Citroen Grand C4 Picasso - Scotland bound

  • Grand C4 Picasso delivers superb comfort on long drive
  • Adaptive cruise control works better with automatic ‘box
  • Optional leather seats and Xenon lights proving beneficial

If you love driving and immersing yourself in cars and the culture which surrounds them, being a motoring journalist is, quite simply, the best job there is. Don’t get me wrong, the 12 years I previously spent teaching were enriching and rewarding but I’ve never regretted switching careers.

It’s not uncommon to feel like you’re in a surreal bubble. Commuting from home to Heathrow, then driving a different car somewhere in mainland Europe, before the return drive back home again, all in less than 24 hours, often feels like reality’s been suspended. Then you have a life event that brings you back down to earth with something of a bump.

My most recent one was the approaching anniversary of my father’s passing. In the nine years that have lapsed I make a point of making the 250-mile drive to the Scottish village where he’s at rest a few times per year, with early April always marked. Normally I make the journey alone but this time, with fine weather forecast to lift any potential solemnity, the family came too.

Having the long-term Citroen Grand C4 Picasso on the drive was a stroke of good fortune as it meant the kids each had a comfortable middle-row seat to themselves, with no arguments about who was going to have a narrower central perch.

Previously I’ve proclaimed my appreciation of adaptive cruise control systems, although not especially of the variety employed by Citroen (and sister company Peugeot in my previous long-termer) which doesn’t operate the brakes. There’s some good news here though: whether it’s better suited to an automatic gearbox which selects the most appropriate ratio for the given speed, or if the Picasso’s less aerodynamic shape contributes to scrubbing off speed more quickly when the throttle’s lifted, it seems, well, more adaptive.

Not only does it get caught out less frequently by slower traffic than, it also resumes the pre-set speed more quickly; the automatic kicking down a gear or two when required.

Shortly after a quick coffee stop at Scotch Corner services (and wiping up a small hot beverage spill from the optional leather seat facings), the moor-scything A66 became enveloped in either a thick fog or very low level cloud – my A-level Geography days being over 20 years behind me I couldn’t recall how to tell the difference.

As soon as it’s dusky those extra-cost Xenon headlamps I’d specified on top of the Exclusive+ specification, complemented by the standard LED ‘infinity’ rear lights, normally ping straight on automatically. But not in this omnipresent murk, because it was too light.

Turning those and the high intensity fog lights on manually is hardly a chore but the number of other cars driving around with no rear illumination and only day running lights on up front illustrates how some drivers rely too heavily on the tech. 

Although I know the 230-odd mile route from Lincolnshire to Kirkpatrick Durham like the back of my hand, it was a useful test to see if the Citroen’s sat-nav proved effective on minor Scottish roads. You can display the mapping on the main touchscreen and in the upper instrument binnacle too, but use the lower screen for another function or even adjust the stereo volume using the steering wheel controls, the map temporarily disappears from the upper display. Ultimately the route it chose was the same I’d have taken anyway, so it passed that test.

Cemetery visited, I took the kids to an area surrounding Lochinvar, to the northeast of St John’s Town of Dalry. My old man was a keen genealogist and this corner of Scotland was home to his mother and family, who’d raised sheep on the rugged terrain for generations.

Getting to the loch itself means a drive along a minor, poorly surfaced single-track lane, interspersed with cattle grids. While some lament modern Citroens’ lack of hyrdopneumatic suspension, the Grand C4 Picasso acquitted itself brilliantly across the rough and patchy asphalt and gravel – without any complaint from the passengers who instead admired the scenery around the school where my grandmother had been a pupil in the 1920s.

What remains of Kilnair, a small “but an’ ben” cottage on the bleak hillside overlooking the north side of the loch is as close to an ancestral home as I’ve got, and it seemed a fittingly quiet place to spend time reflecting before the journey home.

And the Citroen Grand C4 Picasso? Its styling modernity somehow looked even more obvious in a landscape that’s otherwise remained largely unaltered for a century. What’s more, its relaxed, cruising nature helped negate any potential stress of the day by simply being easy to use and supremely comfortable. It was the best of companions that day.

Total mileage: 2,472 miles (started at 394)

Average mpg: 38.5mpg