Citroen Grand C4 Picasso - Master of Paris

  • Our long-term Grand C4 Picasso wafts to the French capital
  • Steady driving sees the Citroen’s diesel thirst subside further
  • Our man arrives unruffled and ache-free after 436 miles

Supple suspension is as synonymous with French cars as beans are with toast and stupidity is with sitting in the middle lane of motorways.

Combined with comfortably cosseting seats, it’s easy to see why cars from France (yes, I know this one’s built in Spain) have a reputation for serving up the kind of serene ride quality that models from other nations struggle to match.

What better way to explore that road-based tranquillity than to take our long-term Citroen Grand C4 Picasso on a long drive, all the way to its spiritual home in Paris 436 miles away?

Why Paris? It was the venue for Citroen’s launch of its first stand-alone DS model, the 5, and the perfect opportunity to pit it against a British Airways flight from Heathrow and St Pancras International’s Eurostar.

Over the three months I’ve been Parkers Picasso’s custodian, I’ve become increasingly fond of its relaxed driving style; a facet it displayed with ease as I plied mile-upon-mile of British motorway and French autoroute. It’s far happier in this role than tackling twisty B-road bends.

At around the 70mph mark, the 2-litre BlueHDi tone is hushed as the Grand C4 wafts about its business, aided by the six-speed automatic transmission’s sensibly-spaced ratios.

While a 0-62mph acceleration time of 10.2 seconds doesn’t sound particularly swift, the gearbox kicks down a gear smoothly when you need extra performance for overtaking or joining faster traffic off slip roads, making the most of the 370Nm of torque available.

You also quickly appreciate the lofty driving position, complemented by the enormous windscreen and framed by slender pillars linking the triangular windows in front of the doors. The effect is almost panoramic, ensuring the driver feels assured of their clear vista, while making the cabin light and airy for passengers.

Not that the six other seats were occupied for my Parisian escapade, which highlighted a couple of less fortunate aspects of life with the Citroen – a few rattles have developed. Not within the high quality plastics of the dash or door panels, but elsewhere in the vast cabin, which acts as an echo chamber when I’ve not got Radio 4 or my iTunes library blaring through the speakers.

I felt quite smug as I identified what I thought was the chief niggle – the seatbelt buckle for the central seat vibrated when the seat was unoccupied, so unfastening it and returning it to its magnetic harbour in the roof solved that issue. Except all it did was make other, less noisy trim chatter become more apparent.

Those leather seats were a £2,000 option, which seems a high price to pay for seats that squeak as the hide side panels rub against each other, a grating sound aided and abetted by my eldest leaving one of the middle row headrests up at full height, increasing its reverberating potential. Cranking up ELO’s greatest hits (yes, what of it?) proved an effective counterstrike. Who knew Jeff Lynne’s riffs had irritant-cancelling qualities?

One key benefit of a long, steady drive at a relatively constant pace was the positive impact on fuel efficiency. Not only did the Citroen’s overall average climb to 41.5mpg after just over 6,000 miles were chalked up, its average for this trip was an impressive 44.9mpg. It’s worth noting this is almost 27 percent lower than the official 61.4mpg claim, though.

Battling through Parisian traffic didn’t dent the Grand C4 Picasso’s progress. If anything, traversing the cobbled avenues highlighted how comfortable the capacious Citroen had proved to be.

Sat at a red light, awaiting the onslaught of the roundabout circling l’Arc de Triomphe, I was preparing my strategy of ploughing in before drifting out to my desired exit rather than stretching any cricks out of my spine after five hours behind the wheel.

Hotel check-in revealed I’d beaten the flight by several hours due to a pilot delay at LHR, while a colleague who’d Eurostarred in had only just arrived before me. Did he have a more comfortable journey? Maybe, but he didn’t have the memories to look back upon of driving through Paris accompanied by Mr Blue Sky on repeat. Or the return leg the next day.

Total mileage: 6,127 miles (started at 394)

Average mpg: 41.5mpg