The second generation C4 Picasso five-seat MPV has long been one of Citroen's more interesting models. And it's at its best with the top BlueHDi 150 diesel engine installed under the bonnet. Performance meets prudence here. Jonathan Crouch reports on the improved version.
Ten Second Review
The second generation Citroen C4 Picasso brought a much needed injection of style to the compact five-seater MPV market. And did so while delivering practical substance as part of this most French of People Carrying propositions. Especially in BlueHDi 150 diesel form. Now the French brand has subtly improved this car.
It may have been created to go head to head with five-seat MPV rivals such as the Ford C-MAX and the Renault Scenic, but Citroen's C4 Picasso feels cut from rather different cloth. Emboldened by the success of their boutique DS line of cars, the French brand has decided to inject a measure of style and desirability into many of its other wares and the C4 Picasso still looks like something that's just driven off a motor show stand. It's a clever piece of product design and speaks to family buyers who need practicality but don't want to sacrifice style. That has usually meant that they buy crossovers or 4x4s but these days, a fresh wave of increasingly high-concept MPVs like this C4 Picasso offer a real alternative. Sounds good doesn't it? Let's check out this improved version in top diesel BlueHDi 150 guise.
As before, this C4 Picasso is built on what Citroen calls its EMP2 platform, which has been co-developed with Peugeot and, like the Volkswagen Group's MQB chassis, is designed to be easily customisable to different configurations. This means that the vast majority of forthcoming Peugeot and Citroen products will ride on a version of these underpinnings. Citroen is keen to tell us that this platform helps to reduce kerb weight - which is clearly going to help when it comes to economy and emissions. But does that also mean the C4 Picasso is a sprightly handler? Sadly not. There's a fair amount of body roll and there's little in the way this car is set up that gives us too many clues about the inherent talent that's latent in the chassis. Ride quality isn't at all bad, with a slightly taut feel giving it a little more alertness than its predecessor and Citroen has clearly paid a lot of attention to improving refinement at speed. And speed is certainly in evidence in this top diesel BlueHDi 150 model, rest to 62mph occupying 9.7s on the way to 130mph.
Design and Build
This revised model keeps the previous version's three-tiered light signature at the front, which is synonymous with Citroen's contemporary design language. The grille though, which is separated into two parts by the body-coloured bumper, has been updated and now sports a glossy black registration plate mount and a second air intake. Plus there are smarter 3D-effect rear lights, classier 17-inch diamond-cut alloy wheels and the option of a black two-tone roof. Otherwise, it's much as before, with clever interior packaging that designer Frederic Soubirou is clearly proud of. We like the optional lounge-style front passenger seat that features an extendable footrest and massage function. On a more practical note, there's a 537-litre boot that's 60-litres bigger than that of a Ford C-MAX. Slide the rear bench forward and you get up to 630-litres. We'll deal with the long wheelbase C4 Grand Picasso separately, but the standard length car features three rear seats that can be slid back and forth, reclined or folded flat independently of one another. What's more, the floor is devoid of a raised tunnel, aiding utility still further. The side windows do angle in fairly sharply which can make taller rear seat passengers feel a little pinched but other than that it's hard to find fault. Materials quality in the cabin is smart, with classy metal finishes and simple yet effective ergonomics, something we have rarely been able to say of previous Citroens.
Market and Model
Expect to pay in the £24,000 to £27,000 bracket for this top BlueHDi 150 diesel variant, so you're looking at a premium of around £1,200 over the BlueHDi 120 variant, the next diesel model down. That's a fraction more than some rivals with comparable powerplants. It's fairly easy to see why customers would pay a small premium for the C4 Picasso though. It's the reason why buyers will pay more for an Apple versus a Dell - slicker design values. New media developments introduced as part of this revised model range include a Citroen Connect radio that incorporates Apple CarPlay and MirrorLink smartphone connectivity. And a 'Citroen Connect Nav' system with connected services that can tell you everything from weather forecasts to local parking and fuel station info. These functions, like many others in the cabin, are marshalled by the big touch screen display. We know some of you prefer the tactility of a switch or button and there are occasions when the C4 Picasso's screen demands your attention for longer than is ideal, such as when adjusting the cabin temperature settings, which will require you to navigate away from, say, the sat nav or stereo functions and find the ventilation screen. Yes, it helps clean up the fascia but at some cost to actual everyday utility. Even entry-level C4 Picassos are fitted as standard with alloy wheels, Bluetooth and a six-speaker stereo with a USB socket. Range-topping models get features such as adaptive cruise control and the rather lovely lounge-style front passenger seats. It's just like being in a TGV. Except slower and without French school kids constantly running past.
Cost of Ownership
This car's modern EMP2 chassis is 140kg lighter than its predecessor, which is the weight of an adult and a teenager taken straight off the scales. In fact Citroen claim that this car weighs about the same as the C3 Picasso, which campaigns in the next class down. The weight loss plan isn't the only angle of attack the French company has taken. Aerodynamics have been improved, Stop & Start technology fitted to most cars and the low-friction drivetrains result in carbon dioxide emissions that are a big improvement on the previous generation model. That's a significant amount in terms of the tax you pay, whether you're a private buyer or a company car buyer who needs a bit more space. As a result, the 150bhp BlueHDi diesel we're looking at here is able to deliver a very strong turn of speed, yet 68.9mpg on the combined cycle and 107g/km of CO2. That's thanks to a clever selective catalytic reduction module there to treat nitrogen oxide and limit carbon dioxide output. Citroen offers a three year / 60,000 mile warranty with the C4 Picasso which, in this day and age, is about the minimum they could get away with and in the face of five and seven year deals from key rivals offers some scope for improvement.
When most car manufacturers set out to build an MPV vehicle, they look to tick three boxes. Their car must be practical, it must be safe and it's got to be relatively cost-effective to run. Anything after that is a bonus and the corporate bean counters usually view anything else as an extravagance. Not so Citroen. It maintains that an MPV should do all of the basics but in addition to that it can be expressively designed and something you'd be genuinely proud to own. Going above and beyond the call has set this C4 Picasso a long way apart from the class norm. It's a car that's unashamedly at its best in a relatively upspec trim with a pokey engine like the BlueHDi 150 diesel unit we've been looking at here. In such a guise, it just feels like a car that's been designed with love. From the panoramic windscreen to the lounge-style massaging passenger seat, from the widescreen HD display to the fact that you can sit here and Facebook your friends on the touch screen, it's an MPV that's a joy to operate. It's time we recognised that the Citroen of old is back. The manufacturer that took risks and created magic. That it can do that with this MPV, this box on wheels is all the proof we need that Citroen is back in the game. For any true car enthusiast that is great news.