Citroen Grand C4 Picasso - Please be seated

  • Our new long-termer Citroen shows off its seat trickery
  • Seven seats to two without removing any of them
  • Clever touches increase its inherent flexibility

Wind the clock back to the dawn of large people-carrier popularity and it was immediately obvious they had one significant drawback. No, not the paucity of boot space when all the chairs were occupied…

Okay, it was immediately obvious that aside from the lack of cargo space in seven-seater mode, they had one clear shortcoming. That’s right - where do you put the seats when they're not in use? 

Those of us who’ve lived with ‘old skool’ MPVs will remember the frustration of storing up to five sizable chairs in garages, or hallways if your garage was already bursting with family detritus, simply to turn our beloved ‘it’s-definitely-NOT-a-van-with-windows’ into a, erm, van with windows. That’s assuming you had the physical wherewithal to manhandle these hefty, folding contraptions out of their mounting points in the first place, of course.

Our Citroen Grand C4 Picasso long-termer demonstrates how far the game has moved on, switching from large family wagon to plush panel van in just 30 seconds, without removing a single seat from the car. I could probably do it quicker too but I’ll save that for a future update.

While the French marque wasn’t the first to employ clever seat-folding-and-hiding wizardry, this interpretation is one of the cleverest and easiest to use.

Let’s start with the back pair of chairs, which as you can see, despite their delicate-looking size, can just about deal with a six-foot tall man/hulk/buffoon (delete as applicable), of considerable stature.

Legroom’s surprisingly decent (I’ll come back to why in a bit), but headroom in row three is the Picasso’s shortcoming, the roofline tapering down too aggressively to allow taller adults to sit comfortably. If you’re up to about 5ft 8in, I suspect you’ll be fine, and you don’t need to display Houdini-esque contortion skills to get in or out, either.

Usefully, the retractable rear parcel shelf can be mounted behind the rearmost seats when they’re in use, seatbelts can be clipped back when not required and in the roof above them are a pair of climate control vents and reading lights.

Pull the red strap at their base and they’re quickly retracted into a floor well; a concertinaed board hides them away and makes the boot more practical. To restore their functionality, simply fold the carpet board back and pull up on the black strap. A metallic clunk confirms they’re locked in position.

Neither of the third row seats are equipped with ISOFIX child seat mounting points, unlike each of the three individual chairs in the middle row, all of which slide and recline independently, too. The outer ones additionally benefit from air vents in the door pillars, retractable window blinds and picnic tables on the front seat backs.

Despite my best efforts to appear otherwise, the second row seats are very comfortable, offering ample head room and colossal legroom when they’re slid backwards. Of course, that’s not so good if the third row seats are going to be occupied, so here the Grand C4 Picasso delivers another party piece.

Assume the middle row seat has been slid fully rearwards but a passenger needs to get in the third row: pulling the handle on the top corner of the seat flips the cushion upwards and allows the now jack-knifed seat to be pushed forwards on its runners. When the passenger’s clambered in, the seat can be pushed back, but ingeniously it only goes back so far to ensure the back seat incumbent’s knees don’t get closely acquainted with their chin.

Full conversion to van mode is literally the tugging of three straps away. At the bottom of each seat is a tell-tale red handle; an upward yank on each one and the seats collapse into the floor. Another clever touch is the carpeted board on the seatbacks which is hinged to fold away when not required. Release the little clips and open them up to bridge the gap from the middle seats to the well where the third row are hiding.

There you have it, an almost horizontal – but still usefully flat – load bay. In less than 30 seconds the Citroen Grand C4 Picasso has gone from seven seats and 165 litres of boot space to two chairs and 2,181 litres. Impressive stuff.

An additional 472 miles has been added to the Picasso’s odometer tally since the last update, with overall fuel efficiency improving up to 36.5mpg on that tankful. Fingers crossed that before too long it’ll be achieving at least the 40.3mpg that the trip computer’s optimistically indicating it’s achieving.

Total mileage: 1,549 miles (started at 394)

Average mpg: 36.5mpg