Citroen Grand C4 Picasso BlueHDi 120 EAT6 review

This improved version of Citroen's stylish seven-seat people carrier is a showcase for its semi-auto, paddle-shift EAT6 transmission. Jonathan Crouch sees if it makes a sweet match with the 1.6 BlueHDi 120 diesel engine.

Ten Second Review

Citroen's classy, glassy second generation Grand C4 Picasso 7-seat MPV brought a new level of sophistication to the People Carrying market at its launch in 2013 - and still does. Today's improved version features sharper design, extra equipment and, in this BlueHDi 120 EAT6 guise, an efficient BlueHDi diesel engine mated to an improved EAT6 paddle-shift gearbox. For growing families, this avant garde people carrier continues to combine style and substance like little else.

Background

Style isn't generally high on the list of attributes that typical family buyers are looking for when it comes to the purchase of a 7-seat MPV. Still, it's nice to have - and could be the deciding factor if you're faced with options that all seem much of a muchness in terms of price and practicality. Such is the appeal of Citroen's Grand C4 Picasso, the 7-seat version of the brand's 5-seat C4 Picasso model. Both cars are now well into their second generation model run, the new design first introduced back in 2013, but since improved with more efficient BlueHDi diesel and PureTech petrol engines. Now the car has had a minor facelift too. The version most 'Grand' customers choose is the one with the mid-range 'BlueHDi 120' diesel engine and we thought we'd check it out with the brand's improved EAT6 semi-auto gearbox, a good match for the torquey powerplant.

Driving Experience

Citroen is offering two 1.6-litre diesel options to Grand C4 Picasso buyers, a base 100bhp unit and the 120bhp variant we're looking at here, which has the advantage that it can be optionally mated to the efficient 6-speed semi-automatic EAT6 gearbox we tried. None of the 1.6-litre BlueHDi derivatives have the power to really set the heart racing, 62mph from rest in the BlueHDi 120 EAT6 variant needing 11.2s en route to 117mph. If you want to go faster and have more to spend, your Citroen sales person will offer you a 2.0-litre BlueHDi 150 Grand C4 Picasso that can cut a further second off the 1.6's 0-62mph sprint time on the way to 121mph. Until you master it and lift off between changes made via the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, the EAT6 transmission can seem jerky and unresponsive, though it's better in this respect than the previous EGS 'box that was previously fitted to this model. Once you adjust though, the system actually works very well. We can see though, why many would be more comfortable with a more conventional manual 'box. While lacking the sharpness and feel of more dynamic rivals, the Grand C4 Picasso still turns into corners with confidence, and despite more body movement, always remains composed. The ride is also accomplished - it soaks up bumps with ease and is supple enough to isolate imperfections from the cabin. The self-levelling rear suspension and long wheelbase give the car a very relaxed gait, and excellent straightline stability.

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 silver coloured roof bar option. 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, you get up to 793-litres of bootspace when the third row of seats is pushed into the floor, a total that can rise as high as 2,181-litres with the middle row also folded. Those middle row seats 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 - and the rearmost pews are really only suitable for kids. 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

You'll pay a premium of around £1,700 to get this 7-seat Grand C4 Picasso model rather than the standard 5-seat variant. Prices for the BlueHDi diesel 'Grand' models start at just under £22,500 for the 100bhp variant; we think it's probably worth finding just under £800 more for the slightly pokier 120bhp version featured here and there's a further £1,350 premium to find if you want the EAT6 semi-automatic transmission. Mind you, that lot will bring the asking price of your Grand C4 Picasso close to the £25,000 point, even if you go for entry-level 'Touch Edition' trim. Plusher 'Feel' and 'Flair' variants are available further up the range. New media developments include a Citroen Connect radio that includes 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 Grand 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 Grand 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

Citroen's latest BlueHDi diesel technology combines an efficient Stop & Start system, a reversible alternator that recovers energy during braking, an e-booster function that re-starts the engine instantly (in 0.4 seconds) and a refined Euro 6 1.6-litre engine with, in this case, a 6-speed EAT6 semi-auto transmission. This advanced powertrain delivers combined cycle economy of 72.4mpg for the Grand C4 Picasso BlueHDi 120 EAT6, with CO2 emissions of 105g/km. That's better than the manual gearbox version manages (70.6mpg and 106g/km). What else? Well Citroen's Picasso brand has a good reputation on the used market and it holds its value better that many of the marque's other products. Maintenance costs will be aided by the option of an affordable three year servicing plan. Plus there are reasonable insurance groupings rand the usual three year / 60,000 mile warranty.

Summary

It would be easy to overlook the Grand C4 Picasso in a compact MPV market filled with high-profile seven-seat alternatives. But that would be a mistake. This Citroen remains as practical and versatile as any car in its sector and features like the extended windscreen still give it showroom appeal that many rivals can't match. Of course, it'd be even better if some of the unique selling points of plusher Grand C4 Picasso models - the optional lounge-style front passenger seat for example - could be fitted more widely across a range that would then have real stand-out advantages over rivals. But even as it is, this car's improved line-up is a strong one, its extra equipment and efficient engine range stacking up well on a spec sheet that only a few decades ago would have read like an impossible dream for growing families confined to family hatchbacks and cramped estate cars. They expect more these days - and MPVs like this deliver.