The car Citroen Grand C4 Picasso 1.6 e-HDi 115 Exclusive
Run by John Bradshaw, chief photographer
Needs to transport photographic equipment and related clobber; take two teenagers and various sports teams all over the country; cover motorway miles in comfort
Run by What Car? since March 2014
What's it like?
The Citroen Grand C4 Picasso is a firm favourite at What Car?. It was named MPV of the Year in 2014 and again in 2015, so you may think it doesn’t have a lot left to prove. On the contrary, testing a car for 12 months is the best way to confirm our opinion.
So far, the Grand C4 Picasso has certainly made a good impression. The previous big Picasso became something of a household name in seven-seat MPV circles, and this version is only carrying on that reputation.
Most versions of the car are pretty good. Our favourite combination is the 113bhp 1.6-litre diesel in high-spec Exclusive trim, but buyers who fancy more power may be tempted by the 148bhp 2.0-litre engine. Having driven both, however, I’d say the more powerful diesel isn’t worth the extra money. It looks strong on paper but it's actually not that flexible – you need to change gear a lot to keep the engine in its sweet spot. What’s more, the 2.0-litre engine isn’t as refined as the 1.6 – it’s grumbly around town and sounds coarse when revved.
If you’re in the market for a Grand C4 Picasso, don’t just take our word for it. Ask your local dealer for a test drive in both versions and see if you agree with our verdict.
Our car has the 113bhp 1.6-litre e-HDi engine with a six-speed manual gearbox. It might not sound that powerful, but it’s more than enough to pull this big MPV along – even with seven people inside. Sure, you'd never call the engine gutsy, but the performance is entirely acceptable given the price. Official fuel economy is 70.6mpg, but a solid 45mpg or more seems the norm in our hands.
You have a reasonably commanding view of the road ahead, thanks to all that glass around the cabin, and the visibility behind and to the sides is brilliant (when it's drizzling, though, the large windows between the windscreen and front door windows become hard to see through). The comfortable motorway ride also means that the bright, airy cabin is a relaxing place to be on longer journeys.
The Picasso’s interior really does feel bright and airy – even if, like our car, it doesn't have the optional full-glass roof. One element I'm not so sure about is the 'panoramic' windscreen, which is a standard feature across the range. It looks like a normal windscreen with the sun visors pulled forward, but push them back and you get a full-height screen that sweeps back over your head. However, your face is fully exposed to the sun when it's sunny, so I'm not sure I really see the point.
A comfortable driving position is vital for me because I cover lots of miles each year. The Grand C4 Picasso is perfect and also has seats that are easily adjustable. You can raise the seat or let it down by using a lever on the right of it, while a conventional wheel on the left makes it a doddle to adjust the backrest angle.
Another feature that I really like is the ‘capless’ fuelling system. There's no more fiddling with a key to unlock the filler cap, or having to find a place to leave it; you simply press the internal release button, insert the nozzle and fuel away.
There's also a misfuelling prevention device fitted as standard. This is a little flap inside the filler neck that remains closed if you try to slot a petrol nozzle inside. I doubt I’ll ever try to put the wrong fuel in the Citroen, but it’s nice to know that there’s a feature there ready to stop you making a costly error.
The climate control is one of the few things that has been slightly under par. It's slow to warm the cabin on cold days, and struggles to bring the temperature down quickly on warm ones if the car’s been sitting in the sun. I'm sure the large glass area is part of the problem, but seeing as this makes living with the Grand C4 Picasso so pleasant most of the time, it’s a downside I can live with.
By and large, everyone who has borrowed the Citroen for the odd day or weekend has come back impressed by what the car is like to drive. The light steering helps make parking effortless, you don't hear much noise from inside the cabin, and the suspension deals with most bumps pretty well in town, tripping up only on scared surfaces which unsettle things a bit too much.
Our Citroen's dashboard is dominated by two screens: a 7.0in touchscreen and a 12.3in widescreen monitor. The graphics on both are sharp and are mostly easy to read. However, the touchscreen is far too difficult to use and is the thing that causes the most complaints when others borrow the car.
There are no words surrounding the touchscreen display. Rather than ‘Nav’, ‘Radio’ and ‘Music’, there are small icons that you need to decipher. Also, once you’re navigating through the system, there are some tricky controls to get used to. Long lists have tiny scroll bars at the left-hand side that are almost impossible to tap on the move, and the press-and-drag function is very slow to respond.
The sat-nav system has its annoyances, too. First, the guidance line that shows your planned route is unfathomably thin. On most other systems I’ve used, the road you’re following is marked with a wide band of contrasting colour to make it easy to check at a glance. The Picasso makes do with a skinny blue line, which means you need to look at the screen for much longer to see the route. Also, the turn arrow doesn't always line up accurately with your place on the road. Of course, if you like having voice guidance on all the time, you may be the sort to ignore the screen for most of the journey, but I’m not in that camp.
Other issues are a lack of full postcode entry input for some addresses and the convoluted process of changing the display settings. The map can be shown on the huge upper screen, which I’d prefer, but it took so long to figure out how to change the screen layout (it's certainly not in the screen settings, as I’d hoped) that I gave up in favour of getting on with the journey.
I also find it frustrating that the screens don’t dim automatically when you turn on the headlights. Instead, you have to go into the screen settings and change the brightness.
Finally, a simple thing such as changing the time is too complicated. After I’d amended it to show the correct time, the car would revert back to the old time after I had switched the ignition off and on again. Determined not to be defeated by it, I persevered and traced the issue to a function in the clock settings called ‘GPS Synchronisation UTC’, which was showing as ‘off’. Only when switched to ‘on’ would the system store the edited time after restarting the engine. I’m still puzzled that such a system in a modern car isn’t capable of updating the time automatically. After all, mobile phones are capable of changing the time without the frustrating need to go through various menus, so why can’t a modern car?
Of course, the best thing about the Picasso is its interior space. It is supremely roomy in the front, but adults sitting in the second row will be just as comfortable.
It also does a decent impression of a removals van; with the second- and third-row seats folded down, there’s a flat load bay with nearly 2200 litres of space. Even in five-seat configuration, there's an enormous 632-litre boot. There are rival MPVs that offer less than 500 litres of space, so it’s clear the Citroen has a big advantage.
The Grand C4 Picasso has been the default choice for anyone needing to transport people, luggage and bikes – and not once has it disappointed. The only slight issue was when we were trying to load a fridge. When you fold away the middle row of seats, the flap that covers them and forms the boot floor sits proud and creates a tiny lip. The otherwise straightforward task of pushing the fridge in was then made trickier because it got stuck on this lip, requiring a second person to open the rear door and lift it over the obstruction. Not the end of the world, admittedly, but certainly awkward. I later discovered that you could fold this flap beneath the cover for the third row of seats. This removes the step, but it doesn’t look quite right – it's as if it wasn’t designed to be positioned in such a fashion.
Our Grand C4 Picasso isn’t just big, though – it’s clever, too. It’s all very well having an MPV with seven seats, but if they don’t fold away (or pop up) easily, you’ll quickly get very frustrated. However, our Picasso’s seating system could hardly be easier to use. Each of the seats in the second and third row are individual, so they all fold and slide independently of one another.
What’s more, there are several ways of manipulating the seats. The second row folds via handles on top of the seatbacks, but they can also collapse by tugging a fabric loop at the bottom. Sliding can be accomplished with one of the folding mechanisms, or using a grab handle underneath the seatbases. Having so many levers can be confusing, and the middle-row seats don't fold as slickly as the rear ones, but it's hardly a big issue.
This all means that the Grand C4 Picasso's interior is exactly what a seven-seat MPV's should be: spacious, practical and user-friendly.
All Grand C4 Picasso models get a 7.0in central touchscreen, rear parking sensors, climate control, all-round electric windows, a DAB digital radio and Bluetooth. We went for the high-spec Exclusive trim, which adds a huge 12in high-definition instrument display, a reversing camera, 17in alloy wheels, a ‘Juke Box’ hard-drive system for your music and a handy rechargeable torch in the boot.
We spent an extra £520 on the Ruby Red metallic paint, £600 for Park Assist, £250 on the 3D-effect rear lights and £75 for a space-saver spare wheel. The total cost was £24,700.
Citroen Grand C4 Picasso MPG
My average fuel economy so far is 45.0mpg. This is a fair way off our True MPG team’s figure of 54.4mpg, but is still pretty good going considering that I don't drive the car intending to break any economy records, and that it's a big MPV which is often loaded with all my hefty camera gear in the boot.
**Citroen Grand C4 Picasso problems**
After nearly a year of ownership and more than 23,000 miles, we have experienced a couple of issues.
One of the plastic levers to collapse the front passenger seat became detached from its spring below, rendering it temporarily useless.
Then, after the car passed 12,000 miles (which seemed a perfectly reasonable time for a service), we booked the car in to be checked because the 'Service' light on the dashboard came on. However, when we turned up at the dealership, we were told that the car didn't need a service after all. In fact, it didn't need to be serviced until 16,000 miles.
When the service was actually due, I was quoted £250. While the car was in, I asked the dealer to have a look at the intermittently operational blindspot warning system – although typically this started working perfectly just before the service was due – and to repair the sliding mechanism for the middle row of seats. The levers on both sides of that row, which are used to slide the seats forwards for better access to the rear, have been jammed since almost day one. Whether they ever worked, or were broken by one of my ham-fisted colleagues, I cannot say for sure.
The final bill came to £229.91, rather than the £250 I'd been quoted. This is a little steep for what is essentially an oil and filter change, but it was nice to pay less than I expected to.
The service staff couldn’t replicate the problem with the blindspot warning system – I am inclined to think it was caused by a dirty sensor – but they did repair the seats, which now slide gracefully when required.
There has been another issue recently, though. A nail embedded itself into the offside front tyre, causing a (thankfully) very slow puncture. A quick trip to ATS Twickenham revealed the Grand C4 Picasso takes an unusual tyre size – 205/55 R17 – which I found baffling considering it’s a mainstream car. However, ATS overcame this curve ball by sourcing and fitting the correct tyre that afternoon (for £162), while providing a decent service during a busy period.
Citroen Grand C4 Picasso statistics
List price £23,510
Target Price £21,060
Extras Park Assist (£600); Ruby Red metallic paint (£520); 3D-effect rear lights (£250); space-saver spare wheel (£75)
Test fuel economy 45.0mpg
True MPG 54.4mpg
Official fuel economy 70.6mpg
CO2/tax liability 105g/km/17%
Contract hire £274
Cost per mile 40p
Insurance group 18
Typical quote £562