With SUVs flying off forecourts and onto driveways at a pace that doesn’t match their often-sluggish performance, the MPV class is seen as the wallowing hinterland of modern cars.
It’s where you end up when you’ve expanded your family beyond an estate car, and you’re trying to pretend you’re still driving a car, rather than a bus.
Well that might be the common perception from the outside looking in, but once you slip into the expansive interior of the Grand C4 Picasso, pack the kids into the seven seats it offers, your view might be quite different.
MPVs may not be sexy, but there’s a certain je ne sais quoi about this bigger C4 Picasso.
Citroen Grand C4 Picasso review: Design
In 2016, the Grand C4 Picasso has had a mid-life refit. The difference between the “grand” and the “regular” C4 Picasso is size. Where the regular model is designed to sit five bottoms, the Grand will allow two additional derrières on the third row of seats in the rear.
The Grand C4 pulls off a feat that’s difficult at this size: making the design interesting. That was true of the 2013 version of the body shape, but with Citroen being a little bolder with its designs than many, the results are pretty good. Sit the Grand C4 Picasso alongside the new VW Touran or Ford S-Max, and this people mover is certainly the more interesting to look at, adding more than a little oh là là.
There are family design elements on the exterior, like those sweeping blades that run over the roofline, now in silver on the Grand, giving a lift to an area that can quickly become rather boxy. A narrow rear pillar emphasises thewindows, while the Picasso’s windscreen is expansive.
Citroen has long been drawing the windscreen up and over the head of the front seats, giving great visibility and a feeling of spaciousness, something that evenTesla’s Model X now wants to ape. Combined with the panoramic sunroof, there’s certainly no lack of light, even with the healthy darkening for privacy on our review model.
The 2016 facelift sees a change in the rear lights to a 3D effect on all C4 Picasso models and a slight reconfiguration of the front light arrangement too, for a slightly wider-mouth look. That’s topped off with new badging on the rear for a more modern look.
Citroen Grand C4 Picasso review: Interior expansiveness
The danger in any larger car is how you treat those big surfaces. In an MPV, the dash becomes a huge thing, moreso given the rake of the C4’s widescreen. But sensitive styling and a mixed use of soft touch surfaces gives a result that’s rather nice, with a selection of interior choices, rather than swathes of black plastic.
There’s a pairing of displays in the centre, leaving the view for the driver rather empty: it’s just glass and road. There’s something liberating about that, although we’re not huge fans of the US-style steering-column mounted drive selector on this automatic model, but that might just be us.
Placing the displays in the centre of the car lend of one of the other feelings that the Grand C4 Picasso exhibits: it’s not a driver’s car (to use that cliché), it’s a passenger’s car, because those in the back have a much better view of what’s going on in the front.
That sees good provision in the rear seats for more entertainment. Rear tray tables, like in an aircraft, with individual reading lights and side air vents for the second and third row of passengers (on top trim levels) means that kids can be entertained and engaged, rather than just stuffed into a claustrophobic back seat and ignored.
The third row (seats six and seven) fold flat into the boot floor if wanted. This isn’t an uncommon approach these days and, yes, there isn’t huge space for legs in the rear – so this is really the place to put little ones, rather than a convenient seat for grandma. That said, seats can be moved forward to create space, as well as reclining for more comfort. There’s also a powered hands-free tailgate now on Flair models.
For the driver, there’s the addition of a second rearview mirror, so you can see why the kids have started punching each other; for the passengers there are sun-blinds built into the doors on this top-spec Flair model. It’s all about comfort, convenience and having a car that’s full of people.
Citroen Grand C4 Picasso review: The drive
Car reviewers talk about dynamics and handling, they discuss the immediacy of the brakes, responsiveness of the throttle and how it grips through the corners. In an MPV, none of that really feels important. Sure, you don’t want to feel like you’re driving a van and importantly the Grand C4 Picasso doesn’t.
With a 2-litre diesel under the bonnet, offering a satisfying 150bhp, this top-level Grand C4 Picasso drives rather well. There’s ample power for hauling it up hills and it’s pacey enough to exit roundabouts and join motorways without feeling like you’re holding up proceedings.
Citroen’s focus in the C4 Picasso is comfort and that’s entirely right. That means you’re given a suspension setup that soothes away rough roads and there’s enough noise deadening to avoid the sort of engine roaring that would detract from the zen interior. It’s no Rolls-Royce, but it’s a nice place to be when driving.
The 6-speed gearbox perhaps isn’t the most sophisticated and those looking for a more efficient drive might be drawn to the 6-speed manual, but we found the auto to be responsive enough, smoothly skipping up and down gears without the sort of lag that has plagued some autoboxes in the past. It also offers paddle shifters if you want to grab control yourself.
The 150bhp automatic in Flair trim is the most expensive Grand C4 Picasso that Citroen offers, reporting 115g/km CO2 and a reasonable 0-62mph time of 10.1 seconds. Alternatively, there are 100bhp and 120bhp diesel options and a 130bhp petrol. The 150 automatic claims a 64mpg combined cycle, according to Citroen’s figures.
Citroen Grand C4 Picasso review: Technology treats
Apple CarPlay support on the 7-inch touchscreen, as well as Mirrorlink for Android, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi for connecting your other devices, is a good starting point for a wide-range of tech treats.
We also like the fact that you can customise the colourways used on the displays. Don’t like that orange? Why not have blue instead? This is a car that’s all about those inside, remember.
Aside from those sorts of entertainment treats, there are a lot of smart options for driver assistance. There are options for radar-guided cruise control and the convenient placement of all the cruise control functions on the steering wheel means you can very easily manage these with your fingertips.
Then there’s lane detection, with an active system that will help pull the car back into a lane if you’re drifting out of it – just the sort of thing that’s handy for those long drives on family holidays. Pair that with speed limit recognition, intelligent beam headlights and you’re getting on your way to a fairly autonomous vehicle.
There’s also a coffee break alert and a massage option for when you’re getting a bit stiff behind the wheel. We can completely picture ourselves cruising toward the Med, kids sleeping in the back, being gently massaged as we eat hundreds of miles of French autoroute… and a brie-laden baguette.
The parking cameras are useful on a car of this size, but with the addition of automatic parking, the Grand C4 Picasso ends up being just as sophisticated as any other car on the road.
What you want from an MPV is something that makes your life easier. Something to put the family in without dreading it. And that’s what you’re getting from the Citroen Grand C4 Picasso: capacity, comfort, connectivity and a wide range of options that don’t feel like a compromise.
Perhaps more importantly, you’re getting an MPV that’s interesting – which is a rare thing. Citroen peppers the Grand C4 Picasso with verve and flair that you don’t always find in this class, both in terms of the exterior design, but also those interior details.
For anyone with a family, the fashionable choice has been to default to those big SUVs. But before you follow the herd, just pause for a moment and look at how much car you get from the Grand Citroen C4 Picasso. MPVs might not be sexy, but the Grand offers rare charm.