There’s only one problem with success, and that’s how to follow it. It’s a tricky one alright; the first-generation Citroën Picasso (based on the Xsara) was a solid-gold hit and sold by the shipload in Europe thanks to keen pricing and tons of space. The next generation did well too, but had tougher rivals to contend with.
Now there’s a brand new C4 Picasso MPV, and once again it faces a difficult task. The competition is hotter than ever, and buyers are more demanding than ever too. Just having space isn’t enough; comfort, attractive design and fuel efficiency appear on the shopping lists of most — this is a tough crowd to please.
This new C4 Picasso is a much more sophisticated vehicle however. The key advance is that it is the first of a series of Citroëns to use the new EMP2 platform. Because of its modular design it can be lengthened to create a whole range of vehicles and it’s also been created to save weight; the new C4 Picasso is 140kg lighter than the previous version depending on the model. Despite this, Citroën claims it is stronger and stiffer than the outgoing car, which is good news for occupant protection in the event of a crash.
Important stuff then, but it’s the outside that will get your attention first. Much more than a box on wheels, the C4 Picasso has a large glass area and slim LED headlights that help to create a more distinctive look. It’s clearly related to the previous generation model but with more character; it’s certainly benefitted from the impressively stylish DS models elsewhere in the range. You can have one parked on your drive and your neighbours won’t automatically assume that you’ve given up on life because you now have children, which is surely the point.
This is an MPV however, so it’s the inside that matters most. The first thing you notice is the amount of light coming into the cabin, particularly with the glass roof, and the windscreen extends almost over the heads of the front seat occupants.
There are lots of clever features, such as an airline-style footrest for the front passenger and 40 litres of under-floor storage, while the rear seats are divided into three and fold easily, which makes the space very versatile.
Citroën has also made a big noise about the layout of the dashboard, which does away with conventional instruments and instead gives you two large screens. The upper one can display all sorts of information as well as images uploaded from a USB stick (if you wish) and is configurable in numerous ways, while the lower one is a touchscreen and controls many of the vehicle functions. It all looks smart and generally works well, although sometimes you are required to push a button on the steering wheel to confirm a choice, which can be confusing at first.
Under the bonnet there’s a choice of two petrol and three diesel engines, but it’s the 1.6-litre turbo petrol motor developing 155bhp that’s the star of the show. It’s much more refined than the diesels and surprisingly frugal, too.
But it is the C4 Picasso’s excellent ride that really impresses. It soaks up bumps well and without becoming too soft in the corners; it behaves like a much bigger car. Press on and it hangs in gamely but that’s not what it’s best at — instead sail along on the torque of the engine, enjoy the panoramic view and let the suspension deal with all the road imperfections. It’s good from behind the wheel and your multiple passengers will thank you for it too.
Compared to its key rivals the C4 Picasso certainly looks smart, is well-equipped and impressively versatile. It may be a fraction behind in absolute dynamics but it more than makes up for this with the good ride, arguably more important in a car such as this. Maybe Citroën has another success story on its hands.