First Drive: Citroen C4 Picasso

Got married and created children? Life might just continue…

Memories of the original, ground-breaking Picasso have been tainted by the fact it was left on sale so long, an egg-shaped car that was outclassed by virtually everything on the road by the end of its life.

It all started so differently. There had been nothing like the Picasso, and it’s that magic that Citroen is hoping to capture with the new model, a car you might actually want to own, rather than be forced to drive for practical reasons.

That strong LED-clad front end, with its high grille line that sweeps round the front end, gives way to a profile that looks like it’s swallowed a set of conventional car doors. It combines flowing curves with ruler-straight lines in to something that sounds wrong but ultimately works well. Yes, the Picasso can once again be described as stylish.

It’s lost nothing of its practicality, either. Despite being a few centimetres shorter than its predecessor, the new C4 Picasso manages to squeeze considerably more space inside. Fold down all the seats, including the front passenger seat, and you’ll be able to squeeze a surfboard in. Or, if that’s just a bit too ‘lifestyle’ for you, then a Billy bookcase from Ikea won’t be a problem.

Keep it as a full five-seater and there remains a boot that will swallow 537 litres fo things, as well as cubby holes all over the cabin. The cabin, incidentally, will take four adults with room to spare in all directions.

A large, centrally mounted dashboard houses an all-digital display that shows details on virtually everything in the car, while a second display mounted lower down allows you to control virtually everything. That means there are very few physical buttons in the car, making it a beautifully minimalist environment.

It’s not perfect though, with software glitches causing problems. You can’t have details of whatever is playing on your media player on one screen along with sat-nav on the other. A software update could solve that, I’ve been told, but I’d still like to see a handful of buttons for the most commonly used features.

Few distractions should allow you to concentrate on driving but, being an MPV, it’s not going to entertain in the same way that a two-seater roadster would. With a 118bhp diesel engine, there’s just about enough power to make town and city driving relaxed and easy. However, should the desire to emulate Romain Grosjean (after he stopped crashing) show itself, then you’ll find yourself changing gear frequently to keep speeds up.

Ride quality remains very good at all speeds, with little of the road surface finding its way through to the cabin. There’s no sensation through the rather lifeless steering wheel either, but at least the handling is safe and secure. Forget that Grosjean impression; there’s no fun to be had with the Picasso, the car being entirely uninvolving.

At least you can then focus on economy. Officially, 74.3mpg is promised, and my time with the car, driving perhaps a tad more enthusiastically than many buyers will, saw the computer record just over 50mpg. That’s a good result, although I’ll have undoubtedly emitted more than the 104g/km of CO2 that allows the car to fall in to car tax band B.

The Ford C-Max is a far more entertaining car to drive, but lacks the style, flair, economy, smooth ride and outright practicality of the Picasso. If driving dynamics doesn;t come at the top of your list, then the Citroen has an awful lot going for it. The school run will never be the same again.

Model Tested: Citroen C4 Picasso Exclusive BlueHDi 120
Price: £22,315
Engine: 1.6-litre turbo diesel
Top speed: 117 mph
0-62 mph: 11.3 seconds
Power: 120 PS (118 bhp)
Torque: 300 Nm (221 ft-lb)
Official fuel economy: 74.3 mpg
Road Test economy: N/A
CO2 Emissions: 100 g/km
VED Band: B / £20 per year
Car insurance group: 20E
Kerb weight: 1,320 kg
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Phil is a motoring writer for print and web, failed racing driver, car hoarder and banger rally competitor. Nominated for the Headline Auto Rising Star award and a MGMW member, Phil freelances for outlets as diverse as Diesel Car magazine, and Cambridge Magazine, amongst many others. He also maintains a fleet of unloved motors, but spends most of his time driving an old Corvette.

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