Citroen C4 Picasso 2.0 EGS Exclusive five-seat

LOOKING dramatically different from the seven-seat model, the new and more compact five-seat version of Citroen's Picasso is undoubtedly one of the prettiest cars on the road. Neil Greenfield puts it to the test.

LOOKING dramatically different from the seven-seat model, the new and more compact five-seat version of Citroen's Picasso is undoubtedly one of the prettiest cars on the road.

Its curves and swoops flow seamlessly and elegantly into one sleek practical shape - which Citroen hopes will offer the ultimate mode of transport for demanding families.

Unlike the bigger Grand Picasso, which has two fold-flat seats to boost capacity to seven, the newcomer is strictly a five-seater. That has meant revisions to the rear of the car, where the seven-seater's angular roofline has made way for a curving roofline, back windows which wrap around the pillars and a new pair of rear lights.

The altered rear and lack of the two extra seats means the five-seater - which is 12 centimetres shorter - looks far more compact and a great deal more stylish than the Grand version. But space for the five remaining passengers is still just as capacious and up to 500 litres of load space is available in the boot underneath the luggage cover.

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Inside, space for passengers has been well thought out, with one prime example being the window line in the rear doors, which kinks down to give passengers a better view of the passing scenery.

The Picasso also boasts one of the biggest windscreens of any car. The huge piece of glass swoops up onto the roofline giving amazing panoramic views most notably for the driver and front passenger. Narrow pillars and and large quarter glass also give the driver an unrivalled view of the road, negating all the usual blindspots which blight modern cars.

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A chilled drinks compartment nestles underneath the main dashboard while in the boot a foldway shopping trolley and boot light, which also doubles as a handy torch, are more of the highlights of Picasso ownership.

The three separate chairs in the back all fold flat to the floor with one pull of a strap and each one can be slid forward or back to create more legroom or to boost luggage space still further.

There are underfloor storage spaces in the back and big, deep door pockets which are both useful and practical with a couple of kids on board. Talking of which, though the smaller five-seater has yet to be tested, it's seven-seat stablemate gained three out of a possible five stars for child protection from crash testers Euro NCAP. The car received a maximum five-star rating for adult protection.

Citroen's clever design team didn't run out of ideas after the exterior and the clever seats because the dashboard is also equally innovative.

It's remarkably clutter free, with the majority of controls either on or around the steering wheel, which comes, rather disconcertingly at first, with a fixed centre hub. In most models the gearshift has been moved - American style - to the steering column. The electronic gearbox system (EGS) allows the driver to change up and down via padels either side of the steering wheel or simply let the electronics do the work by leaving it in automatic.

Previously tested with a diesel engine under the bonnet, the jerky up and down changes proved tiresome and took the shine of the Picasso's otherwise exemplary performance. The five-seat model, however, came with the French firm's 2.0 litre 143bhp petrol powerplant - and the engine's smoother, higher-revving nature seemed to suit the electronic system far more.

Though still hesitant at times, the jerkiness of the changes were dramatically reduced and though the petrol engine ultimately lacks the oil burner's economy it does still return a reasonable 35mpg over a mixture of roads.

Also impressive was the sense of space created by the gearbox's move to the steering column. The traditional handbrake has also been switched for an electronic version. A button to engage it is mounted centrally on the dashboard and the brake releases automatically as the car moves off.

On the move the Picasso certainly isn't as fun to drive as a Ford C-Max, preferring instead to put good ride comfort above handling ability. But at all times it feels like a proper family car. Spacious, practical and very likeable.

CITROEN C4 PICASSO 2.0 EGS Exclusive five-seat - from £14,475 otr

Engine: 2.0 litre petrol

Max power: 143bhp at 6,000rpm and 199Nm torque at 4,000rpm


0-62mph - 11.5 seconds

Max speed - 121mph

ECONOMY: 35.3mpg combined

CO2 emissions/TAX %: 190/25%


STANDARD EQUIPMENT: Front, side and curtain airbags; electric windows; dual zone climate control; cruise control; rear sunblinds

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