ROAD TEST: Citroën C4 Picasso e-HDi 115 Intensive
Hey, wait a minute. Did they accidentally transplant the interior of a top-secret future DS model into this test car? Isn't this supposed to be a humble Citroën C4 Picasso?
Those were my thoughts as I departed the office basement in this quirky French MPV. Not too long ago you needed to buy a top-of-the-range German luxury saloon to get an interior this classy. Not only does the dash please the eye with its classy textures, but if you order the Lounge Pack you get cushy two-tone leather seats that will treat you to a massage, and the front passenger can even extend the seat squab like it's a Lazyboy.
Up front it feels like some kind of space-age luxury liner and you can almost hear Captain Kirk saying “Beam me up... “ Look to the centre and you're faced with a 30cm screen for all your driving info (speed etc) and just below that there's an 18cm touch-screen for stamping your authority on the music, navigation and climate control. It does take a bit of getting used to and initially I did wish for more buttons and less computer menus, but it does come to feel like a rather user-friendly interface once you're in sync with it.
The 'Intensive' model on test is equipped intensively enough to befit its range-topping status, with standard fare including cruise control, reverse camera, navigation, dual zone climate control and blind spot monitoring. There's also mood lighting if that floats your boat.
Yet will the Picasso really do so for buyers in this price range? With SUVs having taken centre stage in the family-hauling business one has to wonder whether there's still a place for MPV-like vehicles like the Picasso.
While it's not going to appeal to the 'rugged' pavement hopping set, there's bound to be a few eccentric individuals out there that will warm to its quirky, off-centre styling and space-age cabin.
DESIGNED FROM THE INSIDE
Yet the real beauty here is that, like any good MPV, the Picasso was designed from the inside out and that's really good news for those you'll be putting in the back. This Citroën has three individual rear seats, which can also recline, and there's a well-sized (537 litre) boot so overall practicality is really a strong point here.
It's the kind of vehicle that makes you want to sit back in your comfy leather chair and cruise, and the cosseting ride quality keeps its side of that bargain too. Just a pity there's no automatic gearbox option, as a self-shifting box would really suit the magic carpet appeal that this car has.
Oh and the engine? Well that's a 1.6-litre turbodiesel that ticks away quietly in the background of the overall experience. With 85kW and 270Nm on tap, it's really not a great performer but then I wouldn't go as far as calling it sluggish either. It just does its job adequately and economically.
The official laboratory combined consumption figure is four litres per 100km on the dot, but in the real world my car's trip initially showed 8.6 l/100km after a few days of town driving, but the overall average dipped down to 6.6 after some extensive highway driving.
Let's just see this Citroën for the niche player that it is. It's not going to sell in droves, but for those few individuals looking for their right combination of distinctive, quirky, luxurious and futuristic, this could be the work of art they've been waiting for.
Citroën C4 Picasso e-HDi 115 Intensive
Engine: 1.6-litre, four-cylinder turbodiesel
Gearbox: Six-speed manual
Power: 85kW @ 3600rpm
Torque: 270Nm @ 1750rpm
0-100km/h (claimed): 11.8 seconds
Top speed (claimed): 189km/h
Consumption (claimed): 4.0 litres per 100km
Price: R345 900
Warranty: Three-year/100 000km
Service plan: Five-year/100 000km