Citroën’s new C4 Pi­casso fails to get into gear, ac­cord­ing to Neil Lyn­don

The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday - - Life Lifestyle -

Hor­rid, hor­rid, hor­rid. The Count­ess of Wes­sex’s pul­veris­ing judg­ment on Cherie Blair came to mind ev­ery time Citroën’s new C4 Pi­casso changed gear. The au­to­mated man­ual ETG6 gear­box on the ver­sion I was driv­ing at the re­cent launch felt like a drunk at a party who is con­stantly lurch­ing into your back and spilling your drink. Ev­ery time it shifts a cog, the car de­liv­ers another thump be­tween your shoul­der blades. It’s an ex­tra­or­di­nary short­com­ing and, ar­guably, also one of the C4 Pi­casso’s most unique char­ac­ter­is­tics. Like most mass-pro­duced cars th­ese days, this com­pact MPV is an in­di­vid­u­ally- de­signed car­cass en­cas­ing a mass of com­po­nents that come from other com­pa­nies and are com­mon to many other brands. Citroën doesn’t just share parts with Peu­geot – the other com­pany in the PSA con­glom­er­ate – but is also in part­ner­ship with Ford and BMW over en­gine de­vel­op­ment, with Fiat to make vans and with Toy­ota in a sheaf of joint de­vel­op­ments. Al­most all the sec­ondary, dig­i­tal ap­pa­ra­tus in this car – from the sat­nav with its 12in high-def­i­ni­tion screen to the en­gine­m­an­age­ment sys­tem – will have been com­mis­sioned or bought in from a spe­cial­ist man­u­fac­turer. The world is not short of mak­ers of ex­cel­lent au­to­matic gear­boxes. Couldn’t Citroën sim­ply have gone out and bought one off the shelf for the C4 Pi­casso? Lord knows they have knocked them­selves out on other com­po­nents. Priced from £17,500, this car teems with in­no­va­tive gad­getry. The 7in touch­pad for the 12in screen fea­tures seven touch-sen­si­tive con­trols and con­tains so many func­tions in its Mul­ti­C­ity por­tal that mas­ter­ing them all might take half a day’s in­ten­sive study. As with Volvo’s lat­est in­for­ma­tion sys­tems, Citroën seems to in­tend the C4 Pi­casso to func­tion like a mo­bile iPad as much as it is meant to trans­port you from place to place. Other nonau­to­mo­tive com­par­isons also ap­ply. The more ex­pen­sive ver­sions of this car of­fer a lounge pack like a busi­ness­class air­line seat which in­cludes mas­sage pads and an elec­tri­cally ex­tend­able leg-rest for the front-seat pas­sen­ger. Like Ford’s C-Max and Kia’s Carens – the most stylish and ap­peal­ing choices in the MPV field – the C4 Pi­casso has been de­signed to look more like a hatch­back than a van. In­stead of the in­verted Christ­mas pud­ding which the orig­i­nal 1999 Citroën Pi­casso most re­sem­bled, Frédéric Soubirou has crafted a shape that looks more like a box with rounded ends. The rear is so rounded that it al­lows a few mil­lime­tres more space in the load area. Clev­erly, Soubirou has com­pressed the out­ward di­men­sions of the C4 Pi­casso, com­pared with its im­me­di­ate pre­de­ces­sor, while mak­ing more room for pas­sen­gers and lug­gage in­side than any other com­pact MPV. More than five square me­tres of glass, Price (as tested): £27,775 Power: 115bhp 0-60mph: 12.3sec Top speed: 117mph Av­er­age fuel con­sump­tion (claimed): 70.6mpg CO2 emis­sions: 105g/km Insurance group: 18E Star rat­ing (out of five stars): Kia Carens Price: £17,895£23,895 For: nifty looks, seven-year war­ranty Against: not elec­tri­fy­ing to drive Rat­ing: Ford C-Max Price: £17,350£23,925 For: good to drive Against: tight for space in­side Rat­ing: in­clud­ing a panoramic wind­screen and a glass sun­roof make the C4 Pi­casso feel like a con­ser­va­tory, while also pro­vid­ing ex­cel­lent all­round vi­sion for the driver. It is built on PSA’s new EMP2 plat­form which will form the ba­sis for more than 20 mod­els to come from the group, in­clud­ing Peu­geot’s forth­com­ing 308. Given the per­sis­tence of a nasty sus­pen­sion thump in the C4 Pi­casso, I’m not cer­tain that this new plat­form marks much of an im­prove­ment com­pared with, say, the Peu­geot 5008 MPV which I have been keep­ing very hap­pily at home as our fam­ily bus. Where PSA have achieved a marked im­prove­ment (as our ex­pe­ri­ence with the 5008 has so far con­firmed) is in the re­li­a­bil­ity of their prod­ucts. Citroëns and Peu­geots have inched up the charts in im­par­tial sur­veys of cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion and Which? re­cently named the Citroën C1 the most re­li­able su­per­mini (which might not sur­prise any­body who un­der­stands that the C1 is ef­fec­tively a Toy­ota). Given such progress, Citroën re­ally ought to do bet­ter than the C4 Pi­casso’s three-year man­u­fac­turer’s war­ranty (com­pared with Kia’s sev­enyear war­ranty on the Carens). “Ab­so­lutely hor­rid,” as the count­ess con­cluded in her re­marks on another sub­ject.

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