George - Look at the minivan market like a big pot of bland mealie pap, and Citroën’s new C4 Picasso is like a fiery helping of chakalaka. Alright, it’s still a minivan... but at least it makes an effort to be interesting.
In our market the new Picasso only comes with seating for five (a seven seater’s sold in Europe) so naturally it’ll line up next to other small family movers such as Toyota’s Verso and the VW Touran. But next to those cars the French newcomer, with its space-age design and quirky features, looks like something beamed down from another planet.
A gigantic panoramic windscreen that curves up and over the front two seats is common to existing Citroëns, but the comic book bad-guy front end with squinty LED headlight accents is new design territory for not only the brand, but the conservative MPV segment in general.
But the Picasso’s exterior is just a taste-tester for the real flavour explosion happening inside. To be fair, the most basic Seduction model doesn’t have a lot going on, with cloth seating, a lower-tech two colour dash-top speedo display and fewer control buttons on the steering wheel; but move up to Intensive spec and add further (and frankly quite expensive) “packages” on to that and you’ve by far got the most zhoozh MPV on the market today.
All derivatives come standard with a 7” touchscreen in the dash’s centre for control of most onboard systems including satnav, but Intensive spec alone adds a 12” full-colour HD display positioned up top, that wouldn’t look out of place in a Rolls Royce. This intense kaleidoscope of a screen can be set up in numerous configurations, including one with upload-able photo backgrounds, and makes the pricier of the two Picassos a more delicious proposition on its own.
This comes with even more fanciness, including full nappa leather upholstery, individually sliding rear seats, business class-like headrests and a unique electrically adjustable footrest that makes for an almost lie-flat front passenger seat. Xenon headlights, a motorised tailgate, auto dimming mirrors and a lane departure warning system that tugs on the driver’s seatbelt in the most peculiar way, are all part of an optional Drive Assist Pack; and a Park Assist and Panoramic Roof Pack includes a 360 degree bird’s eye parking camera, auto parking (parallel and alley docking), blind-spot monitoring and, of course, a giant glass roof.
Interestingly, and despite its name, the C4 Picasso isn’t at all based on the current C4 hatch, and instead rides on a platform completely new to Citroën. This front-wheel drive chassis will soon support other models such as next year’s Cactus crossover SUV, but is also underneath sister brand Peugeot’s soon-to-be-launched second generation 308 hatch.
The Picasso’s engine is a well known one, however, as it’s this very 1.6-litre turbodiesel that’s fitted to numerous Citroëns and Peugeots including C4 hatch and Aircross, as well as the 208. Outputs are quoted at 85kW and 270Nm, and average fuel consumption could be as low as four litres per 100km in ideal (but unlikely) conditions. All Picassos come with six-speed manual transmissions only.
Performance isn’t quite as fiery as my intro might have you believe.
There’s enough torque to tug the van around full-up with passengers and gear, but a small capacity turbodiesel like this will always exhibit some lag on take-off, and is never going to be as explosive as the aesthetics suggest.
It feels like a small and easy-to-drive car from behind the wheel, and it is in dimension too, compared to bigger MPVs such as Renault’s Grand Scenic or the Chrysler Grand Voyager. Call it a crossover between a normal hatch and an MPV.
Boot space with rear seats in place is decent at 537 litres, but to really exploit its full 1851 litre cargo capacity you’ll need to fold them flat – essentially making this a two-seater van.
C4 Picasso Seduction - R325 900
C4 Picasso Intensive - R345 900
Luxury Pack - R27 480
Park Assist & Panoramic Roof Pack - R21 980
Drive Assist Pack - R29 970
All C4 Picassos come with a three year or 100 000km warranty and a five-year or 100 000km service plan. Extended warranties and guaranteed buy-back packages are available.