Much as you have to applaud Citroën’s success with the old Xsara Picasso, there was always the nagging feeling that it was just too dull to be a Citroën.
Nearly a quarter of a million sales didn’t change the fact that as you filled up the fuel tank, you emptied your soul.
Luckily, the C4 Picasso is a return to form. It is what a Citroën should be, a rolling work of art, but with a sympathy for the needs of real-world motoring thrown in.
The strokes of the designer’s brush have been filtered through the metal presses into an object of real beauty. It is much more deserving of Pablo’s moniker.
It isn’t just the outside either, as the interior is a genuinely exciting place. The traditional car interior has been redrawn – you have to remap your motoring expectations. When you get used to it, the interior is logical and useable.
Like many modern MPVs, the instrument panel is in the centre of the car, making way for storage binnacles on either side.
Air conditioning buttons are by the door, the handbrake is now a button on the centre of the dashboard, warning lights are on top of the steering wheel where they are joined by the gearlever on the automatic version we tried. You half expect to find the accelerator in the ceiling.
There is a sympathetic blend of individualism and conformity.
In the rear there are three full-sized seats, which slide, recline and fold flat.
Rear passengers can have aircraft-style fold-down trays, which can also come with in-built flat screens for a DVD player that are completely hidden when the trays are folded away.
Legroom is generous, even with the seats in their most forward position. In the boot, space ranges between 500 and 605 litres with the seats up, to 1,734 litres with the seats down.
There is an opening tailgate window for tight spaces – standard on top-end models. A Modubox, a kind of funky plastic shopping trolley, is standard on all versions.
Top-of-the-range Exclusive comes with a hatful of additional goodies as standard, including air suspension and parking sensors front and rear.
The 1.6-litre HDi diesel engine pulls smoothly and strongly, despite its diminutive size, and there is a noticeable hush in the cabin, even at speed.
The only fly in the ointment is the EGS automated manual gearbox, which despite significant advances in technology still causes noticeable hiccups when changing up, although it is smoother on the way down.
However, all this technology and equipment comes at a price, with our top-of-the-range model costing £20,140. It retains £6,800/34% after three years/60,000 miles, a hefty loss from this level.
So it is likely most C4 fleet buyers will be negotiating on price or choosing models from further down the range. Price aside, the Citroën C4 Picasso offers a great package.
P11D value: £19,975
CO2 emissions (g/km): 150
BIK % of P11D in 2007: 20%
Graduated VED rate: £115
Insurance group: 7
Combined mpg: 49.6
CAP RV (3yr/60k): £6,800/34%
Monthly lease (3yr/60k): £437
The SEAT wins the price war, but you get less as standard compared to the Citroën, which manages second place despite its high specification level. The popular Scenic remains within touch, while the Volks-wagen’s higher price is likely to be reflected in better RVs.
The SEAT wins here, thanks to its efficient engine and excellent DSG gearbox, with a tax bill of just £66 a month. The Citroën is adrift of it at £80 a month because of its higher BIK price, at £80 a month. The Touran would cost a fleet driver £94 a month in tax and the Renault £99.
Volkwagen’s reputation for reliability keeps its costs low, thanks to variable servicing. Renault and SEAT are within a whisker of each other. Citroën’s Picasso adds cost in most areas, including shorter service intervals and more expensive tyres.
Touran: 2.99 (pence per mile) £1,794 (60,000 miles total)
Scenic: 3.72 (pence per mile) £2,232 (60,000 miles total)
SEAT: 3.85 £2,310
Citroën: 4.69 £2,814
Citroën’s automated manual gearbox and small engine combine to achieve a 49.6mpg average, while the SEAT is close on 47.9mpg. The heavier VW is adrift on 43.5mpg, while the traditional automatic Renault can’t keep up, but offers a still-respectable 39.8mpg average.
Citroën: 8.67 (pence per mile) £5,202 (60,000 miles total)
SEAT: 8.98 £5,388
Touran: 10.20 £6,120
Scenic: 10.81 £6,486
The Touran’s strong residual value of 38% price is better than the SEAT, on 32%, but Altea wins because of its price advantage. The Citroën puts in a strong performance, holding 34% of its value, but the Renault automatic is only predicted to retain 26%.
SEAT: 20.26 (pence per mile) £12,156 (60,000 miles total)
Touran: 21.15 £12,690
Citroën: 21.96 £13,175
Scenic: 24.72 £14,832
SEAT has an unassailable lead thanks to its low price, strong residual value performance and low fuel costs, which outweigh its relatively high SMR figure. The Citroën puts in a decent performance thanks to strong RV and fuel cost predictions.
SEAT: 33.09 £19,854
Touran: 34.34 £20,604
Citroën: 35.32 £21,192
Scenic: 39.25 £23,550
The Citroën puts in a very strong case for itself even at this high price level, showing this model is taken seriously in the new and used car market. But despite the strengths of its looks, interior, engines and flexibility, it is overshadowed.
The Touran beats it on running costs, but the SEAT provides an alternative that is equally stylish and much cheaper, both in wholelife costs and driver benefit-in-kind tax terms.