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Citroen C4 Picasso

Date: 27 September 2006

Citroen C4 Picasso - dash
Category: Mini-MPV
Prices: £15,000 - £20,000
Key rival: Renault Grand Scenic

Citroen's Xsara Picasso has played a significant role in converting family folk to the people carrier cause. But being a five-seater that's been around a while, it has been overtaken by newer arrivals offering greater versatility.

That's why, come January, the seven-seater C4 Picasso will fit into the gap between the ongoing Xsara and the full-size C8.

Its most striking feature is the amount of glass, particularly a front windscreen that sweeps back into the roofline. Deep, sliding sun visors are built into the ceiling, too, and there is the option of a panoramic full-length sunroof.

Citroen C4 Picasso spec

The cabin matches the exterior for Gallic design flair, especially the central digital "infotainment" binnacle. Exclusive trim features a combination of high-grade materials, including dark lacquered surfaces and switchgear, plus squeak-free fit and finish standards absent from other Citroens.

There are lots of bins and cubby holes, while clever flip-and-fold mechanisms make switching from seven, to five, to two seats easy

Picnic tables, seat back DVD screens, atmospheric lighting strips and door stowage bins that light up when you scrabble about for a lost set of keys all contribute to a carefully thought out travelling environment. And when the electronic automated transmission is fitted there is nothing to clutter up the floor space. The Picasso will offer pneumatic self-levelling suspension on all bar the 129PS, 1.8-litre petrol variant.

Citroen believes the automated, six-speed clutchless transmission should command a high take-up level, particularly among fleets. The 2.0-litre 139PS version we drove might generate superior fuel economy and CO2 levels to a manual, but old habits die hard. Just how many business drivers will be willing to switch to steering wheel-mounted paddles from stick shifts remains unclear, but there will be no manual option with this engine.

The air suspension copes well across varied rural terrain even if there was some thump and bump from the rear on ridged surfaces. This substantial mobile conservatory also needs to be eased through sweeping bends rather than hustled, largely due to a slightly vague and light electric power steering system.

Where the upscale Picasso excelled was in its refinement and the lack of mechanical or wind noise - the acres of acoustic laminated glass all round cuts decibels to a minimum. Citroen promises markedly improved RVs with the C4 Picasso, which it believes can generate a 55% business-buying factor.