Citroen Grand C4

Picasso Flair

BlueHDi 120

Citroen Grand C4 Picasso, dynamic
Citroen Grand C4 Picasso, front quarter
Citroen Grand C4 Picasso, profile
Citroen Grand C4 Picasso, rear quarter
Citroen Grand C4 Picasso, interior
Citroen Grand C4 Picasso, boot

THROUGHOUT the noughties the Citroen Xsara Picasso was an inescapable sight on UK roads, proving a firm favourite with families the length and breadth of the nation thanks to its space, affordability and generous equipment levels.

This stalwart was finally pensioned off in 2010 but by then the C4 Picasso was already cementing the French car maker's place at the head of the MPV crowd - thanks in no small part to the addition of the seven-seat Grand C4 Picasso.

The larger motor was an instant hit and, now in its second generation, boasts a bagful of best-in-class awards.

A mild refresh last year saw some minimal design tweaks but the Grand C4 Picasso was already the most striking MPV on the market - with its expansive raked windscreen, wraparound tailgate and a sprinkling of Gallic flair stylishly eschewing the van-like character of many rivals.

While it helps to be attractive, the key considerations when buying a seven-seat MPV are practicality and versatility. The Grand C4 Picasso shines here, using clever packaging to maximise internal space.

Three full-sized middle row seats slide forwards and backwards and recline independently, while two more in the boot fold quickly and simply into the floor when not in use.

As with all such cars, the rearmost seats are best left to the children, but in the more often used middle row there is a flat floor and genuine room for three adults.

What really sets the Grand C4 Picasso apart, though, are the thoughtful little touches that just make life easier.

Hidden compartments under the driver's seat and in the rear footwell allow valuables to be stowed away from prying eyes and are just three of many storage cubbies dotted around the cabin.

Airline-style tables in the second row are always favourites with our kids and here come with a reading light and handy elasticated straps to hold items in place.

The Flair model I drove even includes an electric footrest and massage function on the front passenger seat - everyone travels in comfort.

Other equipment on this range-topper includes a seven-inch touchscreen multimedia interface, sat nav, digital radio, air conditioning, part leather upholstery, rear sunblinds and a panoramic glass roof with automatic blind.

The dashboard is dominated by a second, central, 12-inch information screen which replaces the traditional instrument binnacle and adds a distinctive, high-tech feel to the cabin.

The flexible seating system means a wide variety of load-carrying permutations are possible - there's even space for a couple of bags with all seven seats in use - while a low lip makes loading easy, and this flagship version also gets an automatic tailgate with hands-free function.

A 1.2 litre petrol and 1.6 and 2.0 litre turbo diesel engines are available, with the smaller 118bhp diesel unit in my test car offering a good balance of durability and economy.

Mated to a six-speed manual transmission, it's not lightning quick but there's plenty of mid-range punch and it copes well with the demands of daily urban driving while also proving to be a quiet and refined cruiser.

Performance stats aren't the priority here, anyway. The most important figures for family buyers are the ones that affect the household budget - and claimed average fuel economy of 70.6mpg ticks that box.

While a tendency to pitch and roll a little means you won't want to throw the Grand C4 Picasso around on winding lanes, there is decent grip and the supple suspension and chassis ensure a settled and comfortable ride.

It's not exciting to drive, but it's simple and straightforward, which is exactly what you want in a car which will often be full of kids and all manner of associated distractions.

FAST FACTS

Citroen Grand C4 Picasso Flair BlueHDi 120

Price: £27,490

Mechanical: 118bhp, 1,560cc diesel engine driving front wheels via 6-speed manual transmission

Max Speed:117mph

0-62mph: 11.3 seconds

Combined MPG: 70.6

Insurance Group: 20

C02 emissions: 106g/km

Bik rating: 23%

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