Triple test: C4 Picasso vs Focus vs Qashqai

  • Family car shoot-out compares some of the most popular cars
  • Evaluated with practicality, running costs and driving in mind
  • Definitive verdict - find out which car wins outright

We've brought together three of the most popular family cars on sale to find out which one does the job best. 

Representing conventional hatchbacks is the Ford Focus, with the Nissan Qashqai fighting the crossover corner. They’re facing the latest Citroen C4 Picasso - the new champion of the small people carrier market.

Each car in our test has a different approach to satisfying a family's requirements, but which one is best? Read on to find out...

Practicality

There’s no doubt each of the threesome are practical but the Citroen stands head and shoulders above the others.

All of the trio have conventional three-point seatbelts in the rear, including for the centre passenger, but the Picasso’s a clear winner with three individual seats, rather than a 60:40 split bench.

Not only can you comfortably fit a child seat between the middle belt buckles on the Citroen - impossible on the Ford or Nissan - it’s also fitted with ISOFIX child seat mountings to ensure it’s securely fastened.

The Picasso’s appreciably more spacious front and rear too, offering the most head-, elbow- and leg-room. Despite its lower body, the Focus is surprisingly roomy compared to the cramped Qashqai.

 

Citroen C4 Picasso Ford Focus Nissan QashqaiCitroen’s The C4 Picasso's rear seat configuration pays further dividends when you need to maximise boot space. You have the flexibility to fold any of the thirds independently and when you have, unlike the other two, they’re flat with the boot floor.

With the largest boot aperture, 537 litres of space with the seats up (compared to just 316 litres for the Focus and 410 in the Qashqai) and seats that slide forward to boost the already winning 1.79m floor length, the C4 Picasso continues to demonstrate its family-friendly superiority.

Fighting back, Focus wins the storage cubby count with 13, versus 11 for the Citroen and seven for the Nissan. However, quality not quantity rules as the Picasso’s are larger, more conveniently positioned and supplemented by folding picnic tables on the front seatbacks. This Nissan’s additional nod to practicality is standard roof rails.

Citroen C4 Piccaso Ford Focus Nissan Qashqai

Ownership

All the models tested are powered by 1.6-litre diesel engines with stop/start systems. The Citroen has the best claimed average fuel consumption, at an impressive 70.6mpg. Next up is the Focus at 67.3mpg followed by the Qashqai at 62.8mpg.

It’s the same order for CO2 emissions, the Picasso on top with 105g/km, followed by the Focus at 109g/km and the Nissan at 119g/km. All those figures are impressive, with low VED.

As always, you should treat claimed average fuel consumption figures with a degree of scepticism. Taking them as read for the sake of argument though, the Nissan’s larger fuel tank gives it a theoretical average range of 898 miles between fill-ups compared with the Picasso’s 854 and the Ford’s 785 miles.

The Picasso and Focus have equal servicing intervals of 12 months or 12,500 miles while the Qashqai can outdo them with 12 months or 18,000 miles.

As tested, the Focus can boast the lowest insurance rating in group 15 followed by the Citroen in group 17, while the Qashqai slots into group 22.

What about the amount of kit you get for your money? In 360 trim - one of the most popular, well-specced derivatives - the Qashqai costs £23,145. It includes cruise control, smart 18-inch alloy wheels, a slightly cheap-looking five-inch touchscreen multimedia system with Bluetooth and the 360-degree parking camera system the model’s named after.

The more basic, mid-spec Focus Zetec costs £18,395. It gets 16-inch alloys, DAB radio with Ford’s ‘SYNC’ Bluetooth system, front fog lights and a heated windscreen.

Our Picasso test car is in Exclusive trim, which is one from the top. That means an on-the-road price of £21,555 and a whole host of technology, including keyless start, sat-nav, rear parking sensors and camera and DAB radio.

All three cars carry a five-star rating for safety from Euro NCAP.

Citroen C4 Piccaso Ford Focus Nissan Qashqai

On the road

The Citroen takes the honours for comfort. Its blend of ride quality and seating mean it’s a nice place in which to cover big miles. The Focus comes a close second thanks to a decent ride and supportive seats, while once again the Nissan comes last as its seats just aren’t up to the standard of the other two.

In terms of outright driving fun, the Focus takes top spot thanks to its blend of communicative steering and assured handling. Next is the Citroen, which is very manoeuvrable and easy to drive, while the Qashqai sits at the bottom really feeling its age. It moves around a lot when cornering.

We do prefer the Qashqai’s engine though – it’s quite noisy but it’s also got far less latency than the other two. It feels faster on the road too, and indeed it should. It takes 10.3 seconds to cover 0-62mph, while the Focus and Citroen take 11 and 11.8 seconds respectively.

Parking these cars is quite simple, but one in particular stands out. Although the Qashqai has the smallest turning circle and the Focus the largest, it’s the C4 Picasso that takes the win. Not only is it very simple to operate but you’ve got loads of visibility around the car thanks to features such as slender windscreen pillars and additional front side windows. You’re seated high too, which helps all occupants see what’s happening outside.

While the Qashqai has a small screen with a reversing camera and the ability to display a 360-degree view of your surroundings, the Focus does without a screen altogether and relies on the driver for parking. Along with the Picasso, it has an ‘easy fuel’ system, which makes it impossible to damage your car by using the wrong fuel.

Citroen C4 Piccaso Ford Focus Nissan Qashqai

Parkers Used Car Verdict

There’s no escaping that despite its popularity, the Qashqai was already dated, which counted against it in this company. Inferior in terms of interior space and driving dynamics, the all-new 2014 model represented a significant leap forward.

While the Focus is usefully spacious and fine to drive, it lacks the sheer ease of use that the Citroen provides and that’s the primary reason the C4 Picasso is our winner.

Lots of room and flexibility combine with neat, practical touches and a modern feel throughout. The Citroen’s the least compromised and the most desirable of the three.

You can read the full Parkers review of the Nissan Qashqai here, the Ford Focus here and the Citroen C4 Picasso here.