You’ve got to give the folks at Citroen credit for naming one of their cars the Picasso. Just not the reasons you might think.
Sure, at a glance it seems like the height of cockiness to name your people-mover after one of art’s true masters. But then you take a closer look at Picasso's work; all famously weird, disproportionate and kind of jumbled up.
All of which works just fine in a painting, but is unlikely to be exactly what a car’s designers are striving for.
Regardless, the seven-seatCitroen Grand C4 Picasso has been kicking about Australia’s new-car market for a number of years now, only without ever making much in the way of a splash on the sales charts. But the big Citroen was updated last year, with the French carmaker tweaking the design and cabin technology in an attempt to lure more customers into its flagging model.
So should the updated Grand C4 Picasso be on your shopping list?
Is there anything interesting about its design? Have you seen this thing? Suddenly all that Picasso stuff is starting to make more sense. In short, this is not your average people-mover, and it looks a million miles away from the boring van-like human-shifters you might be used to.
Outside, the two-tone paint of our test car lends the Picasso a funky, youthful look, helped along by the big alloys, oddly shaped windows and strips of LEDS up front.
The Grand Picasso sits on 17-inch alloy wheels. (image credit: Andrew Chesterton)
Climb inside, and the cool tech offering dominates the dash area, sitting below a windscreen so huge it's like sitting front row at an IMAX theatre. The materials and two-tone colour scheme work well inside, and while some of the touch-points don't feel overly premium, it does all feel well put together.
It just so happens that, during my week-or-so piloting the Citroen, I had to pick up a new sofa bed. And despite suspecting (but refusing to measure, obviously) the dimensions would overwhelm the Picasso, I gave it a crack regardless.
Amazingly, once you flatten those two back rows of seats, the Grand C4 Picasso genuinely becomes like a little mobile moving van. Dropping the seats for the first time is a little bit fiddly, but the space is super impressive once it's done. Citroen claims 165 litres with all three rows in place, up to 793 litres with the second row folded flat, and a whopping 2181 litres in full mini-van mode.
Once you flatten those two back rows of seats, the Grand C4 Picasso genuinely becomes like a little mobile moving van. (image credit: Andrew Chesterton)
There's up to 793 litres with the second row folded flat, and a whopping 2181 litres in full mini-van mode. (image credit: Andrew Chesterton)
Citroen claims 165 litres of boot storage with all three rows in place. (image credit: Andrew Chesterton)
All the usual stuff is there too, of course, like the two cupholders up front and room for big bottles in the front doors, and the area where a traditional gear-shifter might be has been replaced by a crazy-deep storage bin (the shift controls are by way of steering-column mounted stalk in the Citroen). Back seat riders get their own 12-volt socket and door-mounted airvents, along with room in the doors for bottles, too.
But the headline act of the Citroen is the clever little stuff you discover more of as you go along. There’s a little flashlight in the boot, for example, which I used during Operation Sofa Bed. A double rear-vision mirror helps you see what the kids are doing in the back seat, and the passenger seat has this raising leg rest or ottoman, which is not a million miles away from the feature offered in the most expensive German premiums, only for a fraction of the cost.
The second row of seats are all individually mounted, too, so you can slide them forward and back to configure the space however you want. And as a result, space in any of the three rows hovers somewhere between good and great, depending on how you work the seats.
Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?
With just the one “Exclusive” trim level, it’s a pretty simple choice here, folks; petrol or diesel. Opt for the petrol, and you’ll be parting with $39,450, but should you choose the diesel powerplant fitted to our test vehicle, that price jumps fairly significantly to $45,400.
The cool tech offering dominates the dash area, sitting below a windscreen so huge it's like sitting front-row at an IMAX theatre. (image credit: Andrew Chesterton)
The second row of seats are all individually mounted, so you can slide them forward and back to configure the space however you want. (image credit: Andrew Chesterton)
That money buys you the five-door, seven-seat Grand Picasso, which sits on 17-inch alloy wheels and serves up auto headlights and those cool puddle lights that illuminate the footpath as you approach the car. It’s a one-touch boot, too, opening and closing on demand.
Inside are cloth seats, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and push-button start, while cabin technology is covered by a killer 12-inch centre screen that pairs with the six-speaker stereo, along with a second seven-inch screen that handles all your driving information.
That's enough to produce a 10.2-second sprint to 100km/h, and a top speed of 207km/h.
The petrol and diesel get a six-speed torque converter automatic. (image credit: Andrew Chesterton)
As mentioned above, you can get a petrol model with a 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbo engine producing 121kW and 240Nm. This is a new addition to the line-up, with the pre-facelift version of the Grand C4 Picasso being diesel only. The petrol also gets a six-speed torque converter auto, is FWD, and does 0-100km/h in 10.2sec, on its way to a top speed of 210km/h.
It’s inevitable that with a car as clever as this Citroen, the way it drives is always going to take a backseat to the many other things that it does. Its practicality perks and spacious interior, for example, are surely going to outweigh its on-road dynamics on the "reasons to buy" list.
So it is a really pleasant surprise, then, to jump into this thing to discover that it is actually a real treat to drive. For one, it doesn’t drive like a big car. It feels small and easily manvourable from behind the wheel, the steering is surprisingly engaged with none of that bus-like play you can sometimes find behind the wheel of a big car.
The ride is terrific on Sydney's dodgy roads and the gearbox is relatively seamless in its operation. (image credit: Andrew Chesterton)
It's easy to park, easy to tackle corners in, the ride is terrific on Sydney's dodgy roads, and the gearbox - aside from a little lag at the beginning of proceedings - is relatively seamless in its operation.
The diesel engine slips into a nice and quiet mode when driving. It does get a little bit louder when you plant your foot, and it's not quick, but the power supply really matches the character of this car - nobody is buying this to win traffic-light derbies, but there’s enough power there to get around without ease.
Downsides? Weirdly for a car that’s so clever, it has one of the worst reversing cameras I’ve ever seen, which is like watching blurry and pixelated TV From the 1970s. There’s also, for mine, a little too much safety focus. It can feel like you're in Mission Impossible just waiting to trip one of many alarms that sound when you get something wrong. If you try and turn the engine off and the car isn't in park, for instance, a siren (a literal siren) starts blaring like you’ve been nabbed breaking into a bank vault.
Also, the technology is there, but it doesn’t work as smoothly as I’d like it to. The stop-start button, for example, often requires several prods to actually switch off the engine, and steering column-mounted drive selectors are a pain in almost every application I've ever seen them in, including this one.
What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?
ANCAP safety rating
A fairly impressive safety offering starts with six airbags (front, side and curtain - but the curtain airbags only make it to the second row, not all the way to the third - disappointing for a passenger-focused car like this) but it adds some clever tech like active cruise control, lane departure warning with assistance, blind spot monitoring with steering intervention, auto emergency braking (AEB), a reversing camera and a 360-degree parking system that offers a bird's eye view of the car. It can even park the car for you, plus there's driver fatigue monitoring and speed sign recognition as well.
Citroen's Confidence Service Price Promise allows you to check the price of the first six services online, but they ain't always cheap, with costs currently listed at between about $500 and $1400 per service.
For every car that is inexplicably successful, there's one that inexplicably isn't - and the Citroen Grand C4 Picasso is firmly in the latter camp. Its endless practicality perks, comfortable on-road dynamics and sharp looks should really have earned it more fans, and yet it languishes in the sales race.
There are few options out there that are as comfortable, smart and stylish, yet also practical enough to elegantly move seven humans - or a sofa bed.
Does the Citroen Grand C4 Picasso appeal to you, or would you go for a mainstream offering? Let us know in the comments section.