Citroen Grand C4 Picasso - Flat out challenge

  • Parkers team set a time challenge to fold the Picasso’s seats
  • How quickly could it be turned from family wagon to van?
  • Our Editor is victorious but there’s a surprising wildcard

Car makers claim their people carriers are paragons of flexibility and sheer usability; family-friendly vehicles that are as intuitive as they are spacious. But is that really true?

The Parkers test team are exposed to hundreds of cars each year, so should be able to get to grips with an unfamiliar car’s features in next to no time. To test that out, I set them a challenge.

Converting our long-term Citroen Grand C4 Picasso from full-on seven-seater mode to a two-seater with a van-like load space is a duty many owners will carry out. In the real world, there’ll be extra hurdles like manhandling an oak wardrobe into the car in the pouring rain, all while over-tired infants bray for attention though.

I was kinder to my workmates: the sun was shining and there were no furniture-shaped and child-replicating obstacles in their path. How quickly could they go from seven seats to two?

Winner – Kieren Puffett, Editor, 1m:51s

Kieren proved to be the King of boots as the only member of Team Parkers to post a sub-two minute time.

Approaching the challenge systematically he uniquely started at the back and gradually worked his way forwards, revealing a particular deftness as he dropped all three middle row seats in quick succession.

Even the luggage cover, which caused difficulties for others, didn’t break his stride, although he lost time bridging the gap between the second row seats at the floor behind.

“Those flaps on the seat backs are double-jointed, meaning you have to pull them in two directions at once – it’s the least obvious part of an otherwise straightforward process,” suggested Kieren.

Graeme Lambert, Senior Road Test Editor, 2m:06s

Graeme’s familiar with almost every new car on sale and it showed too. Starting on the middle row, he instinctively grabbed the straps for seat lowering rather than to access the back row.

Time was lost while the electric tailgate raised out of the way, while the third row was quickly tumbled once he’d located the release handles under the floor.

That luggage cover proved to be Graeme’s nemesis: it’s not obvious what you do with it, is it?” he queried. “You assume you might have to release a clip or something but you just slide it along the channels in the side of the boot.”

Gareth Evans, Deputy Road Test Editor, 2m:30s

Gareth’s competitive streak from the race circuit came to the fore in this challenge, but he clocked a time 39 seconds slower than Kieren’s, it proved to be a case of more haste, less speed.

Although Gareth’s actions were broadly correct, in his quest for pace he actually lost time – pulling the concertinaed rear carpet out to release the third row of seats cost unnecessary seconds.

Like Graeme, Gareth fell foul of the luggage cover, with blood-dribbling consequences: “trying to get the cover out of the recess quickly caused me to pull the spring-loaded end off, cutting my hand – the rest of it seems straightforward when you get to grips with it.”

Percy Lawman, Production Manager, 2m:41s

As well as looking after the gubbins behind Parkers’ website, Pers also assumes the role of chief photographer, meaning he gets to know many cars inside out.

If I was a betting man I’d have placed a fiver on him winning the challenge but it wasn’t to be. Although Pers gradually figured it out, there were a few blind alleys, such as the folded central seat initially being too far forward and wrestling with the rearmost seats.

“It didn’t seem obvious how you could lower the third row with the parcel shelf there,” Pers complained, “but when you pull the carpet back you can see they’ll fold down regardless.”

Adam Binnie, Staff Writer, 3m:17s

Parkers’ newest recruit is quickly gaining experience about how different cars operate but the Picasso’s middle row foxed him.

“The levers at the top of the second row seats are immediately noticeable, so you grab them expecting the seat to fold – except it doesn’t, it’s for getting into the third row,” explained Adam.

Once he’d spotted the red straps behind the seats the rest was plain sailing, but it was too late to keep his time sub-three minutes.

Debbie Wood, Senior Staff Writer, 4m:12s

We all have moments where we can’t see the wood for the trees (no pun intended) and for Senior Staffer Debbie, hers was during the challenge.

As with Adam, Debbie lost lots of time trying to lower the middle row of seats by pulling the wrong handles; when she did find the right ones they still didn’t work as she tugged them horizontally instead of vertically.

Oh! That was a nightmare,” conceded Debbie, “now I’ve done it, it all makes sense. Can I have another go?”

Wildcard – Sophie Douglas, Web Editor for Mother & Baby, 1m:59s

Sister title Mother & Baby’s Sophie is a people carrier first timer. Having never driven or poked around inside one, she was our MPV novice. Not that it showed.

Diligently inspecting the Picasso’s interior, Sophie intuitively grabbed all the correct handles first time around, shuffling the load space cover out with ease and ensuring the gap between middle row and boot floor was bridged with the flip-down boards.

The result of her methodological display was the second fastest time. “I’m pleased with that,” beamed Sophie, “I reckon I could do it in less than a minute if I tried that again.”

Sophie’s experience was arguably the most telling, because the whole seat-flattening process came so instinctively to her.

Perhaps the test team’s exposure to so many different cars’ nuances prevented the Picasso’s workings from being so obvious. It’s something I’ll revisit with other people carrier newbies in the coming months.

Total mileage: 2,925 miles (started at 394)

Average mpg: 39.3mpg