The fam­ily haul stars

Two movers, one func­tion and a big dif­fer­ence in price and per­for­mance

The Courier-Mail - Motoring - - Prestige - CRAIG DUFF

IF money talks, the Citroen Grand C4 Pi­casso is an elo­quent or­a­tor against the Pro­ton Ex­ora’s terse chat.

The premise of the two ve­hi­cles is the same: to trans­port a fam­ily of five and still have the flex­i­bil­ity to oc­ca­sion­ally in­clude a cou­ple of friends. The oc­ca­sional bit bears some at­ten­tion — load up ei­ther ve­hi­cle with a full com­ple­ment and the de­fault stor­age space won’t take a pram.

If the func­tion’s the same, the form is poles apart. The Citroen is a tech-laden trans­porter with a price tag to match; the Pro­ton ap­peals to the bot­tom line of the house­hold budget.

VALUE

There’s a gulf of nearly $20,000 sep­a­rat­ing the Ex­ora from the Pi­casso. Pro­ton’s people-mover is $25,990 drive-away for the base GX model, mak­ing it the cheap­est com­pact people-mover on the mar­ket. The value is re­in­forced by free ser­vic­ing for the five-year war­ranty term.

Stan­dard gear in­cludes park­ing sen­sors, roof-mounted DVD player and air­con with vents for all three rows. The top­spec GXR costs $27,990 all-up and adds leather trim, re­vers­ing cam­era, cruise con­trol and day­time run­ning lights

Citroen’s $43,990 price be­fore on-roads also is the high­est in this class by a fair mar­gin. That re­flects the more lux­u­ri­ous ma­te­ri­als through­out the cabin — and such top-end touches as a bird’s-eye view re­vers­ing cam­era, dual dis­plays to han­dle in­fo­tain­ment and driver in­for­ma­tion and self-park­ing.

The Grand C4 Pi­casso has a six-year war­ranty — the best in the coun­try — but does with­out a capped price ser­vic­ing sched­ule.

Ri­vals to this pair in­clude the Fiat Freemont at $27,490 and the Kia Rondo from $29,990. Step up to the eight seaters and the Kia Grand Car­ni­val and Honda Odyssey start at $38,990. Hag­gle on the Kia — a new and vastly im­proved ver­sion is due next year.

TECH­NOL­OGY

It is Fu­tu­rama v Flint­stones. The Ex­ora’s big­gest claim to fame is the DVD player nor­mally re­served for more ex­pen­sive ve­hi­cles.

The 1.6-litre four-cylin­der turbo shared with the Preve GXR small sedan isn’t an ex­cite­ment ma­chine but is more than ad­e­quate in this ap­pli­ca­tion, even with five adults aboard. It is paired with a con­tin­u­ously vari­able trans­mis­sion that is far from best of breed.

Mo­tive power for the Citroen comes from a 2.0-litre turbo diesel with no short­age of torque once un­der way and an auto stop-start func­tion. It uses a con­ven­tional six-speed auto with pad­dle-shifters.

The Pi­casso has a seven-inch touch­screen to op­er­ate the in­fo­tain­ment and air­con. The 12-inch top screen dis­plays the speedo and sat­nav and can be con­fig­ured in a va­ri­ety of ways.

DE­SIGN

The mas­sive glasshouse is the Citroen’s big­gest point of dif­fer­ence in a field where many ve­hi­cles share the same ba­sic pro­file.

It is also its big­gest point of con­tention given the scorch­ing Aussie sun — those in our north­ern lat­i­tudes tend not to ap­pre­ci­ate panoramic sun­roofs.

The wind­screen is also huge and rakes up over the roof. The wind­screen pil­lars ac­com­mo­date front quar­ter win­dows so out­ward vi­sion is am­ple. The front seats are great; the sec­ond and third rows are flat but rea­son­ably well cush­ioned.

It loses points for not hav­ing cuphold­ers in any of the rear seats (no par­ent will trust the in­den­ta­tions in the sec­ond-row pop-down trays and sim­i­lar de­pres­sion by the right side third row seat) and for not hav­ing air vents for the back seats.

The Ex­ora is down­right con­ser­va­tive by com­par­i­son in terms of ex­te­rior looks, though the five-year-old de­sign isn’t dat­ing too badly.

The in­te­rior is a mixed bag: ba­sic, scratch-prone plas­tics but de­cent stowage bins and cuphold­ers for sec­ond and third- row oc­cu­pants (cen­tre seat ex­cepted).

SAFETY

The Citroen is a clear win­ner here with­out giv­ing to­tal se­cu­rity. Cur­tain airbags ex­tend to the sec­ond row of seats but don’t cover the back pews. Along with a solid body, that’s enough to earn it a five-star ANCAP rat­ing and a score of 34.53/37 that isn’t far be­hind the class-leading Peu­geot 5008 and Kia Ronda.

The Ex­ora doesn’t have airbags for the sec­ond row (or head­rests in the third) and didn’t fare as well in the crash- test­ing. Its score of 26.37 earns it a four-star rat­ing. It’s worth not­ing it is the old­est car in the Pro­ton line-up and newer mod­els have all earned five stars. Pro­ton has also promised sec­ond-row bags when a new Ex­ora launches in 2015.

DRIV­ING

Ig­nore the body roll around cor­ners and both cars ful­fil their brief as stress-free mass trans­porta­tion.

The Citroen does it with more style, as be­fits the price dif­fer­ence, and again ap­plies a dif­fer­ent phi­los­o­phy to the driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence with light­weight steer­ing and soft sus­pen­sion that soaks up most hits but can nudge the bump stops if tack­ling speed humps at pace.

The Pro­ton is tied down tighter, which helps over the big­ger bumps at some ex­pense to rear seat com­fort on cor­ru­ga­tions. At lower speeds and/or over smaller ob­sta­cles the big side­walls on the 16-inch tyres and de­cent damp­ing ab­sorb a lot of the im­pact.

The ex­tra torque from the turbo diesel puts the Grand C4 Pi­casso clearly ahead in the per­for­mance stakes with­out too much noise in­tru­sion, as the auto shifts up early when­ever pos­si­ble.

The same can’t be said for the Ex­ora, with plenty of me­chan­i­cal noise heard up­front, es­pe­cially when the CVT is tasked with brisk ac­cel­er­a­tion.

VER­DICT

The choice comes down to plain white bread or a baguette. The Citroen is clearly the tastier morsel but for many fam­i­lies with three young kids the no-frills Ex­ora will be the more prac­ti­cal buy, al­beit with­out the re­as­sur­ance of those ex­tra airbags.

Poles apart: Citroen C4 Grand Picasso and, be­low, Pro­ton Ex­ora GX

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