Test Drives

New Citroen C4 Picasso 1.6 BlueHDI Review: Modern Maestro


The Grand C4 Picasso is the best-seller for Citroen here – this is the shorter, five-seat ‘non-Grand’ version. We muse on reasons for getting a five-seater over a seven-seater another story, but for now, keep in mind the important mechanical changes seen in this car are also on the Grand model.

This new version replaces the old e-HDI 1.6 turbodiesel engine, which was Euro V in terms of emissions regulations. The new engine, dubbed ‘blueHDI’, is also a 1.6 turbodiesel but gains even more cleanliness and efficiency.

It’s a move that’s almost perfectly timed, given the ‘diesel saga’ that Volkswagen is currently undergoing. To summarise, it’s diesel cars without urea injection that have problems with emissions in the form of NOx (nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide). The ‘blue’ bit of ‘blueHDI’ refers to AdBlue, the newly-fitted urea injection system on the Picasso. That, together with a diesel particulate filter (DPF), means the car really is one of the cleaner diesels on the market.

READ MORE: Citroen’s funk-mobile, the Cactus: Hot stuff, or just too prickly?

In addition to five horsepower extra, the 1.6-litre engine becomes incrementally greener, improving from 4.0L/100km to 3.9L/100km, and from 105g/km of CO2 to 101g/km. The more salient issue here is the reduction in NOx. Citroen says the NOx emissions are reduced ‘by up to 90 percent’. Since the engine is Euro VI compliant, that means it emits less than 80mg/km of NOx, which compares favourably to the previous Euro V standard of 180mg/km. Currently, the Euro VI standard for petrol cars is 50mg/km.

That’s one big change, the other, which is arguably just as important for ‘gimme my brainless automatic’ Singapore, is something you’ll hardly feel: the Picasso finally goes from having the stone-age automated six-speed manual to a regular six-speed automatic gearbox (made by Aisin).  Earlier this year we tested the 156bhp turbo petrol version of the Grand Picasso with the same gearbox and came away impressed.

The previous transmission proved to be a literal sticking point for some, since it was slow to shift and didn’t act like a regular automatic, lurching and half-clutching if you didn’t drive ‘around’ the shift points.

For normal drivers, this basically means you no longer have to think when accelerating. Gas it and you’ll get blissful, uninterrupted forward motion. That’s a feeling supplanted by the extra torque (30Nm more, for a generous 300Nm peak) and it means even if you paint yourself into a corner when traffic becomes heavy, it’s relatively easy to accelerate out of it thanks to the hefty low end grunt.

In the meantime, the ride and handling remain very good, significantly better over rougher surfaces than some ‘conventional’ Continental estates and sedans we’ve recently tested. With only five seats and a shorter wheelbase, it feels more like a nimble barky than a overladen, long-assed ferry, and the body control is uniformly excellent. The Picasso, thanks to its high seating position, huge windscreen and ‘see-through’ A and C-pillars also has excellent visibility, it’s almost impossible to be caught unawares if you have your head on a swivel.

The interior has the same list of benefits as the Grand Picasso – generous headroom, a feeling of space thanks to the pull-back window shades and panoramic front windshield.

There’s Citroen’s new infotainment system with seven-inch colour display(nav, Bluetooth, internet apps) although it makes do with a bi-chromatic driver instrument screen, compared to the swanky full-colour unit of the Grand Picasso.

It obviously lacks the third row of seats, but has more than ample boot space, plus the second row seats, three individual thrones, can be adjusted and folded flat as required.

You can read on to find out some compelling reasons to choose a ‘non-Grand’ Picasso over its larger, more capacious brother, but here’s a pretty good one right now: It costs $18k less, has an almost equal equipment list. If you do opt for seven-seats, like most buyers, it’s no big difference as the boot space is the same at 537-litres, expandable to 1,851-litres with all seats flat.

So don’t dream it’s (diesel’s) over, and cars like the updated Picasso are the reason why. An improved engine and automatic gearbox also eliminate the last major concerns when considering the Picasso, or its bigger brother the Grand Picasso.


Engine 1,560cc, 8V, in-line 4, turbodiesel

Power 120bhp at 3500rpm

Torque 300Nm at 1750rpm

Gearbox 6-speed automatic

Top Speed 188km/h

0-100kmh 11.3 seconds

Fuel efficiency 3.9L/100km

CO2 101g/km

Price $127,988 with COE

about the author

Derryn Wong
Has a keen interest in all things mechanical, technological, animal and mineral. Is particularly fascinated by eco-cars and cars which make no logical sense. An avid motorcyclist and photographer, he also enjoys cats.