that cars were mobile
art. So does that make
the new Citroën C4
Picasso a work of art?
As cars go, it certainly
looks arty enough
and the artists name-
sake has all the right
CITROËN IS BIG in MPVs. Call them what you like MPVs, multi-purpose vehicles or people-carriers Citroën currently has five MPV model ranges.
They have recently launched their new C4 Picasso five-seat compact MPV, priced from £14,495. This model range follows the introduction of the larger Grand C4 Picasso seven-seat model in January, with prices from £15,025. In addition, Citroën also sells in the UK the budget priced but versatile Berlingo Multispace, with current pricing offers starting from £8,675.
The extremely popular and remarkable value for money five-seat Xsara Picasso is currently quoted as costing from £9,995. The good news is that this model is not being replaced by the new C4 Picasso, but stays on sale until at least 2010. Citroën also has their large seven-seat C8 MPV which is officially priced from £15,995.
Some of the prices mentioned above included Citroën's well publicised 'cashback' offers. It's not always easy to be definitive about Citroën's on-the-road prices as they consider themselves the champions when
it comes to value for money and they consistently have 'offers' which vary from month to month. Citroën's UK dealers are well used to bar-gaining with buyers so never really expect to pay the quoted retail price. If one offer has finished, be sure another one will be along for the next month's tactical pricing marketing campaign.
This flexible pricing policy does not always bode well for future residual values of some Citroën models, but for the new diesel-powered C4 Picasso and the larger Grand C4 models, CAP Monitor (one of the UK's 'bibles' of residual values) views the three-year/60,000-mile predicted values better than the Renault Scenic, Ford C-Max, VW Touran, Ford S-Max, Vauxhall Zafira and Renault Grand Scenic.
Although the C4 Picasso has just gone on sale, private buyers are cur-rently being offered zero per cent finance over three-years. If you are a company car driver and prefer to contract hire the new compact MPV, then £367 per month for three years should get you into Citroën's new people-mover.
Recently named 'Car Manufacturer of the Year' in the Green Fleet Awards, Citroën is also seen as a champion eco-warrior and has a long-term commitment to the development and production of fuel-efficient, low-emission vehicles.
There was a time when MPVs were regarded as something of a 'niche vehicle'. Not anymore. Sales figures issued by Citroën for the whole of the UK MPV market show that just ten years ago only a few thousand MPVs were sold each year. Last year, due to the increase in the num-ber of MPVs available from most volume manufacturers, UK sales rose to 215,000 vehicles almost one in ten of all new cars sold. The bulk of these were compact models with five or seven seat options.
Citroën says that around two-thirds of all compact MPVs sold in the UK are five-seat versions, and just over half of these were equipped with diesel engines a figure which is considerably higher than for the new car market as a whole. Around 40 per cent of five-seat MPVs are bought by private buyers; notably more than the 30 per cent of retail sales registered for the seven-seat models.
So we know how many MPVs are sold, but who is buying them? There is no doubt that some families who have in the past bought medium-sized 'soft' 4x4s (such as the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV 4) because of their high-up 'command' driving position, versatile passenger and load carrying space and status, have now transferred their loyalties to MPVs. Some of this is to do with moral and social obligations created by the current anti-4x4 lobby and higher fuel and road taxes.
And while 65 per cent of compact MPV registered owners are male, women are often the primary driver. However, Citroën says 71 per cent of five-seat compact SUV buyers do not have children living at home compared to 39 per cent of seven-seat MPV owners. Two out of five MPV buyers are already retired. Clearly you don't have to have children to appreciate an MPV!
Given today's UK motoring climate of high taxation on fuel and road use, congested roads where out-and-out performance is irrelevant, green issues and the need for just one comfortable do-it-all vehicle in a family, it's no wonder MPVs are big business particularly if they follow Citroën's lead for sharp pricing, versatile design and green cred-entials.
The new Citroën C4 Picasso is officially priced from £14,495 to £19,345 for petrol models and £15,995 to £21,195 for diesel versions. There are two petrol engine options: a 1.8-litre with a five-speed manual trans-mission and a 2.0-litre equipped with Citroën's fuel saving EGS six-speed electronic automated manual gearbox. Diesel models also have two engine options: the excellent 1.6 HDi unit with five-speed manual or six speed automated manual transmissions and a 2.0 HDi unit with the electronic automated manual gearbox.
Depending on the model chosen, there is the choice of LX, SX, VTR+ and Exclusive specification options. Diesel models are expected to account for two-thirds of sales equally split between the two engines and VTR+ and Exclusive are the likely equal best-selling levels of specification.
My test C4 Picasso was the 1.6 HDi VTR+ with the EGS electronic transmission, priced at £18,215. Add in the options (which included a navigation system, parking sensor pack, security pack and 17-inch alloy wheels) and the total price was £21,245.
Although all the body panels from the B-post back are different for the five-seat C4 Picasso over the seven-seat Grand C4 Picasso variant, the overall shape is still that of an egg. This design provides for the maximum use of seating space, width, height, length, legroom and load space all comfortably within the overall length of a C-segment medium sized car of just 4,470mm long.
The C4 Picasso has five individual seats. The rear row of three individ-ually fold down to create a flat load floor with a carrying capacity ranging from 500 to 1,735 litres and a maximum load area length of 1,870mm. Throughout the vehicle, there is a vast array of clever stor-age boxes and compartments. The overall impression is of a very user-friendly and very well thought-out vehicle.
To mention just a few of the items included in the standard specific-ation: height, reach and tilt adjustable steering column, wide angle panoramic windscreen with slide and fold-down sun visors, manual air conditioning, electrically-operated front and rear side windows, power-ed and heated door mirrors, sunblinds for the rear side door windows, halogen headlights, front fog lights, welcome lights, rechargeable torch, front seat armrests, digital instrumentation, multi-function on-board computer, driver and passenger front and side airbags, cruise control and alloy wheels.
To be honest, I rather expected the 1.6 HDi diesel engine with the EGS high-tech clutchless manual gearbox to struggle in a car of this size. Happily, it was not the case. Whilst the EGS gearbox does take some getting used to and it dulls initial acceleration while making up its mind to select first gear, I quickly adapted to it and didn't notice the uncon-ventional changes in gear. I'm not sure though that I like the automatic electronic handbrake system. The 6-speed automated manual trans-mission system also incorporates an electronic stability programme and traction control.
The engine is a 1.6-litre, four-cylinder high-pressure common rail direct-injection turbodiesel that produces 110bhp and 177lb ft of torque from 1,750rpm. Top speed is 112mph with 0-62mph taking a modest 13.4 seconds. With the EGS automated manual transmission, which is linked electronically to the engine management system for optimum gearchanges, the CO2 levels are marginally lower just 150g/km than the conventional five-speed manual gearbox. The official combined fuel consumption figure is 49.6mpg; my test car returned a commendable 43.5mpg driving in real-world conditions.
The new C4 Picasso has a lot of good points but there were a few things I would like to mention. Over bad road surfaces and at low speeds I thought the ride comfort and handling could be better. On the plus side there's comfortable, versatile seating and lots of interior space and clever storage compartments, good load space, large glass areas that make for an airy, practical cabin and pleasing styling. You also get reasonable, cost-effective performance. All-in-all, not a bad deal. And given that it can be a bit pricey with all the options it's much better if you can coincide your buying with one of Citroën's 'offers'. David Miles
Citroën C4 Picasso 1.6 HDi EGS VTR+ 5-seat | £18,215
Maximum speed: 112mph | 0-62mph: 13.4 seconds
Overall test MPG: 43.5mpg | Power: 110bhp | Torque: 177lb ft
CO2 150g/km | Insurance group 7E
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