I’m sure Citroen has a department at its French headquarters named “Strange Ideas”. Their cars have a lot of them. Some of their new ideas are very good – groundbreaking even. Some are, well……strange, writes Ian Strachan.
Take the latest version of the Citroen C4 Picasso for example. There’s no doubt that this is a good looking MPV. It’s sleek and distinctive, and has a very spacious interior. As well as comfortably incorporating seven seats it has lots of other features. Some are excellent. Some need a little more thought.
For instance my test car was fitted with something called an “active seatbelt safety system”. In practical terms this meant every time I drove off my seatbelt – and that of my front seat passenger – pulled me so tight into my seat I thought I was going to be garrotted. To be fair, this may have been a fault on the test car – but to say it was disconcerting would be an under statement.
And Citroen has also decided that many of the car’s basic controls will be via the touch-screen on the dashboard. Sounds good doesn’t it? Except that simple operations like turning up the heater fan, adjusting the heater temperature or switching the automatic stop/start on or off can’t be done safely while you’re driving. If you want turn the heater up, you have to pull over and do it. A simple knob would do – a case of technology being unhelpful rather than helpful.
I test drove the 2.0 diesel powered C4 Picasso in Exclusive+ specification. The 150 horsepower engine is willing, smooth and quiet. With a pleasant six-speed automatic gearbox, it has effortless performance. This gearbox is a huge improvement on automatic gearboxes fitted to its predecessor, which could be hesitant to say the least, although why the gearshift has to be on the steering column baffles me. I thought column change went out – quite rightly – many years ago. It’s awkward and counter-intuitive.
The design of the latest C4 Picasso is clean and bang up-to-date. It is pleasant to look at and pleasant to be inside. Styling is attractive, and the whole car has personality.
Inside the C4 is bright and airy, helped by a huge front screen which goes up and over the front seat passengers. This creates a panoramic and pleasant environment and great field of vision. A downside is that the sun visors are virtually over the driver’s head, and so are fairly useless. Glare is also a problem on very bright days.
The seats, with folding armrests, are more comfortable and supportive than most cars in this class. The facia is deliberately simple, with a clear digital speedometer. The automatic park brake is operated with an electronic button in the centre of the dashboard which is easy and quick.
Storage space is generous, with large illuminated central compartment, underfloor drawers under all seats and big door bins. Leg and headroom is more than adequate and boot space is generous.
There are other clever touches around this Citroen. Like a mirror to keep an eye on troublesome back seat passengers, and a radar-guided cruise control with collision alert if you get too close to the car in front. My test car also came with park-assist, all round parking sensors and cameras and a blind-spot monitoring system. If you hit anything in this car you can’t say you weren’t warned!
Fuel economy is good, returning an impressive 61.4 miles to the gallon in mixed driving.
On the road, the C4 handles extremely well. The power assisted steering is sensibly variable – always giving you good contact with the road. Cornering is positive and effortless. Pneumatic rear suspension absorbs bumps well. This car’s suspension feels a little harder than you’d expect from a Citroen but it’s still very comfortable.
Automatic dual zone air conditioning, remote central locking with immobiliser, a DAB radio with USB sockets, media streaming and Bluetooth, satellite navigation, 18 inch alloys, hill start assist, sun blinds, all round, electric windows and electric, heated door mirrors are all standard.
This is a good package and well worth the £27,855 on the road price. My test car came with a range of options including metallic paint (£520), leather seats (£2,000) xenon headlights (£750) and 360 degree park assist (£450).