IMAGINE a sweet little grandmother who owns a 1985 Toyota Corolla. She's had it since new, drives it to town twice a week (very slowly) and has never strayed above 46 in a 60kmh zone. You know the type.
Now, would you give her the keys to a 515kW Lamborghini Aventador? Of course you wouldn't. Aside from the fact she'd probably kill herself as well as others, letting granny loose in a Lambo would be a heinous waste of such a car's abilities.
Which brings us to the seven-seat Citroen C4 Grand Picasso. You could give this family orientated people mover to a childless 20-something performance car fan, but would he really appreciate its raison d'etre? Clearly not. His hedonistic life is simply not relevant to the market this car is pitched at.
So when I was given keys to said Grand Picasso for a month's long-term evaluation, I did the most earnest thing a motoring journo could do. I handed it over to the wife so she could cart the pre-schooler and baby around town complete with all their associated kiddie wares.
In many ways my wife is typical of modern mums. Give her an SUV (preferably of German origin) and she is blinded by the belief this is the only thing suitable for her child-dominated life. People movers? They conjure up thoughts of 1990s Toyota Taragos and Mitsubishi Starwagons. Do you want to humiliate your children at kindy drop-off?
She's clearly not alone. Australians bought less than 12,000 people movers in 2015, but family SUVs (Medium, Large and Upper Large models) snared nearly 300,000 annual sales. That's a thumping.
But guess what? A month later and come time to hand the Citroen back there were shudders of horror. It only took a few weeks, but the Grand Picasso's slow-burning charms bowled over the whole family. It is simply a brilliant, smart and stylish tool for those burdened/blessed with children.
The better half said up front you get "good supportive seats and excellent captain's chair arm rests", but mentioned there's a "small plastic bit by my calf that's annoying." She and the kids loved the expansive panoramic roof (especially at night) and the giant windscreen where you slide up the sun visors (well, basically the front section of the roof) to give incredible surround visibility.
Air vents for the second row (but not third) were a positive, but it seems Citroen's air-con system doesn't have the guts for an Aussie summer. It took an age for the car to cool down, and having climate controls through the touchscreen rather than a rotary dial is a pain. Hot and bothered kids need to be cooled immediately.
Second row seating space got top marks: with two child seats in situ it was easy to walk past (the seats easily slide backwards) and fit an adult between them.
High marks also for the widescreen 12-inch info screen where all your vitals are found, including digital speedo, trip info, fuel gauge, sat nav and entertainment. There's so much there it does take some learning, while the steering wheel is so laden with buttons and dials it would make a tech guru's head spin, let alone a busy mum's.
On the road
It's a people mover so comfort over thrills is quite rightly the bias. Lady of the house said the 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel was excellent (she mentioned "strong torque" to her credit) if a bit noisy at times, and also suggested the ride was wallowy. I said in a people mover wallowy meant comfortable, and that she wasn't driving a BMW. No rear seat kiddie vomit proved it passed the most important ride comfort test, of course.
The Grand Picasso is auto only, with a delicate column shifter (which takes a bit of getting used to) and steering wheel paddles (which never got used). The six-speed proved pretty refined and unfussed, much like the comfy family orientated drive experience of the Citroen as a whole. Despite its size - and helped by a raft of cameras and beepers to help you park - it's actually easy to live with in town too.
What do you get?
Modern tech and safety features are fundamentals here. You get the 12-inch HD screen and a 7-inch multi-function touchscreen, 360-degree park assist, sat nav, keyless entry, parking sensors, LED running lights and 17-inch alloys. The current free tech pack (for a limited time) also brings xenon headlights, electric tailgate, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, collision avoidance alert and active seat belts (they start vibrating if you stray out of your lane). Sadly, no airbags for the third row however.
The front quarter light windows mean far better front and side visibility than today's common massive A-pillars, while the rear camera and 360-degree vision for parking got the thumbs up.
Cabin versatility and ease of use is king in people movers, and the Citroen scores highly here. Second-row seats slide and fold with minimum effort, while the third row seats pop up simply.
There are myriad smart storage compartments - including underfloor bins for the kids - tray tables for the second row seats, and with that row slid forwards (and third row folded) you get a mighty 793-litres of boot space. Fold both rows and you've got a van-like 2181-litres.
Fuel consumption hovered around the 6-litres/100km; a fair chunk over quoted, but superb nonetheless.
There are your similarly priced seven-seat SUVs of course, but let's show the people movers some love. The Kia Carnival diesel ($43,990), Honda Odyssey VTi-L ($46,040) Hyundai iMAX diesel ($41,490) and Toyota Tarago ($46,990) are chief rivals.
Citroen is basically French for quirky, and the Grand Picasso is a striking design. Those sleek LED front lights and giant panoramic windscreen look superb, while the dash layout (everything centralised and nothing in the driver's forward vision) is unconventionally cool.
Got a family? About to buy an SUV? Just hold your horses. People movers are only fully appreciated once you actually live with one, and the seven-seat Citroen was a cherished family member during our month-long tenure. Great kit, safety gear heavy and brilliantly practical for parents and kids with its roominess. It's not perfect, but just try to find a seven-seat SUV this easy to live with.
What matters most
What we liked: Massive door entry makes loading kids in easy, vast internal space, versatility and ease of moving seats for reconfiguring use, included spec and safety gear, unique styling in and out, six-year unlimited warranty.
What we'd like to see: Fewer steering wheel buttons (Formula 1 steering wheels are less confusing), airbags for third row of seats, so much glass means it needs a more powerful air-conditioner.
Warranty and servicing: Six-year unlimited kilometre warranty with 6 year / 90,000km Citroen Confidence capped price servicing.
Model: Citroen Grand C4 Picasso Exclusive.
Details: Seven-seat front-wheel drive people-mover.
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel generating maximum power of 110kW @ 4000rpm and peak torque of 370Nm @ 2000 rpm.
Transmission: Six-speed automatic.
Consumption: 4.6 litres/100km (combined average, 18 inch wheels).
Performance 0-100km: 10.2 seconds; top speed 207kmh.
Bottom line plus on-roads: $44,990 including Tech Pack valued at $5000 available free for a limited time.
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