Citroen's largest MPV wants to combine pizzazz with polished and practical family travel - does it?

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The award-winning Citroen Grand C4 Picasso and its successor, the equally celebrated but barely changed Citroen Grand C4 Spacetourer, may seem like dinosaurs in a market moving to electric cars, but families still need to travel, and with household budgets squeezed, these practical people-movers make a great buy.

The earliest are now 10 years old but the newest only two, so there’s a seven-seat C4 to suit most pockets. Impressively, from launch in 2014, the 2.0 BlueHDi 150 diesel engine was Euro 6-compliant; lower-powered engines became so within a year. It means there’s a wide choice of cleaner oil burners at a range of prices.

That’s good because most Grand C4 Picassos are diesel, while Spacetourers are split equally between diesel and petrol.

The root of the big C4’s appeal is its platform, which has a longer wheelbase – at the launch, Citroën claimed it was the longest in the class – and a wider track than its predecessor. Both features contribute to significantly increased interior space, which Citroën’s designers, being an innovative lot, exploited to the full.

Certainly, middle-row passengers occupying the individual split-fold seats will have little to complain about, while, even with the admittedly cramped third row in use, the boot is still reasonably large. Folding both rows down and sliding the middle one forwards creates 2181 litres of load space. On top-spec versions, the front passenger seat folds down, so loads of up to nine feet long can be carried. Before we get too carried away, though, it’s worth pointing out that the Ford Galaxy, Seat Alhambra and Volkswagen Sharan are bigger – but more expensive.

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The Grand C4 Picasso’s engine line-up is dominated by diesels: a couple of 1.6-litres and a 2.0-litre, with the more powerful 1.6 and the 2.0 available with a choice of six-speed manual or automatic gearbox.

We reckon the 2.0 BlueHDi 150 is the engine best matched to the car, and the auto is preferred over the manual. If the 2.0-litre is out of your price range, the next best engine is the 1.6 BlueHDi 120. The sole petrol is the 1.2 Puretech 130, which is smooth and punchy – although you may have to travel far to find one.

With the arrival of the Spacetourer, the 2.0 BlueHDi 150 diesel became the 160, while the 1.6 diesel engines were soon replaced by the 1.5 BlueHDi 130. Both engines were offered with eight-speed auto ’boxes, the 2.0-litre as standard but the 1.5 as an option.

Again, the 2.0-litre is best matched to the car, but used examples are extremely scarce. That leaves the 1.5, but it’s by no means a poor choice, being smooth, economical and well capable of hauling a full car. The 1.2 petrol remains the best choice for town drivers.

The stylish look of the Grand C4 Picasso and Spacetourer is mirrored inside, where soft-touch plastics and satin finishes abound. Lower down, material quality is not so great, but the seats and trim appear to hold up well. Storage space is plentiful and includes two large, lidded areas in the dashboard; top-spec versions get picnic tables.

The range was mildly facelifted in 2016, and with the Spacetourer in 2018 came more equipment and safety technology. With its 12in driver display, sat-nav and parking sensors, Feel, or Sense as it became on Spacetourers from 2020, is the best trim.


Is the Citroen Grand C4 Picasso reliable?

WhatCar's latest reliability survey awarded the Grand C4 Picasso with a respectable reliability rating of 95.2%, while Citroen as a brand ranked 11th out of 30 manufacturers. But aside from the scrapes and scratches accumulated from tight car parks or urban routes there are a few, more specific issues you should be on the look-out for.

Engine: On diesels, check the AdBlue level and that no warning light is showing. Check there are none of the oil leaks reported by some owners.

Gearbox: If it’s an EAT6 auto, make sure it changes smoothly – in this respect, the later EAT8 ’box is a better unit (see ‘Also worth knowing’, below). Manual ’boxes can be notchy.

Suspension and brakes: It’s a heavy thing so check for leaky dampers, rattly anti-roll bars and the car sitting awkwardly. Check there’s plenty of life in the discs and pads and  the electronic parking brake holds.

Body: The big C4 is prone to bumper knocks and scrapes, and the door edges are vulnerable to careless opening. Rust, however, should not be present.

Electrics: Many owners report issues, with everything from the air-con to central locking and infotainment, so check all is well. Electrical issues easily outnumber mechanical ones.

Interior: While you can expect some scuffs and scrapes, anything too serious will irritate you in time and be expensive to fix. Be sure the seats slide and fold, that the infotainment system works and that no warning lights remain after start-up. Windows can be squeaky, but clear silicone grease on the guide rubbers should cure them

Also worth knowing

As you pore over your Grand C4 Picasso options, and if you’re after one with an automatic gearbox, you may wonder what ETG6 and EAT6 mean. They’re actually two distinctly different types of automatic gearbox. ETG6 is short for ‘Efficient Tronic Gearbox with six speeds’. It’s a semi-automatic available as an option on the 1.6 e-HDi 92 and 115 Airdream Euro 5 diesel engines that were dropped after 2015. Don’t expect dual-clutch auto responses, but it works well enough and contributes to good economy.

EAT6 – ‘Efficient Auto Transmission’ – is a more traditional torque-converter auto, again with six speeds and available on 1.6 HDi and 2.0 BlueHDi Grand C4 Picassos. The Spacetourer is fitted with the uprated EAT8 version. It’s smoother than the ETG but not quite as economical. On the 2.0 BlueHDi, it can be controlled via wheel-mounted shift paddles.

There have been several recalls, many serious (see the government recalls website for details), including the possibility of doors opening unexpectedly, seatbelt buckles failing and the brake vacuum pump being affected by material from the timing belt. Ensure they have been actioned.

An owner's view

Anne Merrick: “We run a 2015-reg Grand C4 Picasso 1.6 BlueHDi Selection, which we bought in 2018. Then, our four children were small and it was one of the few MPVs we could find that would take three child seats on the middle row, each with Isofix mountings. The children are much bigger now, but it’s still roomy enough for all of us. The car has picked up a few scrapes, including one caused by a badger that ran into us. It has been very reliable and had no issues, apart from a recall to have the AdBlue tank changed. It routinely does more than 50mpg and road tax is just £20, so it’s very cheap to run.”


Citroën Grand C4 Picasso headlights

The first Citroën to use the Picasso name was the 1999 Xsara. That car was such a hit that it remained on sale until 2010, long after the regular Xsara had disappeared and a new generation of Citroëns had been launched, with Picasso becoming longhand for MPV in Citroën-speak in the meantime.

Meanwhile, the seven-seat C4 Grand Picasso was first launched in 2006, with a five-seat 'un-Grand' variant arriving the following year.

The C4 Picasso we are considering in this used review is distinctive and appealing on the outside. What’s beneath it, however, was familiar to us for its time. Its EMP2 (Efficient Modular Platform) architecture went on to underpin a vast number of new Peugeots and Citroëns, and this is where it got its first showing.

Some manufacturers can be shy about their platform use and strategy. But there was no such danger of that with the now-defunct PSA Peugeot-Citroën, which was so keen to espouse the benefits of the EMP2 that it even had its own section of the PSA website.

Some 116 patents were filed in the development of the platform, which underpinned all of Peugeot-Citroën’s C-segment and D-segment vehicles, equalling some 50 percent of PSA’s total production.

The first car to use it was this C4 Picasso/Grand Picasso, built in Vigo, Spain, and the Peugeot 308, made in Sochaux, France.

Weight-saving claims come from extended use of high-yield-strength steels, aluminium and composites. The Grand Picasso has an aluminium bonnet and composite tailgate.

Overall, the length of this generation of the Grand Picasso is the same as its predecessor’s, at 4590mm, but the platform allowed the wheelbase to grow by 110mm to 2840mm, which at the time was claimed to be the longest in the class. This is the sort of figure – especially given that the front overhang is also shorter by 116mm – that allows significantly improved interior space.

Citroën also claimed that the engine is 50mm lower than previously, the floor is 20mm lower and the tracks are wider, by 82mm at the front and 31mm at the rear. So the Grand Picasso has no excuse not to be airy and spacious inside. Suspension is by MacPherson struts at the front, with a torsion beam at the rear.


Citroën Grand C4 Picasso interior

Departure from convention eventually became the convention in the medium-size MPV design textbook, but that was in no small part thanks to the popularity of the quirky original Xsara Picasso, a car to whose interior this Citroen C4 Picasso pays homage.

But this was not all that Citroën had in mind, and you can tell because the eccentric touches appeared on a classier and more upmarket canvas than we were used to. This is an MPV that does ‘plush’ at the same time as ‘peculiar’ – and in all but one or two places it does both well.

A Picasso wouldn’t be a Picasso without an instrument panel offset to the centre of the fascia. But no Picasso that we’ve seen before has featured a customisable colour LCD screen in place of normal dials, a chic-looking two-tone dashboard, or air vents, steering wheel grips and centre stack zones edged in ritzy satin chrome.

There were three trims to choose from - Touch Edition, Feel and Flair. Entry-level models got 16in alloy wheels, hill start assist, cruise control, a panoramic windscreen and rear parking sensors as standard on the outside, while inside there was dual-zone climate control and a 7.0in touchscreen infotainment system complete with DAB radio, Bluetooth and USB connectivity.

Upgrade to a Feel model and you found luxuries such as front parking sensors, sat nav, Citroën's 12in configurable display, massaging front seats and 17in alloy wheels, while the range-topping Flair model added a self parking mode, blind spot monitoring, automatic opening tailgate and a panoramic sunroof.

You perch fairly high in the driver’s seat, as you’d expect, but the controls are well placed and generously adjustable and the front seats are large and comfortable – our only gripe with them being a lack of adjustment in the headrests. The cabin is bathed in light via both an extended windscreen running back above your head and a large panoramic glass roof.

Meanwhile, practical features, such as storage cubbies and picnic tables with neat retaining straps, abound. Space in the second row of seats is generous by class standards and legroom is particularly good.

Sitting three adults side by side will still be a squeeze and any adult in the third row won’t thank you for being asked to ride back there. But those limitations were common for the medium-size MPV class at the time, and we wouldn’t criticise the Picasso for imposing them.

The standard Bluetooth worked well for our testers, pairing quickly and providing a reliable connection with good call quality. The Picasso’s bigger trick was the optional Multicity Connect, which offered 3G mobile connectivity to applications such as Trip Advisor, ViaMichelin, Facebook and an email reader.

The DAB tuner isn’t the most intuitive to use, but reception is good. A six-speaker set-up was the only stereo offered. It’s nothing special, but its power and clarity are more than adequate. The Multicity Connect system added games and social media functionality into the mix.

Citroën's eMyWay multimedia system set-up has full European mapping, came standard with Feel-spec cars and also gives you a second USB input.


Citroën Grand C4 Picasso MPV

Both Peugeot and Citroën promised great things from the 2.0-litre BlueHDi turbodiesel powertrain. It certainly has potential, and as well as delivering a big slug of torque, it achieved a good score on the then official NEDC emissions test.

It works well in the Picasso. In normal day-to-day use, it is quite hushed, smooth and responsive for a motor of its type.

The ratios in the six-speed manual gearbox seem well spaced, but there’s an unwelcome bit of notchiness in the gear linkage, most notably between first and second gear, that can trip you up now and again. That notchiness isn't present in the e-HDi 115 version, though, with the 114bhp diesel performing strongly throughout the rev range.

Conventional autos are a rare find on Citroëns, the French car maker at the time preferring automated manuals that suffer from slow, irritating shifts. Shifts are much slicker with the BlueHDi 150’s six-speed automatic, however. Its ratios are nicely spaced and it is quick to respond should more performance be desired. Full manual control of the gearbox is also available through steering wheel-mounted paddles.

Go beyond the bounds of typical usage, though, and the powerplant shows some shortcomings. While pulling from low revs in a higher intermediate gear, it’s slow to get its act together – as our in-gear acceleration figures evidence. It’s also quite clattery and rough at low crank speeds under load, and equally coarse beyond 4000rpm.

Most Picasso owners will doubtless stay in the meat of the rev range and, by doing so, might not encounter the harsher extremes of the engine’s operating envelope. If they do, they’ll have few causes to complain about the fuel efficiency – we saw better than 50mpg on our touring test – or the in-gear tractability. This is a 148bhp, 273lb ft 2.0-litre diesel MPV, after all, with emissions that it would take a much less powerful 1.6-litre oil-burner to match in most rivals.

Keep that in your head and you’ll be broadly satisfied with what’s on offer here. People movers have never required underbonnet brilliance to perform their primary function, and the Grand Picasso doesn’t need it, either – although we can’t help thinking that it would have been nice to have.

We’re concerned that performance may be more sluggish on diesels lower down the range, however. The BlueHDi 150 has the right amount of performance and is thus nicely matched to the car. We fear smaller engines might struggle to propel a car of the Grand C4 Picasso’s size, making you work the throttle pedal more and harming economy.


Citroën Grand C4 Picasso cornering

This is where the car's once new platform begins to come to the fore, even by modern standards. First acquaintance with the smaller Citroen C4 Picasso suggested that a good-sized step had been taken by Citroën in bringing its family monocab up to the class’s prevailing dynamic standard, and the Grand Picasso confirms as much.

The car has a suppleness of gait that feels entirely appropriate for a big passenger car but doesn’t pay for it with any glaring lack of body control, high-speed stability, all-corner grip or steering consistency. Although it’s not outstanding in any particular discipline, we’d rank it very close to the best cars in the class in most important respects.

The steering wheel itself is quite large, and its flat-bottomed rim can be a bit annoying while you’re passing it through your hands.

Still, it’s a sensibly paced system and operates in harmony with some well balanced but sensible grip levels and a chassis that allows some body roll but controls the rate of that roll, as well as its ultimate angle, very consistently indeed.

Negligible feedback is transmitted through to your palms and the rack can feel spongey as you initially load it up, but steering weight is just right and stays the same as you turn the wheel, and there’s no sudden deterioration in front-end bite as lateral forces build.

All of that combines to make the Picasso handle tidily and seem easy to manage in most circumstances, with the agility and grace of a considerably smaller and shorter car, but with good rolling comfort, too.

The Picasso’s Michelin Pilot Sport tyres are notoriously good in the wet, but Citroën still deserves bags of credit for endowing such a large car with great stability and steering precision, a sweet balance of grip and a particularly intelligent ESP system.

Although it’s always on, the ESP acts very subtly to begin with, rewards smoothness and accuracy and saves you from excess but won’t prevent you from acting to manage a developing slide by applying power.

In the dry, the Picasso is a bit less sweetly balanced, responding to excess speed with slowly gathering understeer, but that’s exactly as we prefer from this kind of car. Pitch and roll are always effectively checked.

The ride is a tiny bit fussy and abrupt now and again, but that was only the unsprung mass and shortness of sidewall associated with the 18-inch alloy wheels fitted to the model we tested presenting, we suspect.

This is not an engaging car to drive and, ultimately, doesn’t transcend your expectations of an MPV quite like a Ford S-Max does. And yet the big C4's handling still seems impressive – more highly polished than you’d imagine it might be, either as a Picasso, or even a Citroën, full stop.


Citroën Grand C4 Picasso

No Citroën has glacial depreciation, but the C4 Grand Picasso’s results are as strong as you’re likely to see from the manufacturer and on a par with those of non-premium rivals.

Its residual values even shade the Vauxhall Zafira Tourer, which is remarkable for a Citroën. Neither is a benchmark performer, however, with both typically being outperformed by the Ford Grand C-Max.

Avoid models with the automated manual gearbox and get a specification that includes the natty colour central display rather than the disappointing monochrome monitor. Other than that, choose as you please.

Most of Citroën's engines have proven both reliable and economical. The best bet in the range is probably the BlueHDi model, which returned 44.2mpg during testing with us overall, and a very tidy 51.1mpg on a touring run. That's impressive for a near-1700kg seven-seater.


4 star Citroën Grand C4 Picasso

Over the years, the Citroen C4 Picasso has relied on its quirkiness to succeed. And succeed it certainly has.

But this version is a different prospect – a more complete car with the performance, practicality and fully developed driving experience to sell not only in the mainstream, but also to those attracted by its eccentric sense of boldness.

Level-headed buyers will respond to its spaciousness, versatility and fuel efficiency. Citroën also injected extra style, colour, class, standard specification and material richness into the car – and then put it within touching distance of the best in class on driving dynamics.

The Picasso has some familiar failings, too. It isn’t the last word on quality or fit and finish, the engine leaves room for improvement and some secondary systems don’t work as well as they should.

But there is, however, an appreciable breadth of dynamic talent here. There’s certainly no major flaw that should strike it off your second-hand seven-seat MPV shopping list.

There are sharper cars to drive in the class, but its good-looking and airy interior, flexible seating arrangements and vast amounts of space tick the boxes of what used buyers in this segment are looking for.

Matt Prior

Matt Prior
Title: Editor-at-large

Matt is Autocar’s lead features writer and presenter, is the main face of Autocar’s YouTube channel, presents the My Week In Cars podcast and has written his weekly column, Tester’s Notes, since 2013.

Matt is an automotive engineer who has been writing and talking about cars since 1997. He joined Autocar in 2005 as deputy road test editor, prior to which he was road test editor and world rally editor for Channel 4’s automotive website, 4Car. 

Into all things engineering and automotive from any era, Matt is as comfortable regularly contributing to sibling titles Move Electric and Classic & Sports Car as he is writing for Autocar. He has a racing licence, and some malfunctioning classic cars and motorbikes. 

Citroen Grand C4 Picasso 2014-2018 First drives