Citroen’s Picasso, the new leader in the people-mover class
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This burgeoning class of car acquires a new leader. This is one we’d have.