10 Second Verdict
Standout looks and a stylish interior for a very impressive all-round compact people carrier from Citroen.
Price: From £17,500; test 1.6 e-HDi 115 Exclusive: £21,555
Gearbox: Six-speed manual
0-60mph: 11.8 seconds
Top speed: 117 mph
Fuel economy: 70.6 mpg
CO2: 105 g/km
On sale: Now
Insurance group: 17E
Three UK Citroen C4 Picasso facts
What is it?
Citroen has enjoyed success with its people carrier range since launching the original long-running Xsara Picasso back in 1999. The real step up, though, came in 2006 when it launched the C4 Picasso: now, for 2013, it is replacing that popular model with an all-new one.
It immediately becomes one of the most stylish compact MPVs you can buy. Citroen has really upped the visual impact of the latest C4 Picasso, particularly on the premium Exclusive model RAC Cars tested. The chrome kit and polished alloy wheels really set off a body style that’s more crossover SUV than boxy old people carrier. Not everyone will like it but there’s no denying it’s different.
It is built on an all-new lightweight platform. The weight reduction is so great, it actually now weighs the same as the smaller Citroen C3 Picasso. Citroen says it has prioritised passenger comfort, with features including massaging seats and electric footrests, while there’s over five square metres of glazed area to give a really light and airy feel inside. It also has an excellent 88% child safety rating as part of its five-star Euro NCAP safety score.
Both petrol and diesel engines are available but the range is focused on diesel. It actually becomes the first non-hybrid people carrier to offer a model emitting less than 100g/km CO2, thus bringing a free road tax model to the range. Even the 115hp 1.6 e-HDi Airdream tested by RAC Cars could average more than 70mpg. Question is, how does it fare on the road?
The big advantage of the new ‘EMP2’ platform that underpins the latest Citroen C4 Picasso is a significant reduction in weight. The test 1.6-litre diesel model weighed less than 1300kg, which puts it on a par with the smaller C3 Picasso – this means that performance and pickup are very impressive.
The diesel engine is torquey and responsive anyway, so combining this with less mass to shift means the C4 Picasso responds well to the throttle, even at low engine revs. It makes for an effortless drive even at speed: in normal everyday use you shouldn’t need anything bigger, although loading it with people will erode that weight advantage and make you err towards the more powerful 155hp turbo petrol.
The engine is refined when cruising but can be a little clattery when accelerating, and we also noticed a few minor vibrations at times. It’s silent as you approach traffic lights though: the advanced e-HDi stop-start system cuts the engine off as you roll to a halt, starting it up instantly if you need to move away again. It doesn’t even have a starter motor, firing the engine with a silent squirt of electric power.
Many C4 Picasso are available with a paddleshift ETG6 gearbox. While the shifts aren’t the smoothest and most linear out there, some may prefer it to the six-speed manual we tested, because of its heavy gearshift. Enthusiasts will like the directness but the muscle needed to shift gears in town is a bit much. At least the electric parking brake is easy.
Ride and handling
A new platform means new advances in ride and handling. While the C4 Picasso is set up on the soft side, which means it does float and roll a bit more than a regular hatchback, the benefit is a smooth and absorbent ride quality, particularly over rough surfaces. It suits the character of the car well.
It’s particularly good in town where the extra rigidity of the platform enables it to soak up bumps and potholes without crashes or bangs. This also gives a more confident feel when driving at speed on the motorway: it feels like a sturdy, reassuring model.
Steering is light and accurate and the C4 Picasso is easy to place. Enthusiasts would ideally prefer something that rolled less, but the chassis itself is capable enough to provide a reasonably engaging drive. The family won’t like you racing about, anyway, so sit back and enjoy the ride…
The C4 Picasso has a superb interior. High quality, modern in design and packed full of interesting details, it’s a real differentiator that’s likely to help make it very popular in the compact MPV sector. The fact it is also roomer and more practical than before is an added bonus, too.
The dashboard is an open plan design with two electronic colour screens dominating: a big screen for the instruments and a smaller ‘Touch Interface’ for the sat nav, stereo and, innovatively, climate control settings. Both work well once you get used to them but could be a little off-putting at first, particularly as some of the symbols used to indicate different areas are illogical.
Superb design is set off with premium-like details, while the panoramic windscreen and huge side windows mean it all feels really airy. Indeed, the view forward is genuinely widescreen, which also helps make it easy to drive because visibility is so excellent. Some people will buy the C4 Picasso because of the forward view alone, and we would completely understand.
Front seats are set high and are supportively comfortable, while the three individual slide-and-recline chairs in the back are similarly impressive. Rear space is a bit tight for feet but otherwise is pretty good, while the boot is a well-planned and commodious size as well. It’s just a pity the tailgate is so heavy to close: an electric tailgate is available.
Special mention to gadgets: there seems to be no shortage of toys offered on the C4 Picasso. Our range-topping Exclusive had cameras all round, auto-park, sat nav with online functionality, keyless unlock and go, lane departure warning, even a forward vision system that sensed when we were getting too close to the car in front. Even better, all of the tech worked perfectly.
The compact MPV is becoming a crowded marketplace – particularly because several compact crossovers such as the Nissan Qashqai are including seven-seat options that are drawing family buyers in. Direct rivals include the Renault Scenic, Ford C-Max, Vauxhall Meriva, Toyota Verso and Peugeot 3008.
All C4 Picasso are very well equipped, with the base VTR including dual-zone air con, cruise control, Bluetooth with media streaming and electronic parking brake. The VTR+ will be the best seller and includes more interior stowage solutions, climate control, auto lights and wipers, reverse parking sensors and DAB radio. The Exclusive as tested is the luxury model and there’s an even more luxurious range-topping Exclusive+ with features you’d normally associate with posh Mercedes-Benz limo.
Prices start from £17,500 for the VTi 120 VTR petrol, with the HDi 90 diesel costing from £18,195. The ultra-economical VTR+ e-HDi 90 ETG6 costs £20,155 and the e-HDi 115 Exclusive we tested cost £21,555.
The new Citroen C4 Picasso is a very impressive new compact people carrier. It has been designed with its core family market in mind and is well configured to offer plentiful appeal to growing families. It is roomy, refined, punchy, comfortable and safe.
It is also a very stylish and standout-looking model that has an equally impressive interior. The cabin is sophisticated and also packed with technology, meaning the C4 Picasso has lots of features to help it stand out against rivals
That most engines are also very fuel efficient – including one that’s the most economical compact MPV currently on sale – adds to the appeal. Factor in keen prices and you have a new family-friendly people carrier from Citroen finance that comfortably ranks up with the class leaders.
Vauxhall Meriva – Clever rear-hinged rear doors give the able Meriva standout appeal in the sector
Citroen DS4 – The premium alternative to the C4 Picasso: less practical, more sporting
Renault Scenic – Ageing French rival to the C4 Picasso feels off the pace in comparison
Kia Carens – All-new and vastly improved new Carens offers seven seats for the price of Citroen’s five
Nissan Qashqai – Nissan’s perennially popular crossover model is a best-selling alternative to the Citroen people-carrier
Why not search for your next car on RAC Cars - its simple, quick and easy