It might not be as dynamically accomplished as some of its rivals, but there's still lots to like about the new C4 Picasso

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This Citroën C4 Picasso is the company's latest effort to drag the brand kicking and screaming into that promised land known as 'upmarket.'

Citroën insiders talk bravely of the discount culture being a thing of the past - it isn't of course, just the size of the discount on offer, which is true of any major player here. In other words, models like the new Picasso must stand on their own merit and succeed because of their inherent desirability. Indeed, this is a trend that the company has kicked off in high style with its seperate premium DS line-up.

It's an interesting option but those interested in dynamic qualities should look to the Ford C-Max

So the latest C4 Picasso takes the fight to rivals such as the Ford C-Max and Renault Scenic. Its first weapon is styling that marks it out as an individualistic contender. And that LED-adorned nose is quite a party piece, lending the Citroën's face a technical and, dare we say it, slightly Germanic grimace.

It's a good look that continues with the profile, enhanced as it is with a flourish of alloy coloured plastic around the side glass and deeply contoured body sides.

The interior is more than spacious enough to worry its rivals, particularly in terms of boot volume, even with the rear seats in place. This is a five-seater, however, those seeking an additional two seats can opt for the Citroen C4 Grand Picasso - which includes the three rear seats party piece of sliding and reclining individually.

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With the rear squabs folded flat, you get a massive 640 litres of cargo space. The front passenger seat can also be folded flat so you can carry objects up to 2.5 metres long. But while there are clever storage cubbies spread around the interior, including under the rear floor, the Picasso isn't moving on the design of medium-sized MPVs in any significant way.

It is, though, a thoroughly new vehicle built on PSA's EMP2 platform, which in similar fashion to rival manufacturers, will enable Citroën to more cost effectively spin off a number of different wheelbase platforms for upcoming models. The new car is also a significant 140kgs lighter than the car it replaces.

The Picasso's new platform means that while it is 40mm shorter overall, it gains a significant 55mm of wheelbase. That's led to an increase in rear seat legroom, and while the car's roofline sits 4cm lower than before, headroom all around is still generous, even with the optional panoramic sunroof in place. So in its role as transport for five people and a good amount of luggage, the Picasso scores well. 

With its massive front screen and that panoramic sunroof in place, the cabin ambience is light and very airy. The quality of materials and assembly also mirrors Citroën's recent improvements, with a slight caveat over the finish of some lower-dash plastics.

And the stars of the new dashboard are those two digital displays, the larger 12-inch one up top and the 7-inch touchscreen below it. The top display monitors essential car functions such as speed and fuel, and also presents driver-customisable information, while the smaller screen displays the infotainment's functionality.

The Picasso brings some of the latest safety technology to the table, albeit optional on all but the highest-specification models. This includes radar-controlled Active Cruise Control that maintains a constant gap to the car in front, headlights with automatic dim and the Blind Spot Monitoring system with an LED warning in the wing mirrors.

There is also a Lane Departure Warning system that vibrates the driver's seatbelt if he or she wanders over lane markings. That last one proves a bit annoying, to be honest. 

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As for the trim levels, there are three to choose from - Touch Edition, Feel and Flair. The entry-level Touch Edition models come with 16in alloy wheels, hill start assist and electrically folding wing mirrors on the outside, while inside there is dual-zone climate control, rear parking sensors and a 7.0-in touchscreen infotainment display complete with DAB radio, Bluetooth, USB connectivity and Apple CarPlay as standard.

Upgrade to a Feel endowed model and you get sat nav, storage under the driver's seat, fron parking sensors and 17in alloy wheels, while the range-topping Flair trim gains 18in alloys, a half-leather interior, panoramic sunroof, a powered tailgate and, keyless entry and start.

As for engines there are two variants of Citroën's 1.2-litre Puretech engine, producing 108bhp and 128bhp respectively, while there are three diesels - 99bhp, 118bhp and 148bhp versions, with each been driven through a six-speed manual, while a few variants can be had alternatively with a six-speed automatic gearbox.

We tried the 118bhp diesel and found it very effective around town in lower gears, but slightly breathless on motorway inclines - lots of cog swapping, in other words. The standard fit manual gearbox is good to use, though, so that's not the hardship it might have been.

Likewise, the 128bhp petrol unit was happiest in the lower gears - and much punchier than its diesel sibling. Motorway response in the higher gears was a bit lethargic, though.  

We haven't tried the 99bhp diesel yet, but given our experience with the 118bhp oil-burner, we'd say that the latter is the engine to go for, at least until the 148bhp version arrives. The fact that the 115bhp returns a claimed 70.6mpg overall is another very good reason for it be on your shortlist. 

The Citroën C4 Picasso won't be a dynamic rival to the likes of the Ford C-Max, or even the Renault Scenic, but it counters that with a fine ride quality. 

Combine that with what is likely to be a very competitive equipment list at each price point, a spacious interior and styling that challenges - mostly in a good way - and the Citroën makes a solid case for itself.

Steve Cropley

Steve Cropley Autocar
Title: Editor-in-chief

Steve Cropley is the oldest of Autocar’s editorial team, or the most experienced if you want to be polite about it. He joined over 30 years ago, and has driven many cars and interviewed many people in half a century in the business. 

Cropley, who regards himself as the magazine’s “long stop”, has seen many changes since Autocar was a print-only affair, but claims that in such a fast moving environment he has little appetite for looking back. 

He has been surprised and delighted by the generous reception afforded the My Week In Cars podcast he makes with long suffering colleague Matt Prior, and calls it the most enjoyable part of his working week.

Citroen C4 Picasso 2013-2018 First drives