First Drive

2016 Citroën C4 Picasso 1.2 Puretech 130 review

The Citroën C4 Picasso gets improved tech, new styling and more personalisation options to keep it ahead of rivals

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We have always thought highly of the Citroën C4 Picasso thanks to its Gallic flair, impressive versatility and low running costs. However, with the MPV market undergoing something of a crisis lately - due to buyers favouring SUVs and upmarket crossovers over traditional people carriers - Citroën has treated its stylish five-seater to a mid-life facelift in the hope of keeping it in some kind of contention.

Aesthetically, the Picasso has always been the most striking vehicle in the MPV class, so it’s no surprise that the C4’s styling remains relatively untouched for 2016. A wider front air intake, chrome foglight surrounds and 3D-effect rear lights enhance the already handsome design. Instead, Citroën has dedicated much of its time to perfecting its frustrating infotainment system.

Apple CarPlay and MirrorLink are two significant additions that should prove popular with buyers. Citroën’s Connect Navigation system now also finally offers 3D maps, touch operation and real-time updates. The addition of driver assist systems such as traffic sign recognition, lane departure assist and driver condition monitoring will also be a big pull for safety conscious families.

What's the 2016 Citroën C4 Picasso Puretech 130 like to drive?

Mechanically, the C4 Picasso remains virtually identical to the model it replaces, and as a result, the big Citroën can’t quite match the Volkswagen Golf SV dynamically. However, the Picasso’s drive has its merits.

On the demanding B-roads of our test route the revised model proved itself a good all-round package. Despite being tuned for comfort, the Picasso’s suspension gives the car impressive high-speed stability, body control and grip.

At lower speeds, things are a little less compliant. Over higher-frequency abrasions, the usually supple Citroën often feels unsettled, and consequently day-to-day driving isn’t the comfortable experience that it should be. The ride is noticeably better on the smaller 16in wheels that come as standard on entry-level Touch trim, but they don’t completely rectify the problem.

Aside from a new automatic option with the 1.2-litre petrol engine in Puretech trim, the range of engines also remains the same. So, as with the previous model, we suspect the mid-range 118bhp 1.6-litre diesel will be the most popular engine with buyers thanks to its impressive frugality and low running costs. However, it’s well worth considering the 1.2-litre Puretech petrol if you’re a private buyer and don’t do many motorway miles.

One of our biggest complaints with the turbocharged diesel motor is that it delivers its power in one big surge, so you have to keep changing gear if you want to make quick progress. There’s no such problem with the three-cylinder petrol engine. The motor pulls strongly from low revs and, unlike the diesel, it keeps performing well until it reaches peak power at 5500rpm.

However, Citroën’s new automatic gearbox is less convincing. On twisting B-roads, it was slow to respond, holding on to gears for too long and down changing mid-corner. Shifting gears via the surprisingly responsive column-mounted paddles improves things, but we’d still prefer a stick and three pedals.

What's the 2016 Citroën C4 Picasso Puretech 130 like inside?

With its high-up seating position, extended windscreen and low set dashboard, the Picasso has excellent visibility. For interior quality, the Golf SV is still the benchmark in the MPV class, but the Picasso isn’t far behind. There are plenty of soft-touch materials on the upper reaches of the dashboard, and most of the knobs and buttons operate with a well-damped action.

For 2016, the 7.0in touchscreen has been revised to incorporate a new Connect Nav system, as well as Mirrorlink and Apple CarPlay software, which make it simple to use a smartphone via the car.

The new touchscreen is a big improvement over the last unit, and the ability to pinch and swipe makes navigating the screen quicker and less of a hassle. However, the touch-sensitive buttons around the edges of the screen are still ambiguously labelled, so you have to study them to make sure you’re pressing the right one.

Ultimately, the Picasso’s biggest selling point is still its clever packaging. Individually tilting and sliding rear seats offer exceptional interior flexibility, and although the VW offers better rear leg room, there’s easily enough space available to seat three averagely sized people with ease.

All three rear seats can also be slid forward to increase boot space - a configuration that offers a whopping 630 litres of luggage space.

Should I buy one?

The improvements to the infotainment system and the addition of driver assist systems have helped to improve the Picasso. That said, it’s still not quite as involving to drive or as classy inside as a Volkswagen Golf SV.

It will also face stiff competition from the soon-to-arrive Renault Scenic, which promises to offer brilliant space and practicality. We'll have a first drive up soon.

Even so, right now, the Citroën still ticks almost every box for the majority of MPV buyers. It’s hard not to be impressed by its spaciousness, versatility and low running costs, and its edgy aesthetics still look great.


What Car? says...

Rated 4 out of 5


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Rivals:

Renault Scenic

Volkswagen Golf SV


2016 Citroën C4 Picasso Puretech 130 Flair EAT6 auto

Engine size 1.2-litre Petrol

Price from £25,245

Power 131bhp

Torque 170lb ft

0-62mph 10.1sec

Top speed 128mph

Fuel economy (official combined) 55.4mpg

CO2/BIK band 115g/km/23%