Citroen C4 Picasso

Shorter and sweeter, but for a price

STEPHEN CORBY

FIRST AUSSIE DRIVE

CITROEN Australia is a rare beast. And not just because you rarely see its cars on the road. It’s so boldly honest. The company says it has “no sales expectations” for its new and clearly overpriced C4 Picasso, and also that it “doesn’t like to talk about sales” anyway.

How refreshing that they seem to be launching cars just for the fun of it, although a spokesman did say they are seeking “organic growth”, which seems to mean the slow, almost imperceptible kind, unfertilised by the manure of advertising or promotion.

It’s hard to see a lot of people rushing to buy the C4 Picasso because, despite claims that it “drives like a hatch, offers the practicality of a wagon and has the hip point of an SUV”, what it more clearly offers is two fewer seats and a smaller interior than the quite excellent C4 Grand Picasso, for only $4000 less.

The new hatch looks exactly the same front on, like Robocop on wheels, but seems less proportionally perfect overall, being 174mm shorter and 24mm lower than the Grand Picasso, with a 55mm shorter wheelbase.

The driver is faced with the same classy and futuristic dash layout, featuring a 12-inch HD screen with a seven-inch touchscreen beneath it, and the panoramic cabin has the same feeling of being made almost entirely of glass.

Young mums will love the visibility, the fact you can fit three ISOFIX seats in the back and the class-leading boot space (537 litres). The outside rear seats also get fold-down tables, which work brilliantly as long as you don’t have knees.

Citroen held off launching the five-seat Picasso locally until the smooth EAT6 six-speed auto arrived, replacing its rickety old robotised manual. Tied to a revised version of PSA’s 1.6-litre turbo-petrol four, it’s a sweet combination, making 121kW and 240Nm, with maximum torque on tap from 1400rpm. The official fuel claim is just 5.6L/100km, and even whipping it along the proper driving roads the company boldly chose to launch the car on, we barely went over 9L/100km.

While the electric power steering has a sense of artificiality to it that diminishes Citroen’s hatch-like driving claims, this is still a fun enough car to drive, with excellent ride quality and commendably low NVH.

A six-year warranty with roadside assist allays the usual fears over buying a French car.

But Citroen’s honesty policy falls down when it calls the C4 Picasso “a compelling value proposition”.

If it was $10K, even $5K, cheaper they might actually sell a few, but as it is they’re quite right to have no sales expectations at all. y th h icy 4 osition”. ght ns

Model Engine Max power Max torque Transmission Kerb weight 0-100km/h Economy Price On sale Citroen C4 Picasso 1598cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v, turbo 121kW @ 6000rpm 240Nm @ 1400-4000rpm 6-speed automatic 1310kg 9.3sec (claimed) 5.6L/100km $40,990 Now

PLUS & MINUS

Pricey; steering too light and artificial; jerky idle-stop; resale Styling; interior; visibility; ride and refinement; six-year warranty

Box ticking

WHILE the Picasso’s entry price is already high, you can make it even higher by ticking some alluring options, such as an electric tailgate ($1000), part-leather trim ($2000) or the quite spectacular Audilike treatment that comes with the full nappa leather package ($5000). A Driver Assist Package featuring lanedeparture warning, smart high beams, an anti-collision system, active cruise control and active seatbelts will set you back another $2000.