Last weekend we were very lucky to be lent the ALL-NEW CITROËN GRAND C4 PICASSO to review. (Woohoo!)
We were particularly excited to be test-driving this car as the All-New CITROËN GRAND C4 PICASSO 2014 is an update to the New CITROËN Grand C4 Picasso launched in 2006 which we currently own (and have affectionately named “Pablo”). Apparently, the 2014 release was necessary because the 2006 CITROËN Grand C4 Picasso has been so popular, it’s sold out!
Anyway, I predict that CITROËN will launch the Ultimate-Newest CITROËN Grand C4 Picasso only in 2020+ so if you buy the All-New 2014 version, fear not. I’m sure you’ll be driving the newest car around for quite some time.
But getting back to business: for the purpose of this review, our All New 2014 Grand C4 Picasso shall be called... Paul. For those of you who object because you say that Paul and Pablo are essentially the same name, I think you’ll see that “same-same-but-different” pretty much sums up our 2014 v. 2006 Grand C4 Picasso experience.
So to begin with, here’s a short introduction to Paul:
Take note that the child featured in the picture above is a non-standard accessory.
Here's a simplified spec sheet which sets out the key headlines.
Pretty impressive. What really stands out is the Category A COE. Not many MPVs fall into this category. Also, this car is eligible for a S$15,000 CEVS rebate because it fits certain environmentally-friendly criteria and in fact has the lowest carbon emission rating in its class.
Ok, so now on to the actual review. To begin with, let me just say it outright - this is seriously the best MPV in its class.
I'll let some facts do the talking:
- Roomiest MPV in its class
- Best fuel economy in its class
- Best electronic specs in its class
- Excellent visibility, best in its class
- Lowest carbon emissions in its class
But since the good folks at CITROËN were so kind to let us have Paul for three days, I think they must be expecting a little more... Heh.
So here goes.
A review of the All New Grand C4 Picasso must begin with a word on its design.
In its press release the following is stated about Paul's design:
On the design-front, CITROËN C4 Picasso’s and Grand C4 Picasso’s strong, expressive designs are visible in the dynamic lines and high-tech headlights with LED 3D rear lights. The 5.7 square meters of glazing with the zenith windscreen and panoramic glass roof creates the CITROËN-signature loft-style interior with a bright, uncluttered ambience.Ermm, did anyone really understand that? Me neither.
Actually, in my humble opinion, design is very simple.
Design only comes in 4 choices as follows:
(A) it looks great
(B) it is sort of nice
(C) I'm somewhat doubtful
(D) it sucks.
Most people whom I spoke to think that Paul's design was an unequivocal (A). Me too. Just as you cannot describe what an iphone actually looks like using words like "dynamic lines", I'll just let photos do the talking.
The above of course are the professionally taken brochure photos. Looks great, right? After having seen the car, I’m happy to report that it looks as good in person. You... just have to take my word for it.
Now onto the drive.
Paul uses an All-New (hey that phrase again!) engine platform, wholly different from Pablo. Apparently the new engine cost CITROËN /Peugeot 630 million Euros to develop! Just to make sure that it wasn't wasted money, the new engine, amongst other things:
- consumes 22% less fuel than the old engine
- is lighter and has better weight/performance ratios than the old engine
- is designed with tighter electronic integration with onboard electronics in mind
(*I can't recall and share the exact details because I basically lost interest when my Dilbert-based theory was invalidated. Sorry!)
Anyway, the practical result of the improved engine platform is that driving Paul around was a nice and enjoyable experience. Steering was super light, even effortless. The car also offers good control and close handling with little body roll around corners. Acceleration was good; Paul is of course not a sports car, but it will do nicely whether in city traffic or cruising on a highway.
I did find auto shifting from 1st to 2nd gear slightly choppy but owners needn't worry – this should smoothen out once the engine figures out the driver's driving pattern. Alternatively you can use the paddle shifts to dictate gear changes to optimise your driving experience.
What also makes Paul stand out is the fact that everything in the interior has been upgraded from Pablo and especially its electronics. Its interior looks really, really nice! And the middle row is noticeably roomier than Pablo.
Paul features, among other things:
- a 7" touchscreen main control panel
- Factory-fitted bluetooth connectivity
- Factory-fitted USB socket with iPod/iPhone/iPad connectivity
I desperately tried to press as many buttons on the touchscreen interface as quickly as possible to try to make it hang, and see whether a voice would come up and lecture me about that, but there was no success there. So yes, the interface is steady and reliable – not to mention that it also looks great!
I didn't take too many pictures of the boot but don't worry, it is a class leading 537 litres. That means you can put in ALOT of stuff. The tailgate is also automatic! Press a button to open and press a button to close. This is pretty standard issue for the likes of the BMW 5 and 7 series, but for a mid-range MPV this is cool! The only bad thing about the automatic tailgate is that if you're angry with your boss or kids you gotta slam the passenger doors instead.
Comparison with Pablo
Honestly there is no comparison between Pablo and Paul. Paul is in every way, a total, truly All-New, upgrade to Pablo. From the engine/chassis, to the electronics, to the interior ("CITROËN -signature loft styled", remember?), everything has been upgraded. Just to name a few things:
- Longer wheelbase = roomier interior
- New engine = better performance and fuel consumption
- All electronic controls
Areas For Improvement
Ok, so with that said, one gets the impression that this is the perfect family car. With so many features that are in fact class-leading, it certainly might be.
But no car is absolutely absolutely perfect, and the one thing I thought could be improved upon was the Eco Drive. I understand that it comes as a standard on all models sold in Asiapac. So if you've never driven a vehicle with Eco Drive before, you have to get used to the engine switching off when the car halts. But that aside, I found that the Eco Drive implementation on Paul was not as refined as it could be. Once, while I was travelling very (very) slowly up a twisty carpark ramp, Eco Drive kicked in and switched off the engine. Luckily nothing happened. I wasn't able to find out how to turn Eco Drive off but the representatives at CITROËN have told me that it is possible to turn this setting off as part of the car settings.
Here are more gratuitous pics of Paul.
Basically, if you're looking to buy a mid-range MPV, you should really consider this vehicle. You might find, as I did, that the 2014 CITROËN Grand C4 Picasso blows away all its same-class competitors on all counts. Perhaps, among its competition, only the Volkwagen Touran runs the CITROËN close. The Volks has more power, similar fit and finish but less space and poorer fuel economy. In particular, space-wise, the Touran is much smaller and the third row is for very occasional use, whereas the CITROËN's third row is reasonably comfortable.
Personally, I also wouldn't really consider the Japanese MPVs to be close competition for the CITROËN. First of all, for some reason, the Japanese manufacturers favour using big engines to deliver the same sort of ride - this is sort of okay and I don't want to get into the naturally aspirated vs turbo engine debate but what it means, at a very practical level, is that bigger engines mean higher COE, higher road taxes and poorer fuel economy. Second of all to get to the same level of fit and finish that the CITROËN has - well you're looking at a large-ish jump of $20-30K at least, so whether this is ok with you is your call.
For me, there is no question that among the mid-range MPV class, the 2014 CITROËN Grand C4 Picasso ticks all the right boxes.
* This post and our weekend test-drive were sponsored by Citroën for the purposes of this review.