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Citroen Grand C4 Picasso

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Citroen C4 Picasso 2.0 HDi Car Review | April 3, 2007

Driven April 2007

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How the five-door drives though, and in the process distinguishes itself from its larger sibling, is more relevant just now. And the outcome isn't necessarily as positive as those looks might have you believe. This car is the top-spec 2.0-litre diesel with its six-speed electronic gearbox system, essentially a full-auto 'box with a paddle shift.

There's 138bhp on offer and 199lb ft of torque. But it never feels quick, is pretty noisy when you push it and it's far from happy being bunged around bends.

Citroen launched this car in the north of Spain and allocated a variety of knuckle-whitening test routes to its predominantly large diesel launch fleet. Admirable as this lack of deception is, throwing your own product to the proverbial lions isn't exactly genius.

The C4 Picasso wallows and understeers when cornered hard and lacks the poke to make amends on the straight. It seems absurd to be criticising a compact MPV for a lack of handling and grunt, but this car is making an unspoken promise in its aggressive form and presence that it fails to keep on the move.

There are other things that might undermine the C4 Picasso as a realistic ownership prospect. So wilfully different is its cockpit design that buyers may feel alienated.

Things are fiddly and unnatural, even down to the stereo and heater controls. You're bound to get used to most of it, maybe even find it preferable in the long run, but whether or not it's a hurdle family man will be willing to jump when he's trawling the showrooms at weekends is another matter.

Of particular annoyance is the digital speedo and rev counter. The latter is placed far too far over to the right, the former slightly obscured by the steering wheel. For nigh-on a century they've both been straight in line with the driver, and therefore the road. Whacking indispensible instrumentation in the middle of the dash, presumably as some sort of concession to conversion to right hand drive, is borderline dangerous.

Hell's bells, what am I saying? This is the smaller version of an award-winning car at Top Gear. Maybe it's just because it looks like it should go better, and a vital part of the seven-seater's practicality has been eliminated, but somehow it's no longer quite the sum of its parts. Which is frustrating, because I really wanted it to be, and the rest of the office are going to suspect this is just me being grumpy or hypercritical.

Our photographer on the trip was swearing blind he was going to buy one when we were only five minutes down the road. And by the end of the day he was talking about Freelanders instead. It seems we're all suckers for a good-looking car, and the Picasso isn't short on substance, either.

But what it can't quite do - something that the Ford S-Max really can - is provide the driving experience that its bodyshell suggests it's capable of. Looking this good might just be enough, though. High-tech haute couture is still a massive step forward for Citroen.

Matt Master

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