7

10

Model

Picasso e-Hdi 115

Price

$40,000

The Numbers

1560cc, 4cyl turbo diesel, FWD, 86kW, 270Nm, 4.0L/100km, 0–100km/h in 11.8secs, 1380kg

The Topgear Verdict

Only okay for drivers, but superb for passengers. Also cheap to run and safe. For a family car, honest priorities well executed.

2013 Citroen C4 Picasso e-Hdi 115

While Ford and others try to make their people movers look more like normal hatchbacks – generally a comically proportioned disguise – Citroën reckons a people mover should still look like a people mover because there’s no shame in driving one. Fair enough. If driving a sports car is a virility symbol, then driving a big-family vehicle is for people whose virility is proven.

The new C4 Picasso is well-planted on the road, thanks to the shorter overhangs and longer wheelbase. Citroën wants its cars to look accessible and friendly. From the front, I’m thinking friendly shark, which might not be what they had in mind. At the back, the 3D lights and clamshell tailgate are Audi-ish. In a good way.

Inside, it’s super-glassy so it feels like outdoors. The dash, when dormant, is almost entirely shorn of buttons and controls. Start up, and two screens come to life. The lower one is a 7-inch touchscreen. Its menu hierarchy and graphics are decently sorted. Above that is a pub-telly-sized 12-incher for the main instruments and other configurable info.

Space, crucial in this class, is strong, thanks to the longer wheelbase. It’s versatile, too. All five seats slide and recline, and are surrounded by enough storage boxes and hidden cubbies that you’re definitely going to leave something behind if you rent one on holiday.

As with the styling, so the dynamics. There’s no pretence that this could be a sporty hatchback. It gets along with little audible commotion and rides refreshingly softly. That means body roll and understeer, but you always know what it’s doing in bends. It could do with more high-speed self-centring – I occasionally drifted onto the highway lines, triggering one of the countless electronic warnings. Oh, and the gearshift is floppy.

This Picasso really is new. It’s the first use for the next-gen Peugeot-Citroën modular platform: all the underbody, chassis, electronics and more. The structure is better at getting out of the way and leaving more space for people and style, so the front overhang is shorter by a substantial 116mm, which gets rid of the beaky look of the French group’s cars. And yet there’s better crash protection, and the shell certainly feels rigid. Crucially, the whole thing is significantly lighter, too: minus 70kg in the platform, and another 70kg in the rest.

What with the weight loss and better aero and engines, you get major fuel savings. One 67kW diesel version does less than 100g/km CO2. I’m in the 86kW diesel. Compared with the current diesel Picasso, it’s slower to 100km/h but does an official 4.0L/100km instead of 5.3L/100km. It’s smooth and quiet enough, but doesn’t like overtaking, and you’d struggle to press on if you loaded it up. But your rear passengers don’t want hooning. This is a people mover.

Reviewed by: Paul Horrell

Driven: August 22, 2013