Those of us who take pride in our driving are, quite frankly, mildly offended by the idea of autonomous-parking systems (and even more so by Google cars), because we’re pretty bloody fantastic at reverse parking already, thanks very much.
As such, I had no intention of testing the Park Assist system on the Citroen C4 Picasso until a colleague, who is equally befuddled by my wife’s hatred of this cool Citroen as I am, suggested it might be the final, and best, roll of the dice to win her over.
Just to make sure that it wasn’t going to let me down, and send her on another mouth-frothing rant (she’s even started to hate the actual Picasso’s art works, just on principle), I decided to test it out privately, and it was then that something strange happened.
It shouldn’t have surprised me that a car designed to cope with the parking spaces of Paris, which are generally smaller than even a clown’s car, should be able to park itself with ingenious alacrity. And yet still I was blown away by the cleverness of the system, and how it’s able to pull off reverse parks that I would never have bothered to attempt myself. Spaces so small you had to use the Park Assist again to get you out (yes, it does that too – tres clever!).
Almost as impressed were my children, who thought the hands-free “robot parking” was something akin to witchcraft, or better yet, Star Wars-tech.
Speaking of which, my son was beside himself this month when we found some under-floor storage bins just in front of the rear seats that we’d never seen before. He spent most of the next day trying to smuggle himself in them, Millennium Falcon-style. I fear he might be a simpleton, but at least he has good taste in films.
After finding myself using the autonomous parking with an almost disturbing regularity, I felt it was finally time to blow Mrs Corby away with a demonstration of Citroen technologique and found a suitably squeezy spot in Bronte Beach, where finding a space can add months to your life, or take years off your marriage.
The Picasso performed brilliantly, but did bump the kerb lightly at one stage on the way in, without at all scratching the wheel, and yet this small failure was all she could focus on, before spewing forth words like “pointless”, “hate” and “this (expletive) car”, as usual.
So I give up. While I thought this would be the perfect car for a harried mum who’s obsessed with “visuals”, the only time Citroen’s MPV-of-sorts actually impressed her was when we laid the seats flat to pile the back with Christmas bicycles.
I, on the other hand, loved its styling, its screens, its utility, seats, suspension and, goddamn it, clever self-parking tech.
Sadly, the sticking point for me would be the idle-stop system, which is clunky, jerky, poorly designed and, eventually, annoyed me pretty much every day, particularly because it takes an unnecessary three-button screen dance to turn it off.
That quirk, alongside the price and my wife’s intransigence, would put me off buying one, but I would still advise other people with small families to seriously consider the Picasso. Did I mention it can park itself?
Read part five of our Citroen C4 Picasso long term car review here.
This article was originally published in Wheels Magazine March 2015.