Decent rather than class-leading; quiet and comfortable to ride in
Smart finish and good visibility, but too many features operated via touch-screen
All the essentials, but more advanced features reserved only for priciest models
Should prove acceptable, if previous model is anything to go by
Spacious cabin, including three full-size rear seats and a large boot
Entry-level model is fairly well kitted but just one trim up gets many more treats
The 113bhp e-HDi 1.6 diesel provides plenty of power even from fairly low revs, so it's easy to pick up speed without having to drop down a gear. This helps make the C4 Picasso relaxing to drive, as does the car's steering, which is usefully light round town but gets just heavy enough at speed to feel reassuring on the motorway or bendy B-roads. The suspension is on the soft side so it takes the sting out of all but the biggest bumps in the road; however, it's also taut enough to prevent the car from lurching too much on bends or over larger crests and dips in the road. On the whole the C4 Picasso is quiet to ride in and the engines we've tried feel impressively smooth. It's probably best to avoid the ETG6 semi-automatic gearbox, however, as it feels rather slow and jerky compared to conventional automatics. The engine range also includes a 91bhp 1.6 diesel and two 1.6 petrols, one with 118bhp and the other with a punchy 154bhp.
The C4 Picasso feels really airy inside, thanks to its windscreen which extends partway into the roof (there are special pull-down visors if things get too bright). The dashboard feels solid and is smartly finished, and most of the car's functions are controlled through a central touch-screen with easy-to-hit icons - the only catch is that it also includes the air-con settings, so you end up switching between the screen's menus more often than you usually would. Higher-spec cars have their instruments displayed on a second, large colour screen with sophisticated graphics. The C4 Picasso has three separate, identical, full-size rear seats, which makes it possible for many models of child seat to fit here side by side, and the Isofix points on each one are easy to find while remaining very discreet. The fact that the seat bases are mostly flat (but still very comfortable) should help make them suitable for a wide range of child seats. Each rear seat also individually slides and reclines, and it takes only a moment to fold any of them flat, though with all three folded the loadbay isn't quite flat as on some rivals; the folded seat backs make a slight slope. Still, with the rear seats down the C4 Picasso offers a van-like space, and the boot is pretty big with the seats up, too. There's enough leg- and headroom for six-footers in the back, and the floor across the rear is totally flat so no-one has to straddle the awkward hump found in the centre footwell of some cars. The C4 Picasso's rear side pillars curve inwards quite dramatically, though, which can make those in the outer seats feel a touch squashed. Every C4 Picasso comes with alloy wheels, Bluetooth, a six-speaker stereo, USB socket and child locks for the windows and doors activated via buttons within the driver's reach. The second trim-level, VTR+, includes a digital radio, cubby holes under the rear footwells, sturdy fold-down picnic tables on the back of the front seats and air vents for the rear passengers. Exclusive models bring sat nav, integrated sun-blinds and a mirror so you can see what the kids are up to in the back, while range-topping Exclusive+ cars have everything from adaptive cruise control to a massage function for the front seats.
It's too soon to say how reliable this new C4 Picasso is, but the previous model finished in the top half of the latest JD Power owner satisfaction survey, and owners rated it as 'above average' in the 2013 What Car? Reliability Survey. As for safety, every model comes with front, side and curtain airbags, but it's disappointing that the curtain 'bags don't extend to the rearmost seats, and on most models you have to pay extra for advanced safety features such as adaptive cruise control and lane-departure warning. None the less, the C4 Picasso received the maximum five stars in crash tests by Euro NCAP, with 86% for adults and 88% for children. Like most rivals, the C4 Picasso helps fend off thieves with an engine immobiliser, deadlocks and locking wheel nuts.
The C4 Picasso should be high on the shortlist for any family that needs to fit three child seats in a row and have a large boot for a buggy and luggage. Go for the second trim level upwards for a range of features to make family car journeys even easier. Pricing is competitive and the the 91bhp diesel is particularly economical, though the e-HDI 115 version is almost as good and more powerful, too. An even more economical diesel will be introduced in early 2014, as will an updated version of the seven-seat 'Grand' model.