FRENCH SENSE (some text hidden)
BY JONATHAN CROUCH
Introductionword count: 77
If you need a family-sized five-seat MPV but don't necessarily want one, look straight to this car, the second generation Citroen C4 Picasso, launched in 2013. It's extravagantly designed and comes with some genuinely innovative features. The basics of space, safety and cost-effectiveness are all taken care of, but where this model really excels is in the other things: style, technology and a very emotive feel. It's a bit special. Here's how to bag a used one.
Modelsword count: 12
(5 door MPV: 1.6 petrol, 1.6, 2.0 turbodiesel [VTR, VTR+, Exclusive, Exclusive+])
Historyword count: 435
Picasso. The name that launched both a generation of art and a several generations of small Citroen people carrier. The great Spaniard's family fell out with each other over the decision to grant this French car maker use of Senor Pablo's famous name, but it's certainly been worth the legal wrangling for Citroen. By 2013, the brand had chalked up over three million Picasso model sales, the success story starting with the Xsara Picasso, launched in 1999. In 2007, that model was replaced by a far more modern successor, the C4 Picasso, a car that in 2013 was re-launched in the futuristic second generation guise we're going to look at here. It's tempting to think of MPV people carriers as one of the most boring sectors of car design; boxes on wheels if you will, with little wit or verve to their execution. Here, things are very different. Yes, what we have in this case is a box with wheels at each corner, but as any kid at Christmas will tell you, not all boxes are created equal. It may have been created to go head to head with five-seat MPV rivals such as the Ford C-MAX and the Renault Scenic but this MK2 C4 Picasso feels cut from rather different cloth. Emboldened by the success of their boutique DS line of cars, Citroen decided to inject a measure of style and desirability into many of its other wares and this design still looks like something that's just driven off a motor show stand. But at launch in 2013, it faced a difficult task. Then, as today, the People Carrying market was very different from the one Citroen started with at the turn of the century. Many buyers in this sector now demand more than five seats and even those that don't may well feel that the latest generation of more practically-orientated Focus-style family hatchbacks, Qashqai-like Crossovers and small SUVs offer many MPV-like virtues. On top of that, by 2013, Citroen was also offering the only slightly smaller C3 Picasso supermini-MPV to buyers, a car that could offer many of this C4 model's virtues for a useful price saving. Hence the need here for a very clever piece of product design indeed, one that clearly speaks to family buyers who need practicality but don't want to sacrifice style. Which is how we ended up something so glassy and futuristic-looking, a car that comes stuffed with hi-tech gadgetry and fitted with a more up-to-date range of more efficient engines. This MK2 model C4 Picasso sold until mid-2016, when it was replaced by a lightly facelifted model.
What You Getword count: 1517
Only the French could build an MPV that looks this good, a responsibility they seem to take very seriously for it's clear that a huge proportion of this vehicle's budget was lavished on design inside and out. The futuristic front end offers daytime running lights under a chrome strip where you'd expect the headlamps to be. They're further down, flanking the top corners of a trapezoidal air intake that sits below the lovely, softer-looking Citroen logo that sits front and centre. Along the side of the car, a signature 'C' shape trim in chrome adds personality to sculpted body panels that aim to put an end to the days of slab-sided MPVs and are styled to disguise the fact that this second generation design is shorter and lower than its predecessor. Moving round to the back, you get an Audi Q5-style clamshell-like tailgate wide enough to house a complete complement of rear lights that from new, could be ordered with a distinctive 3D illumination. And inside? Well the first thing you'll notice is the Panoramic windscreen. Push up its sunvisor and your normal upward 28-degree angle of vision will be increased to a massive 108-degrees - a better view out in fact than you'd get roof-down in a convertible where the windscreen rail is usually directly above your head. Practically, it means you don't have to crane your neck up when, for example, you're first in the queue at the traffic lights. Subjectively, it does wonders in increasing the light, airy feeling of the cabin. If you really don't like it, you can pull the sunvisor back down again to the point where the top of the roof would normally be. And that's just the start of the contemporary cleverness. Designer Frederic Soubirou describes the interior as being inspired by contemporary loft-style living. It's uncompromisingly modern, airy and there are a few touches that are quite extravagantly designed, like the optional 'Relax' front passenger seat that lets the occupant raise, stretch and rest their legs. The days of Citroens feeling built down to a price with all the design flair of a buffet car cheese sandwich are thankfully consigned to the past. Compare this cabin to that of, say, a Xsara Picasso and you'd never believe they came from the same manufacturer. The dashboard is dominated by twin screens. Most new cars have some sort of central infotainment screen these days like this Citroen's tablet-style 7-inch display but more unusual is the snazzily futuristic 12 inch panoramic HD panel up top which replaces the normal set of conventional dialled instrument gauges. Unfortunately, this feature wasn't standard on all models, but if you're buying this car, do try and stretch up to a trim level that has it for this is one of the defining parts of this hi-tech design. This top screen is primarily there to show a virtual speedometer but it can also be configured to display all sorts of information such as cruise control and speed-limiter settings. You can also change the display of the dials from round to square - though we're not sure why you'd want to. More useful is the option of changing the screen's overall theme and uploading a personal photograph from a USB stick as a backdrop. We're not quite so sure about the infotainment screen, though at least it was standard across the range. As well as managing sat nav, stereo sounds and Bluetooth compatibility, it also aims to reduce dashboard button clutter by replacing a conventional set of ventilation and air conditioning controls. While this seems a great idea in principle, it can be a bit annoying when, say, you're driving along with the sat nav showing, to have to take your eyes off the road and shuttle through the menus just to change the temperature, stabbing away at the touchscreen to try and get a response. There's more to the cabin than just those screens though. You'll need a bit of time to get used to the steering wheel which, somewhat ironically given the clean open feel of the dash, is festooned with buttons. Still, it's beautifully made, with a polished metal trim on plusher models and stitched leather finish that's symptomatic of build quality leagues better than the previous C4 Picasso thanks to some lovely soft-touch materials used on the dash as well as glossy blacks, sparkle-effect finishes and proper satin chrome inlays. Yes, if you hunt around in the nether reaches of the fascia you'll come across some cheaper plastics, but then that's a cost-cutting trick that you'll even find Audi and BMW pulling. But enough about the look and feel: most buyers choose an MPV because of its practicality. How does the C4 Picasso rate here? Let's start with looking at the oddments space that Citroen offered to house the paraphernalia of everyday life. This is generally good, though there's a passenger-side glovebox with an inordinately large lid concealing a cavity behind so small that it's barely worth covering up. Much better are the slide out drawers that most models offer beneath the front seats and the huge storage bin at the base of the centre console which includes a jack and a USB port. And equally large is the stowage box that's mounted between the front seats and is removable on Efficient Tronic semi-automatic models. Finally, we'll mention what as a parent would be our favourite feature, the optional rear-facing 'conversation mirror', there to give an unimpeded view of which child has just stuffed its sticky sweet into your USB port. So how will those children fare once they're installed rearwards and ready to plug their gaming equipment into one of the three 12v sockets scattered around the car? Well, pull open rear doors that now open wider to a 65-degree angle for excellent access and it should all look pretty spacious. Which might come a little contrary to expectations given that this second generation C4 Picasso is fully 40mm shorter than its predecessor in overall length and sits the same amount lower to the ground. That'd be a problem for the passenger compartment were it not for the cleverness of the Efficient Modular Platform this MK2 model sits upon which facilitates a 60mm wheelbase increase despite the more compact dimensions. As a result, there's actually 20mm more legroom than the old MK1 model could offer and standards of head, elbow and shoulder room that are almost identical. Comfort you can properly appreciate thanks to a proper seating arrangement. Unlike many people carriers, this one doesn't position the unfortunate middle rear passenger with legs astride a central transmission tunnel and perched on some hard and narrow pierce of bulging foam. Instead, there's a completely flat floor and a rear cabin seating area made up of three separate identically sized chairs that can be reclined, folded flat or slid backwards and forwards independently of one another. The fold-flat option means that the middle one can function as a useful table when not in use. And talking of tables, most models have aircraft-style fold-out ones built into the front seat backs and with plush trim, these can be illuminated by neat LED lights. Want it to feel all a little more airy? Of course. A huge optional panoramic glass roof on top variants ups the combined glazed area to a greenhouse-like 5.3m2. Want more privacy? No problem. Most models have integrated retractable rear side window sun blinds and you can specify dark tinted rear windows. Everything we've said so far applies not only to this C4 Picasso but also to its seven-seat stablemate, the Grand C4 Picasso, which uses its 169mm of length to house the third row seating that larger families will want. And a bit of extra bootspace. Ah yes, we were getting to that. No doubt it was a great design idea building all the rear lights into the tailgate rather than, as would be more normal, splitting them between the hatch and the corners of the car. The downside of that approach is that it makes the thing very heavy, which would be enough to make the electrically operated tailgate option a must-have feature if it wasn't so tediously slow to operate. The old version of this car had a boot that wasn't a lot bigger than that of Citroen's smallest MPV, the C3 Picasso. Thanks to a 37-litre size increase, this one though, enables buyers to much more easily justify the stretch up to this bigger more expensive car. The 537-litres you get is enough to comprehensively trounce the competition, 66-litres more than a C-MAX and a massive 100-litres more than a Renault Scenic. Plus you can extend this space to as much as 630-litres if you push the rear chairs right forward, which is as much as the standard boot compartment of the seven-seater Grand C4 Picasso model. Fold the rear seats flat and you've a 1,851-litre cargo area to play with. And if you've really long items to fit in, most models provide a fold-flat front passenger seat so you can carry objects of up to 2.5m long.
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Category: MPV People Carriers
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