- FIRST DRIVE – CITROEN C4 PICASSO
CITROEN reckons the style and technology of its new generation C4 Picasso model will cast a magic spell over prospective buyers.
And to emphasise the point the French brand picked a ‘wizard’ location for the UK press presentation of the newcomer – Warner Bros studios The Making of Harry Potter near Watford.
There’s no doubt the new C4 Picasso has its own sprinkling of stardust, having found 400,000 UK homes since the original Xsara Picasso was launched in 1999.
This latest version represents a quantum leap though, every facet of the car being more design-focused, upmarket and family-friendly than before.
Prices start at £17,500 for a car that sports a far more low-slung profile than its more boxy predecessor, while the higher spec versions – which top out at £24,455 – boast some seriously cool features.
Stuff like massaging front seats and an electric footrest for the front passenger, a pair of digital screens in the shape of a 7-inch touchpad and 12-inch panoramic HD screen plus 360-degree camera vision are all on the list.
The C4’s more compact shape is down to a new platform, though there’s no compromise to the car’s interior space.
What you get is a genuinely family-friendly offering with three individual rear seats, each providing ample leg, shoulder and headroom, along with a boot capacity that’s up 40 litres on its predecessor.
Citroen says you can even carry a Grandfather clock with the seats folded flat should the occasion arise.
Three diesel engines and two petrol units are immediately up for grabs while a new BlueHDi powerplant will follow during the autumn.
That said, 90 per cent of sales seem certain to be diesel-powered models, the most popular expected to prove the higher powered 1.6-litre unit with 115PS.
I sampled this version on a predominantly suburban/urban route, the sort of habitat in which these cars will spend much of their time, and found the engine to be both lively and frugal.
Kitted out in the top level of the four trim grades – VTR, VTR+, Exclusive and Exclusive+ – the Picasso was comfortable, dynamic and enjoyable to drive via its six-speed manual gearbox.
Attractive to fleets, which are likely to make up half the annual sale, the e-HDi 115 can return a claimed average economy of 70.6mpg – though my own fuel figure was way short of the official figure at 45mpg – and has low CO2 emissions of 105g/km.
I also drove the 1.6-litre HDi 90bhp model in mid-range VTR+ trim and while it’s not quite so upmarket as the Exclusive it is smart and comprehensive nonetheless.
The engine, with five-speed manual transmission, feels fine on flat suburban lanes and A roads but travel even slightly uphill and the car begins to labour.
Head out with a full complement plus luggage aboard and the lack of punch could be frustrating for many drivers.
Even lower – 105g/km – emissions, and an average 49mpg in my case as opposed to the official 70.6 figure highlight the HDi 90’s appeal though.
Otherwise the C4 Picasso ticks lots of family boxes. It looks smart, has a durable feel to the interior and, on the safety front, has achieved a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating with an 88 per cent score for child occupant protection.
And for those mums and dads who struggle to squeeze into tight parking spaces there’s Park Assist for both parallel manoeuvres or automatic reversing into a bay.
Those needing even more capacity plus the option of seven seats will have to wait until January when the new generation Grand C4 Picasso hits the streets.
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