Cue best

Citroen’s Pi­casso, the new leader in the people-mover class

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Front Page - PAUL POT­TINGER CARS­GUIDE EDI­TOR paul.pot­tinger@cars­guide.com.au

CAN 250,000 buy­ers a year be wrong? Yes. They buy com­pact SUVs in the lem­ming-like mind­set that it’s a fam­ily car.

Com­pact SUVs pro­lif­er­ate yet there’s not a sin­gle out­stand­ing ex­am­ple, be­cause it’s in­her­ently com­pro­mised, a cross of small hatch­back and off-roader that typ­i­cally has the lim­i­ta­tions of both and the as­sets of nei­ther. If you’ve the least re­gard for those ge­netic repli­ca­tions of yourself in the back, buy a people-mover.

The only real lim­i­ta­tion of such a ve­hi­cle is its la­bel. Yes, they can move seven (some­times eight) people in vary­ing de­grees of com­fort.

Yet a people-mover’s great at­trac­tion is ver­sa­til­ity. You can have seven up, just the driver or un­told com­bi­na­tions of hu­man and/or inan­i­mate cargo.

Nor are “people-movers” merely fam­ily cars. Any­one whose re­cre­ation ne­ces­si­tates large pieces of ex­pen­sive equip­ment need look no fur­ther. Euro­peans call them MPVs — multi-pur­pose ve­hi­cles — but do we need an­other acro­nym?

So Citroen’s Grand C4 Pi­casso, re­leased this week, de­serves recog­ni­tion be­yond its Fran­cophile devo­tees.

VALUE

At $43,990 be­fore op­tions (of which there are few), it looks com­pelling, as would a still taller price tag from this driver’s seat (which is slightly el­e­vated and so an­other rea­son not to de­lude yourself with an SUV). The in­stru­ment dis­play is sin­gu­lar in the Citroen fash­ion, its form firmly func­tional.

Stan­dard fix­tures in­clude 12-inch high-def­i­ni­tion screen aug­mented by a seven-inch touch­screen with multimedia con­trols. Only last year did a sim­i­lar setup de­but in Benz’s flag­ship S-Class.

The en­try price in­cludes blind spot warn­ing, 17-inch al­loys, light­weight mo­torised tail­gate, sat­nav, park as­sist and — most im­pres­sively — rearview and 360-de­gree cam­era.

The $2K Drive As­sist Pack brings lane de­par­ture warn­ing, smart head­lights, ac­tive cruise, anti-col­li­sion warn­ing and ac­tive seat belts.

TECH­NOL­OGY

The diesel, the sole en­gine, is the first oiler to earn five stars in the Green Ve­hi­cle Guide — even if the eye-widen­ing 4.5L/100km (on stan­dard 17inch wheels) achieved in of­fi­cial test­ing will sel­dom be re­alised in fully bur­dened ur­ban re­al­ity.

The six-speed au­to­matic (with a torque con­verter) drives the front wheels. De­spite car­ry­ing the C4 des­ig­na­tion, the Pi­casso rides on a new plat­form and weighs in a good

100kg less than its pre­de­ces­sor — at 1440kg, it is no heav­ier than most fam­ily de­vices.

DE­SIGN

The var­i­ous Euro­pean awards it has ac­crued al­ready largely recog­nise the Pi­casso’s lit­tle touches, which are myr­iad and bor­der­line ge­nius.

There are dual rear-view mir­rors (the smaller one aimed at mis­cre­ants seated be­hind), vast stor­age spa­ces in­clud­ing an il­lu­mi­nated one un­der the cen­tral col­umn with out­lets for phone et al.

The gear shifter is an­gled north­east of the steer­ing col­umn so you won’t be for­ever knock­ing it into neu­tral al la Mercedes. Cop the torch in­side the rear com­part­ment and — of course — the ver­sa­til­ity af­forded by flat-fold­ing the sec­ond and third-row seats.

Then there’s the stuff you stum­ble upon later — un­der­floor stor­age for the sec­ond row means iPads won’t be stamped on and un­fin­ished food will rot to com­post.

Few of these fix­tures are unique but the way in which they’re seam­lessly in­te­grated is. There’s the fam­ily car then there’s this one, al­most re­defin­ing that no­tion. Hard to think the great cu­bist, whose name adorns the tail, would not have been taken with it.

SAFETY To the for­mi­da­ble ar­ray of cam­eras and alarms, add crash­wor­thi­ness. The Euro­pean safety agency’s fives­tar award in­cludes 88 per cent for child pro­tec­tion.

DRIV­ING

The prac­ti­cal mo­tif ex­tends to the drive. Stylish and clever though it is, dy­nam­i­cally the Pi­casso is filed un­der “de­vice”. What of it? Our drive out of Auck­land on Tues­day taxes it with no greater weight than two up­front but it’s hard to see how this driv­e­train will labour un­der load. It’s quick to sum­mon all 370Nm at the flex of your foot or, if that’s some­how too slow, by click­ing the pad­dle-shifter.

Avoid the swank of op­tional 18-inch­ers. These look hot but a bling fam­ily bus is not the last word in style — and they’re apt to con­vey within the noise and feel of coarser sur­faces.

A Pi­casso steers with zero ef­fort, though the wheel weights up some­what with speed. We’ll take an­other look when we can col­lar rear-seat vol­un­teers.

Ex­pe­ri­ence in­di­cates that the more on board the more re­laxed and com­fort­able this con­struct be­comes. Which is rather the point.

VER­DICT

This bur­geon­ing class of car ac­quires a new leader. This is one we’d have.

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