Grand designs: driving the 7-seat C4 Picasso

22 January 2014

2014 Grand C4 Picasso rear side view

Grand C4 Picasso
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Good: Cavernous interior, economy, comfort
Bad: Iffy styling, jump-seat legroom
Price: from £19,200
Citroen’s five-seat C4 Picasso gained a five-star thumbs up when I drove it last year, and now it’s the turn of the Grand C4 Picasso, the extended seven-seat edition of the same mid-sized people carrier. Can it match the standards of quality, style and comfort set by its smaller and cheaper sibling?

There are immediate points for effort. The French company has clearly done more than simply stretch the bodywork when it shaped the longer car. At the front there’s a splash of additional chrome and reshaped air intake, the extended flanks have been resculpted, and the broad tailgate now carries double-deck lamp clusters.

2014 Grand C4 Picasso front side view

The C4 Picasso’s signature chrome highlight – outlining the glazed portion of the doors on mid-spec models and above – has also been junked in favour of a grey strip starting at the base of the screen pillar, running up along the roof rails and down again to embrace the rearmost side window. The merit of this styling flourish is debateable, calling to mind protective packaging someone forgot to remove.

Overall, the new Grand C4 Picasso is not quite as handsome as the five-seat edition, but it is far from ugly and a vast improvement over its forerunner, which resembled a giant vacuum cleaner. More importantly, the new car is also at least 100kg lighter than the outgoing Grand C4 Picasso, despite being roughly the same size.

2014 Grand C4 Picasso side view

The stretched wheelbase – 11cm longer than before and 5.5cm more than the new five seater – helps the new car to provide impressive space within the cabin, most noticeably in legroom terms. Many young children will be surely be disappointed at not being able to kick the back of a parent’s chair. Each of the three seats in the middle row is a full size, independently sliding unit offering Isofix anchor points as well as proper comfort for adults.

The pair of occasional seats in row three aren’t quite as inviting. They lift up from the boot floor easily enough and stow away again quickly and easily, but the lack of a real footwell severely limits their appeal for the long of limb. Middle row occupants will also need to sacrifice some kneeroom in a full car.

There’s also the issue of what to do with the roller-blind luggage cover, which unclips without drama but then becomes about as handy to wave around as a freshly sharpened javelin. It will stow across the car in the aforementioned meagre footwell, only making that issue worse. When seven seats are in use, you’ll surely wish you’d left the luggage cover at home.

2014 Grand C4 Picasso access to rearmost seats

At least access to the rearmost pews is reasonable, with the outside middle-row seats folding up cinema-style and sliding well forward out of the way. Getting settled into the back row is easier than clambering out again, mind you.

With the jump seats folded the boot seems large enough to produce an echo. Conversely, with the seats up, luggage will be limited to things you might equally carry in your pockets.

2014 Grand C4 Picasso small boot when seats raised

Up front, the cabin is consistently impressive, with excellent seats offering a wide degree of adjustment. I did notice that there’s no grab handle above the passenger window, a penny-pinching omission clearly dreamt up by someone who’s never helped an elderly relative into a car.

Dashboard arrangements are shared with the smaller C4 Picasso. A big central instrument cluster employs LCD technology on lower models or a high-resolution 12-inch widescreen further up the range, plus a 7-inch touch panel on all models overseeing minor settings. There are also a few touch-sensitive buttons dedicated to demisting tasks, supplemented by a bewildering collection of rollers and switches on the steering wheel. Once you’ve memorised which does exactly what it’s perfectly usable, though I’d still prefer a dedicated knob somewhere for cranking the temperature up or down.

2014 Grand C4 Picasso cockpit

The widescreen version of the instrument panel offers a choice of three different visual themes, all attractive, legible and modern in appearance, although the software behind the scenes clearly has more in common with an old Windows PC than the latest Apple iPad.

Swapping themes requires a reboot and a long period spent wondering if the car might have crashed, so to speak. Within a given theme there are various screens to choose among showing different driving information or, if you wish, pictures of your kids, pets or sunsets. Slots for inputting digital data via USB sockets lurk in a flock-lined cubby under the centre console.

2014 Grand C4 Picasso instrument themes

On the move the overriding impression is of a wheeled feather bed. Even quite severe lumps and bumps are smoothed away with barely a murmur, yet the ride never descends into wallow or wobble. There’s never any doubt that you’re driving a big, long and tall car, but it’s hard to imagine a more suitable setup for the Picasso’s people-carrier remit.

My test vehicle came with a six-speed manual gearbox and 150 horsepower BlueHDI diesel engine. This powerplant is notable for complying with the upcoming Euro 6 emissions standard, which drastically cuts the amount of soot and oxides of nitrogen allowed to emerge from the tailpipe. The latter is achieved by squirting small volumes of a catalytic fluid into the hot exhaust stream, transmogrifying the NOx into nitrogen and water. The fluid, called AdBlue, is topped up during normal servicing.

2014 Grand C4 Picasso front view, driving

Alongside cleaner emissions the BlueHDI engine also delivers admirable levels of efficiency. A CO2 rating of 110g/km and combined cycle score of 67.3mpg are impressive, given the size of the car and the power on offer, although my tests suggest aggressive driving will see economy tumble to the mid-30s. Acceleration to 62mph takes just 9.8 seconds, underscoring the potent feel provided by 370Nm of torque.

The less powerful e-HDi 115 Airdream diesel engine, compliant with the less demanding Euro 5 standard, is likely to be the most popular choice. It’s rated at 105g/km and 70.6mpg, feels reasonably brawny, and should readily achieve economy in the 40s or 50s. There’s also a 98g/km, 90bhp diesel option that I didn’t try but which I suspect might feel a little overwhelmed when the car is fully loaded with people and possessions.

2014 Grand C4 Picasso front interior

Prices start at £19,200 for a petrol-powered Grand C4 Picasso that few buyers will choose, rising to £27,855 for the BlueHDI engine with auto gearbox in the peak Exclusive+ trim. Like for like, the premium over the five-seat C4 Picasso is £1,700.

Overall, the Grand C4 Picasso provides ample accommodation for an average-sized family, with enough kit and competence to justify the asking price. It’s not quite as enchanting as the smaller C4 Picasso, but it still feels like a very pleasant step up for this kind of car.

2014 Grand C4 Picasso front view

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