Citroen C4 Picasso

1.2 PureTech 130

VTR+

Citroen C4 Picasso, front
Citroen C4 Picasso, front
Citroen C4 Picasso, rear
Citroen C4 Picasso, boot
Citroen C4 Picasso, interior
Citroen C4 Picasso, interior
Citroen C4 Picasso, rear seats
Citroen C4 Picasso, interior

THE Citroen Xsara Picasso ruled the compact MPV class for almost a decade after its launch in 1999 thanks to a blend of practicality and affordability.

Countless sightings on school runs the length and breadth of the country were guaranteed as families took to it in their droves and it became the ubiquitous people carrier on British roads.

In doing so the Xsara Picasso cemented Citroen's place at the forefront of the MPV market place, making it quite a tough act to follow.

The baton was eventually passed on to the C4 Picasso, the second generation of which has been doing a sterling job upholding the brand's tradition since 2013 - adding striking, modern design and a light airy cabin to the model's established virtues.

Another string to its bow came midway through last year when, along with the seven-seat Grand C4 Picasso, it became the latest model to get PSA Peugeot-Citroen's award winning 1.2-litre, three-cylinder PureTech petrol engine.

Until recently such a small capacity power-pack would have been unheard of in the mid-sized MPV class, let alone full-on people carriers.

But pressure for increased efficiency has driven rapid advances in engine technology and such under-the-bonnet downsizing is becoming increasingly common.

The PureTech range is designed to provide increased power with lower fuel consumption and emissions by adopting the smaller and lighter three-cylinder configuration.

And the turbocharged 130ps version here, incorporating and automatic start and stop system, has already made its mark - having been crowned International Engine of the Year 2015 in the 1.0 - 1.4-litre category by a panel of 84 industry experts from 34 countries.

In the C4 Picasso it replaces the outgoing 1.6-litre VTi powertrain and offers some impressive improvements.

Almost two seconds are shaved off the 0-62mph sprint time, which now comes up in a spritely 10.1 seconds, while fuel economy is boosted to a claimed 56.5mpg on average and carbon emissions drop by 30g/km to 115.

Progress is refreshingly smooth as the power plant belies its diminutive size and actually feels quite perky once the turbo kicks in.

Light and accurate steering adds a nimble feel to the drive and makes manoeuvring around town a doddle, while the body remains well controlled and reassuringly stable in bends for quite a tall car.

Often the downside of three-pot engines is the increased volume, but this is well restrained in the C4 Picasso and only really intrudes under sharp acceleration - so it should prove a refined and comfortable cruiser for longer journeys too.

The familiar upright, elevated driving position common in MPVs adds an extra feeling of security and, coupled with an impressive amount of glass real estate - not least the expansive windscreen - offers great all around vision as well as flooding the cabin with light.

For reasons best known to themselves Citroen are only making the PureTech engine available in entry level VTR and VTR+ grade cars but the good news is that while VTR models are a bit sparse on the equipment front, stepping up to VTR+ offers a more than reasonable package.

Plenty of soft-touch surfaces and contrasting textures add interest and a quality feel to the interior but it is the versatility that really impresses.

Personal storage includes hidden compartments beneath both front seats and in the rear footwells while the three individual rear seats recline, slide forwards and backwards and fold flat independently. The front passenger seat can even be folded flat for extra long loads.

Creature comforts include touchscreen interface, digital radio, Bluetooth, dual-zone aircon, rear parking sensors and automatic lights and wipers while safety is taken care of by all the usual airbags, cruise control, stability and traction control and hill hold assist.

The PureTech engine might not be able to quite match the diesels in the range for economy - but if you spend a lot of your time in town and on short trips there won't be much in it.

FAST FACTS

Citroen C4 Picasso 1.2 PureTech 130 VTR+

Price: £19,570

Mechanical: 130ps, 1,199cc, 4cyl petrol engine driving front wheels via 6-speed manual gearbox

Max Speed: 125mph

0-62mph:10.1 seconds

Combined MPG: 56.5

Insurance Group: 18

C02 emissions:115g/km

Bik rating:18%

Warranty:3yrs/60,000 miles

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