Long dayís journey into night

Leggy Picasso takes to its interstate challenge

NATHAN PONCHARD

IT WAS three in the afternoon before I could finally escape last monthís seven-seat SUV comparo and head north, from the hills outside Yackandandah in Victoria.

The Picasso had been fuelled in Bright earlier that morning, yet a strafe up icy Mount Buffalo and back again had already put a dent in its digital bar-graph fuel gauge.

And checking its tyre pressures before being loaded with luggage and camera gear revealed that the luscious urban ride I fell in love with on first acquaintance was largely due to its 205/55R17 Continentals being under-inflated. Pity.

Black ice quelled any enthusiasm in the tighter stuff towards Mount Buffaloís peak, but faster corners in the foothills revealed that the C4 Picasso retains much of the Peugeot 308ís dynamic DNA, albeit watered down. Perhaps itís the higher seating position or raised centre of gravity, but the heavier Citroen doesnít quite seem to have the rearend adjustability or inherent poise of the smaller, sportier Pug. Not without digging deep to find it, anyway.

But I enjoyed flogging the C4 Picasso to join the Hume at Albury, then progressively into darkness for another 550km. Being a lifelong glare-o-phobe (my perpetual sunnies arenít just for looks!), I usually leave the Citroenís ĎZenithí slidey rooflining thingy all the way forward, but at night, having unlimited glass from cowl to hairline crown gave a stunning view of the stars in the sky. Yes, I was bored, but not by the C4ís wealth of interesting display screens or its sturdy stereo.

Charging along at an indicated 125km/h (while still being overtaken on the final leg from Bowral to Sydney), the C4 Picasso proved it relishes a big-distance challenge.

With a supple highway ride, ample turboboosted torque, acres of vision, excellent high-beam and a supportive, ache-free driverís pew with built-in adjustable armrest, my French MPV-of-sorts turned an arduous journey into an effortless one.

The sat-nav originally predicted an 8.19pm arrival and, while a food and coffee stop (at the excellent new Oliverís joint at the Dog on the Tucker Box outside Gundagai) and a toilet visit added a decent chunk to that estimate, I managed to claw my way back to almost nail the original ETA.

Typically, the Picassoís trip computer claimed a slick 7.7L/100km for the tank, including the mountainous stuff early on, but the reality was 8.1L/100km Ė still pretty good given the enthusiastic throttle use.

Byronís 308 auto (sharing the same platform) is around 200kg lighter, with a superior engine, a smaller frontal area and a thirst somewhere in the sixes, so I reckon the puffy C4ís low-eight ainít too bad at all.

CITROEN C4 PICASSO

Date acquired: June 2015 Price: $47,890 This month: 754km @ 8.1L/100km Overall: 1359km @ 8.6L/100km

Service me freely

PROBABLY due to the fact that few car buyers have been tempted by the C4 Picasso five-seatís charms to date (just 66 have been sold in 2015 to the end of July), Citroen has thrown in six years of free servicing, which it values at $3635. Available only until September 30, the six-year servicing deal is capped at 90,000km, whereas the Picassoís six-year warranty has an unlimited distance.

CALF CARE

Optional leather includes an electric leg rest for the front passenger, but there are better ways to spend $5K