Citroen’s major step in the right direction
For the moment, MPVs are ‘in’, having replaced the conventions of the larger car sector, with a raft of convenience factors that users and their families adore, although Iain P W Robertson suggests that Citroen may have just set a fresh benchmark.
What is it that ‘they’ say about those people, who seek things, need to ask for them in the first place? We all do it. Very few modern consumers are ever totally and blissfully happy with their little lots. Yet, raising complaints is something at which we are also, generally, not very adept. However, from a carmaker that needs (desperately) to alter preconceptions and to turn on families, once more, to its largely successful, time-worn Picasso line-up, the latest Grand version just might be the consummate family car.
Naturally, style is at stake and Citroen has been able to differentiate between the slightly smaller footprint of the regular, five-seat Picasso, with some interesting trim additions. The most noticeable of these is the ‘alloy-look’ strake that emerges from the rear shoulder line, rises up the D-pillar to become the fixing rail for roof-rack addenda and then plunges down the A-pillar for an intriguing new finish. The rest is within the car, which now reveals seats for seven and a marginally roomier boot area.
Fortunately, the rearmost pair of chairs, while notionally suitable for tinier occupants, does fold-up willingly and easily from the boot floor, when required. The rest of the time, the Grand Picasso is just a longer, slightly larger version of the otherwise exquisite ‘standard’ Picasso, while carrying a slightly larger price tag.
The fact is, I am being slightly facile here. You see, I have no personal requirement for seven seats. I do not volunteer to transport the local 5-a-side soccer team, plus the sponge carrier, to tournaments and fixtures. I do not own an antiques emporium. My children have flown the coop…as indeed has the former and mostly fragrant Mrs R. Therefore, my review of this new, enlarged, yet lighter (by 110kgs) variation on a well-founded theme is based on letting you know that it is not really for me. Yet, I do know people for whom it would be ideal.
Let it be said that I could easily have a love affair with the five-seat version of this car (the Grand, by Citroen’s own definition, is just a little longer, carries a heftier price tag and is marginally more accommodating). Not looking further back than the middle row of three individually adjustable seats, the new model is simply beautiful inside, with an abundance (not over-wrought) of textures and tactile surfaces that ooze high quality and a newly discovered desire to satisfy.
The dashboard layout, with its twin-screen displays, the lower of which is of a ‘touch’ variety and handles most of the car’s functions, while the upper is geared more towards readouts and statuses and can be personalised to perfection, is one of the most explicit and reprogrammable in the motor industry. It provides copious information, without becoming overtly, or annoyingly, complex. In fact, Citroen has managed to endow so much detail that button-pushers (you know who you are!) will be happy for life, as long as the Gallic electronics can live up to expectations and hopes.
On the obverse side of the coin, if a car in this class is to be thoroughly effective, it also needs to behave on-road. While the centre of gravity is clearly several inches higher than that of a Citroen C4 hatchback, which does promote slightly more top-heavy ‘waywardness’ to its handling envelope, there are no major foibles worth reporting and the Grand Picasso rides well and despatches open road bends with aplomb.
The engine choice is intriguing and, while I have not yet driven the tax-busting 90bhp model (possessing a 98g/km CO2 status that equates to a zero VED and lower benefit-in-kind levy, as well as an in excess of 70mpg potential, were it a company car), I managed both the latest automated transmission 150bhp diesel variant and the assured market-leading 115bhp eHDi model (also diesel), with a slick 6-speed manual gearbox and excellent, efficient, overall performance.
My choice would lie with this latter version, probably equipped with the superb twin-clutch automated ’box. List prices (which nobody pays these days) start at £19,200 and rise to £27,855, which is certainly a market-competitive range. The fact that the new Picasso (in either five or seven seat guises) looks so wonderfully pugnacious, with its ‘boxer’s’ snout that features jewel-like headlamps and high-mounted Daytime Running Lamps, and can be specified to a very high standard are pretty good reasons to consider it next time around.
Conclusion: If you do not need the extra seats, or space, opt for the five-seater and save a few bob. Regardless, a new Picasso is a safe place to reside and for an easy motoring life, it makes sense on a number of strata. I would venture to suggest that this is the first ‘What’s-Not-To-Like?’ motorcar and quirky Citroen kind of sits happily with quirky B-C-ing-U. Can you see what I did there…?