Where its rivals are looking to appeal to the ever-expanding crossover market, Citroen is sticking to its people carrier guns, with this, its fifth Picasso MPV. Motors.co.uk headed to the Portuguese town of Estoril to find out what it is like.

What is it?

Aiming to increase the appeal of the compact MPV to more than just those with small children, Citroen has shifted focus from sheer utilitarian practicality to a more design led focus with its latest offering. Dubbing the C4 Picasso the ‘technospace’, Citroen has also loaded it with equipment more commonly found on executive German saloons. It will initially be available with a choice of two petrol and three diesel engines, all 1.6 litres in size, mated to a six-speed manual gearbox or optionally to Citroen’s six-speed automated manual. Opt for the 92bhp diesel model and you’ll pay no road tax, thanks to CO2 emissions of less than 100g/km.

What is it like to drive?

Sitting on Citroen’s new EMP2 platform, the C4 Picasso is some 140kg lighter than the previous model, and the use of advanced manufacturing techniques means it is now more rigid than ever. This pays dividends on the road, with the Picasso feeling much more nimble than you’d expect of a car of this type. It also rides superbly, soaking up almost all the imperfections in the road, with only the most gnarled ruts being transmitted into the cabin.

Though it has the greatest power output, we’d struggle to recommend the 156bhp petrol engine over the 115bhp diesel. Aside from its comparative shortcomings in CO2 emissions, its lack of torque meant it felt breathless and needed to be worked hard, where the diesel would get the C4 Picasso up to speed with less effort. It also managed just 32mpg over our test route, where the diesel returned 54mpg.

What is it like inside?

Light and airy. The large windows, coupled to the optional panoramic sunroof fitted to our test cars meant the C4 Picasso felt very spacious – a boon for those with children who suffer from car sickness in the dark, claustrophobic confines of some rivals. There’s room up front for even the tallest adults to get comfortable, particularly with the optional ‘lounge’ seats, which incorporate elaborate headrests and an electronic footrest into the passenger seat for the ultimate in long-distance comfort.

All models are equipped with two infotainment screens – a seven-inch touchscreen for operating the air conditioning and stereo, and a high-definition 12-inch screen sat above, which displays driver information such as speed and engine rpm on one side, and can be configured to show the sat-nav readout, current radio station and other information all in pin-sharp quality.

Venture higher up the range and you’ll find an impressive array of equipment, including a reversing camera, park assist, lane departure warnings and a powered rear tailgate. There’s even the option for 3G based Internet connectivity through Citroen’s Connected Drive service.

Is it practical?

As well as offering heaps of space for occupants both front and back, as well as a plethora of useful cubby holes dotted around the cabin, the boot of the C4 Picasso is some 37 litres (around the size of a medium-sized rucksack) larger than on outgoing model, now 537 litres. The three individual rear seats slide back and forth, too, meaning you can trade legroom for luggage space, or you can fold them completely, along with the front passenger seat, to allow easily loading of longer items.

Should I buy one?

With striking looks, a funky, well designed interior, family friendly practicality and a selection of frugal engines, the C4 Picasso makes a credible case for itself in the compact MPV market. It’s also well priced against competitors such as the Toyota Verso, and offers an impressive amount of standard equipment. Those looking for a more involved drive should look at the Ford C-Max, but in all other respects, we would whole-heartedly recommend the C4 Picasso to anyone looking for worthy family transport that you’d be happy to be seen in away from the school run.

The facts

Citroen C4 Picasso e-HDI 115 Intensive 6-spd manual

List price: £21,500 (TBC)
Engine: 1.6-litre, four cylinder, diesel
Power: 115bhp
Top speed: 117mph
0-62mph: 12.5 seconds
Fuel economy: 62.7mpg (urban), 74.3mpg (extra-urban) 70.6mpg (combined)
Emissions: 105g/km CO2
Euro NCAP rating: Not yet tested