission tunnel and perched on some hard and narrow pierce of bulging foam. Instead, there's a completely flat floor and a rear cabin seating area made up of three separate identically-sized chairs (all with Isofix child seat mountings) that can be reclined and folded flat independently of one another. Avoid entry-level trim and you'll find that they can be slid backwards and forwards too.
What about the area of this car that sets it apart from its five-seater C4 Space Tourer showroom stablemate - the third seating row? Citroen reckoned that it was class-leadingly spacious back here, but that still doesn't mean it'll be especially comfortable for two tall adults on a long trip. Having said that, we need to be fair about this: no mid-sized MPV of just 4.6m in length is going to be able to offer that.
Finally, what about boot space? The restricted luggage space with all the seats in use won't regularly be an issue for most likely buyers, given that much of the time, they'll be using this car with the third row chairs folded into the floor. Do that and you'll find that no other mid-sized seven-seat MPV from this period can match what is the widest cargo area in the segment, stretching 1.17m between the wheel arches. As a result, with all three sliding middle row chairs pushed right back, there's 632-litres on offer. Push them all forward and that figure rises to 793-litres. Where this Citroen's spaciousness really is impressive though, is when you're able to fold both second and third row seating and use all the luggage space it can offer - a full 2,181-litres. Avoid entry-level trim and your Grand C4 Space Tourer will also feature a fold-flat front passenger seat for longer items, allowing a load length of up to 2.5m, enough for something like a kayak.
What to Look For
Most buyers of the second generation Grand C4 Space Tourer model that we surveyed were very satisfied but inevitably, there were a few issues with some cars. Most of the issues that arise tend to relate to things like the air conditioning and various spurious warning lights illuminating on the dash. Check these things on your test drive. One owner had a problem with the electronic handbrake that stuck on and stranded him. Others complained about starting problems, electric window squeaking and an engine management light that kept coming on in the dash binnacle. One owner had a problem with a drive belt that came off the runners. Look out for all these things when you check out used stock. A problem with the AdBlue system could mean that models made between October 2019 and March 2020 don't clean up their exhaust emissions properly. A Citroen dealer software update should have solved this problem, so make sure that's been done if it applies. Some models built in May 2018 had a loose oil sump plug; again, if that applies, make sure the recall work took place. Otherwise, it's just the usual things; check for alloy wheel scratches and interior child damage. And insist on a service history.
(approx based on a 2018 Grand C4 Space Tourer 1.5 BlueHDi) Consumables for the Citroën Grand C4 Space Tourer are reasonably priced. An air filter sits in the £10 bracket, an oil filter is around £7 and a fuel filter will sit in the £16 to £27 bracket. Brake pads sit in the £26 to £46 bracket for a front set (£28-£58 for rears), while front brake discs sit in the £52 to £70 bracket (£71-£114 for rears). A wiper blade will cost in the £7-£21 bracket to replace. A radiator is in the £147-£212 bracket. A water pump is around £21.
On the Road
On the move in a Grand C4 Space Tourer, the driving experience is a little bit different from what it would be in other rival family MPVs. There isn't much fun to be had in terms of driving dynamics but in compensation, 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 panoramic screen, makes it seem like you're suddenly viewing the world in high definition.
Under the bonnet back in 2018, much had changed since this car's original launch, Citroen having updated all of its mainstream engines. The volume BlueHDi diesel powerplant quickly switched from being 1.6 to being 1.5-litres in size, and its 130hp output was slightly higher than before. The 2.0-litre BlueHDi diesel option got a slight power hike too, to 160hp. Elsewhere in the range, the efficient 1.2-litre three cylinder PureTech petrol engine continued from the previous Grand C4 Picasso model, but only in 130hp form. There was a fresh auto transmission option too, the jerky old six-speed 'EAT6' self-shifter ditched in favour of a much smoother eight-speed 'EAT8' unit that was optional with the two 130hp powerplants and standard on the top BlueHDi 160 diesel.
So, how to summarise when it comes to Citroen's conquest of space? Well, this contender won't suit buyers prioritising sharp driving dynamics, but these people are in an extreme minority in this segment. Most in search of a modern People Carrier prioritise practicality, running costs and clever design. If, as here, they can have all of this with class-leading style and technology thrown in, then so much the better.
The second generation Grand C4 Picasso MPV developed this proposition and this Grand C4 Space Tourer model further sharpened it with a well-judged package of improvements. If that sounds appealing and you're in the market for a family 7-seat MPV from the 2018 to 2023 period, then we think you'll find a lot here you'll like.