First Drive: Citroën Launches Their Snazzy C4 Picasso.

C4 Picasso (7)

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Citroen launched its brand spanking new C4 Picasso in Sydney today. We all thought it looked quite nice, so we took her for an outing up the central coast road.

What is it?

Based on Citroën’s new EMP2 scalable platform, the Picasso is the slightly smaller version of the Grand Picasso. It has 5 seats and is cute-ish. It has a single model that can be personalised with a few options giving it comfort and driver assistant upgrades. That’s rather a shame because they were the bits we really liked. Never mind, let’s see how it sells first. Slow moving models often get extra stuff added later to improve value for money.

It is slightly bigger than a hatch, but smaller than an SUV or the dreaded people-mover.

What are the highlights?

An attractive exterior somehow gets away with looking like a slightly stodgy family hatch. That’s a good thing because it means lots of room inside. The tardis-like interior features a high-set cathedral domed roof. The clever windscreen wraps up and over into the roof. The glass then continues to the rear hatch proving a sense capacious luxury. There is bags of space in the rear.

The leather option has comfy massaged and heated front seats with picnic tables for use by the chaps in the 3 individual rear seats. Sorry, the bloke in the centre will have to eat his lunch off his lap because there are only two front seats to hang the picnic tables from.

The excellent infotainment system is as seen in the Peugeot 308 recently released. It’s easy to use, but since all of the control buttons have been taken off the dash and console and put into a menu, you had better hope everything you want to tweak only needs touching infrequently. Most options are easily found but the start/stop is under 3 levels of menu. That’s annoying if you don’t like it being active because it resets every time you turn the car off. I’d like a fully customisable Home Screen where I could park my often used buttons like I do on my Iphone. It’s the year 2015 people! Car makers have a way to go yet before they catch up to those phone people.

There is fabulous sound from the stereo, perfect for bopping with on those many hours spent on The Great Australian Roadtrip.

Auto parking includes auto exit from parking spot requiring only 20cms of space either end. If you’re that useless at parking maybe you shouldn’t have a licence!

A sweet little rejigged 121kw turbo petrol engine paired to a smooth 6 speed auto are super easy to live with. The claimed 5.6 l/100k is akin to what we once got with rackety old diesels. I’m not convinced this is achievable in the real world with traffic lights, pot holes and caravan drivers who insist on getting in the way.

The 360° camera looks like someone is floating above the car with one of those “drone” thingies. Is that even legal?

I’m told the Picasso has a 7% advantage of inclusions over its competitors meaning it has more stuffed into it than other brands. I don’t know how that is measured but I’m sure it involves white coats and pocket protectors.

Is it comfy?

Yes it is. The passenger’s front seat has a foot rest to go with the massage function. Who needs a husband? Me! Who else would drive? The driver gets a massage as well just out of interest.

The rear has 3 individual seats which can be raised or lowered to fit bulky bits in while still carrying an extra chap.

The supremely smooth ride which takes me back to the days of the glorious DS series. Google it, it’s the car from the 1950’s that looked like a space ship wearing a Citroen chevron on the front.

It feels cosy enough to actually set up home in should the need arise.

How’s the Handling?

It’s no sports car but tight bends are seen of with much alacrity. Bumps, even mid corner, are a cinch. Nothing seems to unseat Picasso. The Old Pacific Highway takes in some picturesque scenery with Cottage point locals giving the Citroen a nod as if they’d never seen a car before but they know a challenging road when they see it.

The soft suspension seems to dig in rather than getting all flollopy and uncooperative. There is body lean which feels slightly alarming at first but once you learn to trust the Citroen, it becomes fun. You find yourself daring it to let go. You want to pushing hard just for the hell of it, and because it is thoroughly enjoyable.

The brakes are very responsive but not to the point where it feels like it will rip your face off in an emergency stop. The electric steering has good road feel, not an easy thing to get these days. It also allows the fitting of automated parking which makes bad drivers look good.

There was not a single misdemeanour which needed apologising for.

Storage?

There are oodles of bins as well the capacious cargo area. The back seats are split 3 ways for extra tricky loads you might want dumped in your rear. There are even 3 litre bins under the floor in front of the back seats. Isn’t that an opportunity for an icepack to cool fizzy drinks? Why, yes it is sir!

Performance?

Not a rocket but not a slug. The 1.6 has a newly designed turbo that all but eliminates turbo lag, HOORAH! We don’t see the boot-in-the-bum turbo slap much anymore, but lag is inherent as a smallish engine waits for the turbo to spool up and the boost to kick in. The purpose of a turbo charger or a super charger is to put high pressure air into the cylinders. More air means more oxygen, more oxygen means a better burn, and the better the burn, the more power you get.

A larger engine has enough torque to get a car moving without waiting for the turbo to catch up, but small 4 cylinder jobbies rely more heavily on the super-compressed air from their turbos. A twin scroll fixes that by needing fewer revs to get spinning. Think of it as a small and a large set of blades on the same spindle. The smaller set of blades can spin more quickly on lower revs. Once the unit is spinning fast enough the larger blades take of take over. This means the boost is more linear from what essentially is one small and one large turbo charger contained within the same housing. This is quite different to two separate turbos found on other cars.

There will be some hills where the 6 speed auto will drop down a cog or two but generally copes well. Provided the revs are kept up during spirited driving, there is no problem. You can use the paddle shifters for extra control if you can be bothered. We only had two on board, so rounding up the usual suspects and shoving them in the back might make the story a bit different. A longer test drive will sort that out.

9.6 seconds to 100kph sounds leisurely but if you want a fast sports car, buy a fast sports car.

Price?

Yes, well, the price. It is a princely $40,990 which with on-roads should be around the 45k mark, the same price as a Golf GTi. Yes yes I know it’s in a different segment, keep your shirt on!

Conclusion:

I’d describe the Picasso as a Cirque du Soleil performer: Impossibly cute, unbelievably limber, and incredibly eager to please. It feels extremely smooth making older Citroen drivers feel right at home. Younger drivers will find the limo-like suspension somewhat of a revelation.

Would I buy one?

Yes, but only after I’ve signed on the dotted line for a midlife-crisis uber-fast motor cycle.

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