Sabtu, 07 Juni 2008



Being one of a set of triplets is going to be tough, but when you're all virtually identical it's going to be even more difficult. Sharing its production facility and the majority of its components with the Toyota Aygo and Peugeot 107 the C1 offer their same diminutive packaging, with little different but the badges. Where the Citroen was always expected to excel over its close relatives is in its pricing, Citroen's typically aggressive customer focussed stance seeing it undercut the Toyota and Peugeot duo by several hundred pounds. That might not sound too much, but when you consider that these cars all cost in the region of £6,000, then it makes up a sizable chunk of the overall price. Aiming to steal sales from the mega-successful Ford Ka in the UK, and other not so well-known rivals like Kia's Picanto, Chevrolet Matiz and the Renault Twingo in Europe, the C1 offers a very attractive package to those after inexpensive transport. Unlike most of its direct competition it's available with three or five-doors, and there's enough space inside for even adults to consider sitting in the back, too.

Indeed, the C1 manages to squeeze and enormous amount of space into its compact proportions. Boot space suffers as a result, but the rear seats can be folded for those times when you need more carrying capacity. The seats are comfortable and the trim and materials shame Citroen's other small car offerings for build quality, looks and feel. It's similarly impressive on the road, where its tiny 1.0-litre three-cylinder gives it adequate if unspectacular performance, though it makes up for its ultimate lack of urgency with a characterful engine note. It's enjoyable to drive too, with quick, light steering and a slick five-speed manual gearbox. A 1.4-litre turbodiesel will join it later in the year. It should offer even greater economy and no doubt a slightly less frenetic drive. Whether that's a good or bad thing remains to be seen. The ride is soft, allowing it to soak up the bumps, but meaning lean is fairly pronounced through the bends, however the C1 isn't a car that you're ever likely to be pushing too hard. Instead it offers good equipment, decent refinement and space for very little money. It's so good indeed, that it almost makes the C2 redundant, and easily betters it for interior quality. With the reassurance of Toyota's involvement in the engineering and manufacturing, too, the C1looks very tempting compared to its rivals, and not just because of its pricing.


Enter here! If you want the cheapest possible way into the new C4 Picasso, the entry-level 1.8 petrol and 1.6 diesel are for you. And this week, we got to grips with both!

Citroen is keen that its five-seat newcomer repeats the success of the massive-selling Xsara Picasso. And to help its cause, it’s putting competitive pricing for both base cars first in a bid to tempt family buyers.

As a result, the French giant reckons the 1.8-litre petrol model will be the first choice for many. Starting from £14,500 and with a 127bhp output, the powerplant is only available with a five-speed manual gearbox, yet returns a frugal 35.3mpg.

The unit is pleasant enough to use, but on long journeys you do wish the transmission had an extra gear, as the free-revving engine gets a little noisy at speed.

However the combination of engine and gearbox provides adequate pace, with a 0-60mph sprint of 11.7 seconds. Even so, while throttle response is good, in-gear acceleration can feel a little sluggish in higher ratios.

There’s no such problem with the 110bhp 1.6-litre HDi diesel, though. Its superior torque not only provides more pulling power, but the relaxed nature of the engine means the unit is much better suited to a people carrier. And if you are a high-mileage driver, it could work out cheaper to own than the petrol equivalent, as even though it will cost about £1,500 more, it returns 49.6mpg.

To boost its appeal further, the 1.6-litre HDi is offered with a manual or paddleshift semi-automatic. We tried the latter, and it worked well. A 0-60mph time of 13.2 seconds is reasonable, while the lack of a clutch takes the strain out of town driving. The only real criticism is that the gearbox is jerky in full auto mode.

The front seats are supportive, while the cabin’s airy feel is enhanced by the excellent panoramic windscreen. There’s plenty of stowage, too, with a pair of large bins built into the dash, while automatic models get a cooled cubby in the centre console. Boot space is impressive, too, while clever storage features stop loose items from rolling around. This shouldn’t be too much of a problem, though, as the suspension provides such a smooth ride.

According to a customer study conducted by Citroen, most compact MPV buyers want a car that’s spacious, comfortable and competitively priced. The good news is that both the 1.8-litre petrol and 1.6-litre oil-burning versions of the five-seat C4 Picasso meet this brief in full.


When it comes to unusual design, Citroen leads the way. From the bubble-shaped C3 Pluriel up to the funky C6, each model in the range has a strong and individual identity. The C4 is no different, and is a vast improvement over the disappointing Xsara it replaced.

It’s the only car here to be available in three and five-door guise, and the two versions are quite different. The five-door we tested may not be as adventurous, but is the better proportioned and more handsome of the two. In this company, it stands out more than the Kia, although it lacks the overall sportiness of the Leon.

The boomerang-shaped headlights and chrome chevrons built into the grille give it a sleek nose, and we also like the neat beetle-back rear hatch. The same sense of style has been applied to the cabin, with some distinctive features, including the unusual fixed-hub steering wheel and built-in scented air freshener.

However, these can’t hide the fact that quality is poor. There are numerous different plastics used, none of which is particularly good, while the switchgear feels cheap. The digital speedo is an attempt to give everything a more premium edge, but it’s not enough. While it’s obvious Citroen has focused on style, it does seem to have come at the expense of build quality.

There are some good points, however. The broad seats are comfortable and visibility is excellent, thanks to the thin A-pillars and large glass area. But rear passengers don’t get a particularly great deal. The sloping roof means that headroom is limited, and although legroom is on a par with the Leon’s, it feels the most cramped. The 320-litre boot is also the smallest on test.

Fire up the 1.6-litre HDi engine and first impressions aren’t good in this department, either. It sounds clattery initially, but thankfully is better on the move, and certainly smoother than the SEAT unit. With 240Nm, it has the least torque.

Despite having the lowest kerbweight, the C4 isn’t as responsive as its rivals, although vibration is minimal, even under full throttle. The Citroen was competitive at the test track, and a 0-60mph time of 10.5 seconds was quicker then the Cee’d and Leon. Its 30-70mph time was slower, however, and out on the road, the Citroen never feels as pacey as these figures suggest.

This is mainly down to the C4’s Electronic Gearbox System. The firm calls it the ‘best of both worlds’, yet it’s far from a success. In automatic mode, the changes are slow, and the car pitches and dives under hard acceleration. Selecting manual allows you to use the steering column-mounted paddles, but it’s not much better.

Thanks to this over-assistance, the C4 is also the least involving of the four cars on test here. And on bumpy roads, there is noticeable kickback through the column, while body roll could be better controlled through bends.

Surprisingly, the Citroen is the most expensive of the quartet of rivals, too. But thanks to the firm’s famous cashback deals, it’s unlikely you’ll actually pay the £16,115 asking price.

You can currently get £2,120 off this SX model, making it the cheapest car here. While it doesn’t come with climate control or electric rear windows, stability and cruise control are standard. At less than £14,000, the C4 is still good value for money, but is this enough to make up for its shortcomings?


You’ll find yourself immediately relaxed by the latest Citroen C5, as it’s so soothing to drive. The engines never emit more than a distant hum, and power delivery of the HDi diesels is relaxed. Performance is a secondary consideration – which is just as well, as the heavy saloon isn’t that fast, even with 2.2-litre and 2.7-litre V6 diesels fitted. Nevertheless, the Citroen’s suspension gives it a unique feel, particularly the gas set-up of costlier variants, which is focused entirely on comfort. However, there’s no hint of athletic ability, with vague steering and soft suspension. At least roll is limited and grip is good. No, the Citroen’s most at home on motorways, where it seems to glide along. Suspension is less able to deal with sharp ridges and potholes, but overall it’s very relaxing.

Talk about a transformation. This C5 is as striking as its predecessor was dowdy. This is vital, though, as buyers in this sector aspire to German brands. Citroen needed to work hard to attract them – and has made the C5 into a handsome family car. The pronounced creases and bonnet ridges are especially effective. It’s a little angle-sensitive, though, while strong body colours and large-diameter alloys are needed to disguise its sheer size. The French model is longer than a Ford Mondeo, and almost as wide. Unlike the first-generation variant, the current C5 is a saloon, with a Tourer estate model available in the summer of 2008. Trims follow the familiar pattern of SX, VTR+ and Exclusive, with the engine range majoring on HDi diesels – 1.6-litre, 2.0-litre, 2.2-litre and 2.7-litre V6 versions are available. Petrol buyers have only the old-fashioned 1.8-litre and 2.0-litre petrol units to choose from, but in time these will be replaced. Rivals include the Mazda 6, Ford Mondeo, Renault Laguna and Volkswagen Passat, in what is a tightly-fought sector mainly populated by fleet users.

The interior is quirky, with an individual and interesting design, but the promise of German build quality hasn’t quite materialised. We like the fixed-hub steering wheel and well-shaped seats, but all the cubbies are too small, and the materials don’t seem any more tactile or easy on they eye than those in the C4 hatch. Passenger space is also limited, with less legroom than a Ford Mondeo, plus tight head and shoulder room. A big boot opening is better, though, with the distinctive curved rear window aiding access to lots of floor space. And the C5 also has value on its side, with a lengthy standard kit list, while long-term running costs are manageable thanks to OK fuel economy (though its weight means real-world returns are not quite as good as they could be) and a big improvement in retained values.


The space-oddity known as the Citroen DS was the last successful French executive saloon. Every French grand routier since the “Goddess” has been disappointing to various degrees. Today, even in Paris, one sees more German cars than French (even the taxis). So my expectations for the new Citroen C6 were not high; especially as I’d spent considerable seat time in the segment’s gold standard: the Audi A8. Can the French still parlez voitures luxes?

The ‘Troon’s profile is interesting, long and ministerial. From the three quarter angle, it looks like a conventional hatchback (it’s not). The front and rear aspects are brand faithfully quirky, requiring some major acclimatization. The C6’s prow is dominated by two horizontal chrome strips that connect medium-sized headlights and bisect the radiator opening. The back window is deeply concave a la CX. The narrow strip taillights ride atop the rear fenders and form slight fins reminiscent of a ’49 Buick.

Open the front door (with frameless glass like a Subaru or, come to think of it, a DS) and settle into the large, firm black leather chairs. The C6’s window lowers a few millimeters to clear the seal, and then powers back up after the door closed, BMW coupe-style. Nice. And then things get a bit strange…

The C6’s dashboard is a broad, full-width horizontal shelf clad in a strange (but oddly appealing) black vinyl cover with a linen-like texture, topped by a smallish navigation/ICE display. A two inch strip of glossy faux hardwood– with a striking black-stained grain— runs across the Citroen sedan’s cockpit. Another petite digital display lives behind a hefty leather-clad wheel covered with two big chrome chevrons. (The wheel has three spokes, not one like the iconic Deesse.) Speed and navigational arrows appear in the lower windshield’s heads-up display.

The C6’s four door panels are dominated by large slide-down covers for generous lower storage, made from the same exotic looking wood as the dash strip. Like all of the C6’s other moving parts, the panels are dampened to a degree that would freak Ferdinand Piech. The door handles exchange the fashionable satin look of Germany’s premium rides for shiny chrome. Bright but tasteful chrome strips also line the lower dash and the door panels. All in all, the C6’s cabin’s very different, in a BCBG kinda way.

Once underway, the C6 drives like the A8. The French car’s structure is absolutely granitic; no creaks, rattles, squeaks or buzzes. Other than a bit more wind rustle and less tire noise, the boulevardier’s noise levels match that of Ingolstadt’s aluminum cruiser. The ride is also similar: soft but not floaty, with little lean in corners. The power steering is Japanese-light at parking speed but firms up nicely above 25 kmph.

I drove to the C6 in an diesel-powered Audi; one of the least diesel-like cars I’ve ever driven (very quiet and very fast). I’d been told beforehand that the Citroen tester would holster either a petrol or diesel V6. After driving off, I was sure I was behind the wheel of the gas-powered C6. Only the redline was 5000 rpm. Once it stopped raining, I pulled over and popped the hood. The plastic engine cover said “V6 HDI” Formidable! Diesel-starved Americans note: the engine was developed as a joint venture with Ford. It’s already is available in various Peugeots, Jaguars and Land Rovers.

I drove the C6 all over Holland, on freeways and secondary roads. The overall driving experience was a hoot, and a deluxe hoot at that. The car glided with imperious ease, a true GT with Gallic charm. But there were a few glitches. The navigational system was hard to program and unreliable; it would go off course inexplicably, guiding me in circles or repetitive U-turns. Whenever I tried to reclose an open window at speed the high interior air pressure prevented the windows from sealing properly.

You want weird science? The C6 lane drift control system is both ingenious and kinky, in a distinctly French sort of way. If you leave your lane “unintentionally” (i.e. without using the turn indicators), the driver’s seat cushion vibrates rhythmically as a warning. It bumps your left cheek if you are veering left, and the right one if right. The first time it happened I nearly crashed (no one had warned me about the feature.) Meanwhile, the C6’s climate control system resurrects the VW Phaeton’s “soft diffusion” methodology, indirectly spreading cooled or heated air around the cabin in four zones. I was never aware of it, so I guess it works pretty well.