Citroen Grand C4 Picasso - Let there be lights

  • Optional Xenon headlamps change direction with steering
  • Infinity rear LEDs look great but difficult to justify cost
  • Interior offers a ‘dark mode’ to reduce glare further

Now we’ve passed the Summer Solstice and the nights are starting to draw back in again (I’m such a misery, I apologise) it’s a great opportunity to take a closer look at our Citroen Grand C4 Picasso’s lights.

In today’s motoring world, lights aren’t merely functional devices for illuminating your path, indicating a change of direction or signalling your presence. They part of the car’s identity, a method of telling one model from another even in the absence of daylight.

Lighting signatures are all the rage and this top-of-the-range Exclusive+ specification has plenty going on to distinguish it at night.

Up front, the Grand is understandably similar to its five-seater sibling, the Citroen C4 Picasso, with its lights arranged on three levels.

Flowing out like whiskers from the Citroen chevron emblem are two chrome-look bars, which sandwich LED light clusters at their outer edges. Most of the time these house bright white daytime running lights (DRLs) but flick the indicator stalk and they instantly flash amber.

Below those behind larger lenses sit the conventional headlamps and main beam, automatically operated when it gets dusky or the wipers are on for a sustained period. For £750 we opted to replace the standard Halogen bulbs with Xenon items which, if you do plenty of driving in the dark, is money well spent.

Not only do they offer superior illumination, when fitted to the Citroen they also have a dynamic quality, turning electronically in the direction the car’s been steered towards. It sounds gimmicky – and probably did back in 1967 when Citroen introduced swivelling headlamps on the facelifted DS range – but in reality they work well, particularly on the winding B-roads around where I live, increasing safety with a wider spread of light.

Sitting below those are fog lights sat deep in the bumper; there’s been little fog to speak of since the Citroen came into our custodianship but there’s no reason to suspect they’re not fit for purpose.

Working around the sides, the Grand C4 Picasso follows the trend Mercedes started back in 1998 by fitting LED side repeater indicators in the door mirrors where they’re at their most attention-grabbing. The lights wrap sufficiently far around the edges of the mirror housings so that they’re also visible from behind – and from the driver’s seat.

For my money, though, it’s around the back of the Grand Picasso where it gets really interesting. And a tad geeky.

Located within the tailgate itself are the main rear light units, which on the Exclusive+ trim are Citroen’s LED ‘infinity’ lights. They’re available on other trim levels but cost £699, so think wisely before buying, although there’s no denying they look great.

When illuminated they form a trapezoidal-shaped ring which is reflected internally giving the impression of looking down a red tube. There’s a pair of these on either side, with a smaller, similarly-shaped indicator linking the two.

Now for the boring legal bit: under European Union regulations, rear indicators and ‘red’ lights have to be visible at all times, which would pose the Picasso a problem when the tailgate’s open – but Citroen thought of that.

In the lower edges of the rear bumper are combination rear reflectors (another legal requirement) and fog light units, but as soon as that tailgate’s popped, they double as tail lights and indicators, remaining so until the door’s shut again, at which point the upper lights come back on instead. Clever, eh?

Inside there’s soft, white LED lighting around the cabin, which is great for letting occupants see where their seatbelt buckles are, but it’s the two main dashboard screens that illuminate the interior when you’re driving.

Personally I like the brightness – I feel it helps keep me alert on longer drives, but it’s not for everyone. You can, of course, adjust the intensity, but one of the steering wheel buttons allows you to take that one step further.

Press what looks like the contrast symbol on your TV remote control and the dashboard goes into ‘night mode’. Not only is the brightness turned down to a very low level, only the speedometer remains backlit – everything else turns off meaning you’ve fewer distractions.

I’ve tried driving for a sustained period of time with the dark setting switched on but it felt weirdly eerie as I picked my way through Lincolnshire’s farm tracks, so turned it back on after a few minutes.

Besides that, it’s not as if the information that’s turned off is superfluous anyway, and with the air-con controls accessed via the touchscreen it creates more problems rather than solving them.

The only advantage I can think of is that the screens won’t illuminate your face while driving, so it would make driving incognito a little easier – a sort of stealth mode if you like. Not that the Picasso’s the kind of vehicle you’d associate with the spying fraternity.

Wannabe James Bonds aside, while those infinity rear lights look great it’s tricky to justify the near £700 outlay on aesthetic grounds, but the adaptive Xenon headlamps make much more sense. If you can afford to pay the £750 cost, do so – you’ll be glad you did when it’s pitch black by six in the evening.

Total mileage: 8,735 miles (started at 394)

Average mpg: 41.5mpg