It was three in the afternoon before I could finally escape last month’s seven-seat SUV comparo and head north, from the hills outside Yackandandah in Victoria.
The Picasso had been fuelled in Bright earlier that morning, yet a strafe up icy Mount Buffalo and back again had already put a dent in its digital bar-graph fuel gauge. And checking its tyre pressures before being loaded with luggage and camera gear revealed that the luscious urban ride I fell in love with on first acquaintance was largely due to its 205/55R17 Continentals being under-inflated. Pity.
Black ice quelled any enthusiasm in the tighter stuff towards Mount Buffalo’s peak, but faster corners in the foothills revealed that the Citroen C4 Picasso retains much of the Peugeot 308’s dynamic DNA, albeit watered down. Perhaps it’s the higher seating position or raised centre of gravity, but the heavier Citroen doesn’t quite seem to have the rear-end adjustability or inherent poise of the smaller, sportier Pug. Not without digging deep to find it, anyway.
Optional leather includes an electric leg rest for the front passenger, but there are better ways to spend $5K.
But I enjoyed flogging the C4 Picasso to join the Hume at Albury, then progressively into darkness for another 550km. Being a lifelong glare-o-phobe (my perpetual sunnies aren’t just for looks!), I usually leave the Citroen’s ‘Zenith’ slidey rooflining thingy all the way forward, but at night, having unlimited glass from cowl to hairline crown gave a stunning view of the stars in the sky. Yes, I was bored, but not by the C4’s wealth of interesting display screens or its sturdy stereo.
Charging along at an indicated 125km/h (while still being overtaken on the final leg from Bowral to Sydney), the C4 Picasso proved it relishes a big-distance challenge. With a supple highway ride, ample turbo-boosted torque, acres of vision, excellent high-beam and a supportive, ache-free driver’s pew with built-in adjustable armrest, my French MPV-of-sorts turned an arduous journey into an effortless one.
The satellite navigation originally predicted an 8.19pm arrival and, while a food and coffee stop (at the excellent new Oliver’s joint at the Dog on the Tucker Box outside Gundagai) and a toilet visit added a decent chunk to that estimate, I managed to claw my way back to almost nail the original ETA.
Typically, the Picasso’s trip computer claimed a slick 7.7L/100km for the tank, including the mountainous stuff early on, but the reality was 8.1L/100km – still pretty good given the enthusiastic throttle use. Byron’s 308 auto (sharing the same platform) is around 200kg lighter, with a superior engine, a smaller frontal area and a thirst somewhere in the sixes, so I reckon the puffy C4’s low-eight ain’t too bad at all.
This article was originally published in the October 2015 issue of Wheels magazine.