THE Citroen C4 Picasso, a stylish, compact and practical offering from the French manufacturer is now on sale in Australia, slightly later than expected but sporting the sort of top-rate technology and generous inclusions that should grab attention.
Citroen claims the innovative five-seater, which follows in the wake of the successful Grand Picasso (seven seats) released last year and which has already won a string of European awards, drives like a hatch, offers the practicability of a wagon and the ease-of-access of an SUV. Sales are expected to come from buyers doing the rounds in all three segments as well as from lovers of the C4 range.
The interior of the C4 Picasso is noticeably different, with two stacked centrally located high-resolution display screens replacing much of the traditional switchgear. The larger of the two, a 17.7cm customisable number, can be controlled from the steering wheel and provides access to vehicle settings, navigation and driver aides and can even display photographs if you so desire.
The lower touch-screen is your gateway to the audio system, sat nav, telephone and Bluetooth functioning, driving aides and media as well as climate control. While the twin screens make a nice change, they can be a bit fiddly, making it more difficult, for example, to change the temperature without taking your eyes from the road.
Our test car was fitted with soft leather in contrasting colours that complemented the decor. The seats - three individual ones in the rear, each with child-seat fixtures - are supportive and comfortable, although I did find the Lazy Boy-style leg rests in the front a tad cumbersome.
The elevated seating position and abundant use of glass allows for great visibility while driving.
There are plenty of storage compartments - 16 in all apparently - including under-floor compartments and large door pockets, although the cup holders would struggle with a regular takeaway coffee cup.
Leg and headroom is more than generous for all occupants, and the boot, at 537 litres with the seats in place, growing to 630 litres with the pew moved forward and 1851 with them folded flat, would be useful.
On the road
The C4 Picasso is offered in Australia in a single variant - a 1.6-litre turbo petrol, developed with BMW, paired with an updated six-speed transmission.
The combination delivers 121kW and 240Nm, which will do you in most instances, but struggles sometimes low in the rev range and when climbing steeper roads. The four-potter can battle to move a vehicle which, despite sporting a platform that is 140kg lighter, remains a sizeable unit.
The Citroen C4 Picasso offers a relaxed, comfortable and unfussy drive.
You notice the height a little bit around the twisties, but on civilised roads and in and around the city, which will be its greatest
domain, it is hard to fault. It is better mid-range once it has gathered its thoughts than from a cold start and it is quiet, too, very quiet, so plaudits for that. True, there is limited driver engagement and it is not quite up to hatch handling, but the suspension soaks up most irregularities, and manoeuvrability is excellent.
What do you get?
Citroen has justified the C4 Picasso's price tag by stocking it with a number of standard first-in-class inclusions.
Obvious standouts are the 360-degree camera with reverse camera and Park Assist, but the list also features 17-inch alloys, front and rear parking sensors, auto-folding electric mirror with dip for reverse function, panoramic glass roof with electric sunblind, keyless entry and start, dual-zone climate control, and conversation mirror among other things. Safety features are grand, too, with the likes of six airbags, anti-lock brakes with brake assist and EBD, traction control, hill hold, cruise control with electronic speed limiter and blind-spot monitor.
For an additional $2000, the Driver Assist package will get you lane departure warning, smart beam function, active cruise control, anti-collision warning, active seatbelts and electro-chromatic rear-view mirror.
Official figures stand at 5.6 litres/100km, with Citroen also offering a peace-of-mind six-year unlimited-kilometre warranty. The French manufacturer is also adding to its 24 retail sites and 29 service centres around the country, targeting growth regional areas.
Citroen is looking to young families and older couples without children at home as the top buyers of the C4 Picasso, and to this end they have equipped it with great selling points. The elevated height aids entry and exit and also helps when getting kids into and out of car seats. Rear air vents on the B-pillars with their own controls are also a bonus, as is the versatility of the second-row seating. Rear window blinds and the folding seat tray are also good ideas. But despite the marketing spiel, this is more a people-mover than a hatch, but a really good one at that.
The C4 Picasso looks a lot like its big brother, the Grand Picasso, but sharper styling moves it away from the van cues and more towards a sharp, modern city wanderer.
It retains Citroen's trademark dual-chevron grille but boasts a new front bumper with recessed headlamps and a wider air intake. Its lower, stouter footprint combines nicely with a dropped belt-line and unique tailgate for a very noticeable vehicle.
This is a really worthy offering from Citroen, with excellent styling, amazing inclusions and a comfortable drive.
But at $40,990 - just $4000 less than the seven-seater Grand Picasso - the stumbling block will be the price. While it may be a fact that buyers always leave a dealership having added a number of extras to their purchase, it is in fact that lowly entry-model with few bells and whistles but a low advertised price that gets them to walk in there in the first place.
What matters most
What we liked: Spacious interior with an air of difference, comfortable easy drive and versatility.
What we'd like to see: A touch more low-range power, larger cup holders, a drop in price.
Warranty and servicing: Six-year unlimited kilometre warranty and roadside assist and six-year/90,000km capped-price servicing.
Verdict: 3.5 stars
Model: Citroen C4 Picasso Exclusive.
Details: Five-door five-seat front-wheel drive small people mover.
Engine: 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol generating maximum power of 121kW @ 6000rpm and peak torque of 250Nm @ 1400-4000rpm.
Transmission: Six-speed automatic.
Consumption: 5.6 litres/100km (combined average).
Bottom line plus on-roads: $40,990
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