In case you hadn’t noticed, the festive season is upon us once again. It’s the time of year when millions of cars carry millions of families on millions of journeys the length and breadth of the country. We spend a considerable chunk of our Christmas holidays on the move and Christmas travel usually means two things – presents (fragile) and children (bored).
Endless attempts to squeeze excitable children into the car without one them standing on the obligatory framed picture to add to their grandparents collection. The breakdown in communications that force you to call in the UN to mediate the back seat conflicts. Increasingly impatient threats that the first person to violate the demilitarised zone (centre armrest) will face severe economic sanctions (no pocket money). I think I’ve found the means to avoid all of these festive conundrums and it comes in the form of a big, shiny Citroen.
The Citroen C4 is the ideal way of ensuring your family has enough room to breathe and with 5 and 7 seat versions it’s capable of transporting any number of people in peace and tranquillity. While the 7-seater Grand Picasso obviously gives you more room, the 5-seater Picasso I tested is more than enough for most families. There are also engine and trim choices to suit a wide range of budgets, so there’s really no reason to be squeezing the family into a car that ceased to be practical around the time your children learned how annoyed adults get when you repeatedly kick the back of their seat.
While the Picasso name has appeared before, this updated version has a much more contemporary feel than of old. On the outside it is a rather attractive looking thing with the distinctive Citroen nose and three-tiered lights. There’s plenty of chrome trim to brighten up the dullest driveway and the front bumper has been widened and lowered to give the car a more purposeful stance. By foregoing the extra seats the C4 Picasso loses some of the bus-like feel around the rear with the roof and rear window sweeping down at decidedly jaunty angle. It’s always going to be difficult to make a car with lots of interior space look dynamic on the outside but Citroen have managed better than most. It may be a people carrier but that doesn’t mean you must sacrifice style for substance.
The most striking feature of the interior is the amount of glass that surrounds you. Sitting behind the wheel you look through an enormous windscreen, the panoramic roof arches overhead and the side windows run almost seamlessly down the length of the car. Under normal conditions this expanse of see-through stuff makes for excellent visibility and a bright, airy interior. The only down side I can see is that it may leave you with a slight, albeit unfounded feeling of vulnerability should you find yourself in the lion enclosure at a Safari Park, but that’s a small price to pay for the obvious benefits elsewhere.
Much like the glass, storage space in the C4 Picasso is also measured in acres. Everywhere you look there is a little cubby hole waiting for a purpose to its’ existence. The simplicity of the interior – everything is controlled via the large touchscreen – means there’s large amounts of space that would previously have contained buttons and dials that now finds itself redundant. All the instruments are housed in a single unit in the centre of the dash that tells you all you need to know without distracting you from what’s occurring outside. What this gives you, as well as lots of storage space, is the feeling that you can stretch out, relax and enjoy the journey. If you can imagine driving down the road in Blenheim Palace you’ll get the idea.
To accompany the palatial feel the C4 Picasso also provides a comfortable drive. It’s smooth, quiet, comfortable and effortless. I tested the PureTech 130 with 6-speed automatic gearbox and it’s a joy to drive. The 1.2-litre turbo charged petrol engine is easily capable of cruising along at motorway speeds without sacrificing too much in terms of economy. Likewise, it’s punchy enough to bring a smile to your face from time to time. According to official figures – a pinch of salt may be required – this combination of engine and gearbox should be capable of 50-ish miles per gallon and low CO2 emissions puts it firmly at the cheaper end of the road tax scale. If I had a complaint it’s that the gear change was a bit sluggish but in a car like this I could put up with it in return for the ease of the automatic and the extra storage you get from not having a gearknob in the middle of the car.
I’ll be the first to admit it’s hard to get excited about a people carrier. Luckily, my ability to bounce around like a small child has no bearing on whether or not a car is any good. The C4 Picasso may not be exciting but Citroen have done an excellent job of making a car that has loads of space, looks good, drives well and is remarkably comfortable. It’s got all the necessities anyone would require from a family car and a healthy sprinkling of technology to keep you entertained, relaxed and on the right road.
I’m absolutely convinced that the Citroen C4 has it’s little niggles, but because I didn’t write them down I can’t remember so must conclude that none of them were very important. What I do remember is that the top of the range Flair version I tested was priced at just £27,300 – that includes over £2000 of options – but prices for the 5-seater Picasso start at just over £19,500 and the 7-seater can be had from a touch under £22,000. Given that Christmas is supposed to be a time for peace on earth that’s a bargain price for peace on the backseat.