A cubist capacity
Citroen re-interprets the Picasso as a smart, almost sci-fi, five-seater hatch
CITROEN’S biggest seller is the Berlingo van, followed by the Grand Picasso, its wellregarded seven-seater with more cachet than other peoplemovers. So what made the brand think that by shrinking the car and removing two seats it would sell more cars? Price for one thing. Launched this week, the full-of-fruit C4 Picasso is priced from $40,990 plus on roads — $4000 less than its larger sibling. It’s not a big difference but Citroen likens the Picasso to a large hatch that will appeal to a different kind of buyer.
Shorter and lower than its Grand sibling, the Picasso still shares a platform with the larger car and related vehicles, including the Peugeot 308.
The rear bench is divided into three individually adjustable seats, all with Isofix tether points for child seats.
The 1.6-litre turbo (121kW/ 240Nm) is a version of the award-winning engine shared with BMW and Mini, retuned for better low-end response.
It is paired with a new sixspeed auto with paddle-shifters, though progress is leisurely. It’s nearly 1900kg in full spec and does 0-100km/h in 9.3 seconds.
Claimed thirst is 5.6L/100km — we averaged 8.7L in 300km of mixed driving — and the tank holds 57L of 95 RON.
Citroen delayed the launch so it could get the auto instead of the robotised manual that has copped much criticism.
The Picasso delivers some segment firsts such as a 360degree view monitor. Its selfparking setup can fit into spots with as little as 20cm clearance.
Standard gear includes satnav, 17-inch alloys, panorama glass roof, blind spot monitor, front and rear parking sensors, digital radio and dualzone climate control aircon. The spare is a space-saver.
Drive Assist, a $2000 option, adds lane departure warning, smart beam function, active cruise control, anti-collision warning and active seat belts.
Striking, almost space-age styling cloaks a smorgasbord of technology. The cabin is dominated by the two computer screens and large windscreen. The upper, super-wide 12-inch screen contains the two main instrument dials plus information panels. Choose from three themes or upload your own background image.
The lower touch-sensitive seven-inch screen controls all on-board and vehicle functions.
It’s a gadget lover’s dream but many could find the Picasso daunting to drive for the first time — it can take an hour to grasp how the technology works. The driving position is high and all-round vision is good.
The car performs well with two aboard. It could be a harder slog with a five aboard and large adults may not appreciate the smallish rear seats.
Ride quality is surprisingly supple even though the suspension has not been tuned for local conditions. Citroen says the Picasso is engineered to feel “just like new” even after 45,000km.
As good as it might be it’s a case of selling the brand rather than the car. The six-year unlimited kilometre warranty, capped price servicing plus roadside assist and the segment’s largest boot (537L) certainly won’t hurt.