First drive: Citroen Grand C4 Picasso


First drive: Citroen Grand C4 Picasso

Citroen wants to make MPVs desirable and has created the seven-seat Grand C4 Picasso to fit the bill. But can it really manage it? AOL Cars headed to Germany to find out.

What is it?

Citroen is patting itself on the back after its new five-seat Picasso has attracted more than 2,800 orders from UK buyers so far this year – 300 per cent more than the French firm was forecasting. And now the company is getting tres excite with the arrival of this new seven-seat version called the Grand C4 Picasso. Seven-seater MPVs traditionally sell better than ones with just five seats in the UK. But don't think Citroen has just chucked in a couple of extra seats to create this car, because the Grand Picasso has tweaked styling at the front and a totally different rear. Over the old Grand Picasso, this car's wheelbase is 11cm longer but crucially for any supermarket car parking, the new Grand C4 Picasso is only 1cm longer in overall size than the old model. The car appears on sale in January 2014.

What's under the bonnet?

There are two petrols both co-developed with BMW and are 1.6-litres in capacity. They come with power outputs of 120bhp and 156bhp – the latter being turbocharged. But of far more relevance to UK buyers are the diesels. There are two 1.6-litre units with 92bhp and 115bhp power outputs. While the lower-powered diesel impressively emits just 98g/km of CO2 and returns a claimed 74.3mpg, we only had the opportunity to drive Citroen's brand new 2.0-litre BlueHDi diesel engine. It pushes out a healthy 148bhp and yet manages 67mpg and 110g/km (or 117g/km when the six-speed automatic gearbox is fitted). It's the engine that makes the most sense in a car this size – but it isn't the quietest unit around.

What's the kit like?

Citroen hasn't confirmed specification levels yet but our test car was the top-of-the-range Exclusive+ model and gave a strong indication of what we can expect. Inside the car had limo-levels of kit including Star Trek-style seats with fabulously comfortable headrests and a footrest for the front-seat passenger. Our car also had as standard two colour info displays, two-tone leather upholstery, a powered tailgate and keyless entry and start, but every Grand C4 Picasso comes with Bluetooth, alloys and USB connectivity. Cars can also be specced with Citroen's new 360-degree camera system and a park assist feature which helps drivers parking in tight spots by controlling the car's steering. They'll be four trims – VTR, VTR+, Exclusive and Exclusive+ – eight body colours and indicative prices range from £19,200 for the VTR VTi 120 to £27,900 for the BlueHDi 150 automatic Exclusive+.

Any rivals?

The Grand C4 Picasso enters a vibrant and highly-competitive segment. Key players include the Ford Grand C-Max, Renault Grand Scenic and new cars such as the Kia Carens. The Citroen has style in spades compared to the competition.

Citroen Grand C4 Picasso

Citroen Grand C4 Picasso

What's it like to drive?

If you haven't driven a Citroen for a few years, then the Grand C4 Picasso is the place to start. Gone is the overwhelming feeling of fragility and in comes a sense of robustness. The Grand C4 Picasso's ride is the car's piece de resistance – it really mixes a floaty ride with capable body control admirably well. Don't think you're going to a get a hot hatch though as the car does roll around in the twisty stuff, but it's to be expected in a car destined for the school run. It's definitely the most stylish and classy car in its segment thanks to Germanic shoulder lines and distinctive LED lights at the front. Meanwhile, the interior is a triumph too. If you look past the slightly cheap-feeling lower-dashboard plastics, there's a huge step-up in quality. However, we're not fans of the infotainment system as, while the lack of buttons looks great, fiddling with features such as the climate control is a chore. Got the sat-nav on? You'll have to come out of that menu and into another one for the temperature controls via the touch-sensitive buttons – not easy to do at 70mph on the motorway and with screaming kids in the back. Meanwhile, our pick would be the six-speed manual as the auto' is not the smoothest.

The AOL Cars verdict

Despite the minor problems of the car's infotainment system, there's no denying Citroen has pulled off a masterstroke here. With the two rows of seats folded flat, this car has 2,181-litres on offer making it the most stylish mini van around. It's not bad to drive, built well in our eyes and is sure to be competitively priced. Perhaps the world can build desirable MPVs after all?

The knowledge

Model: Citroen Grand C4 Picasso BlueHDi 150 Exclusive+ 6-spd manual
Price: £27,000 (TBC)
Engine: 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, diesel
Power: 148bhp 370NM
Max speed: 130mph
0-60mph: 9.5 seconds
MPG: 63mpg
Emissions: 110g/km CO2