Citroen’s soon-to-be-discontinued MPV remains one of the best seven-seat cars out there, whether you buy new or used
If I was the paranoid type, I think someone at Citroën was trying to turn me on.
A week after I agreed to take the Grand C4 Spacetourer on a holiday test drive back to its home country, the French brand announced it was discontinuing the seven-seat people carrier.
Production of the slick Spacetourer will stop at the end of July, with Citroën citing “changing customer habits” for the move – everyone is buying SUVs instead of MPVs.
So you can no longer walk to your local dealer and specify one for yourself. However, there are plenty of examples of delivery miles and a healthy second hand market and after our week with it I can attest that it is still almost unrivaled for larger families looking for the ultimate in practicality and versatility.
It is perhaps a sign of waning interest in the segment that, apart from some specification upgrades, the car has not been substantially updated for several years. It still looks the same as when it was called the Grand C4 Picasso, has the same engines and is still as feature-packed as ever.
That lack of change brings positive and negative. Stylistically, the Grand C4 has always been a step above its clunky rivals like the Ford S-Max. Its proportions are well managed and thin split-level lights and a neat silver trim that wraps around the top half of the car break down its boxy shape. Its visual “lightness” and airiness in the interior is enhanced by a windscreen that runs far back into the roofline, where it almost connects to the huge panoramic sunroof.
Also on the plus side, you can properly disable the nannying lane assist, but the car still has advanced features like adaptive cruise control and auto-dimming lights.
Less great is the presence of only one USB port and the video game image quality of the 90s rear camera. There’s also an archaic infotainment system housed in a meager seven-inch screen. Fortunately, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are present, so you are not dependent on the previous generation Citroën software unless you want to adjust the air conditioning.
There are other “quirks” in the design that should have been worked out by now – cupholders in the front that are too small for anything but a skinny bottle of Evian and pockets in the rear doors that are barely wide enough for a paperback – but they all do not outweigh what the car gets right.
Central to this is the space and how you can use it.
The Grand C4 is about the same length and width as a C-segment SUV, but with a longer wheelbase that offers much more leg and knee room for passengers. Even with the driver’s seat fully extended and the rear seats moved forward to expand the loadspace, there is plenty of room in the second row for adult passengers, and their sense of space is enhanced by the completely flat floor.
Just as importantly, each rear seat is an Isofix-equipped individual unit that can slide, recline and fold independently. Even with one child still in a sturdy car seat, we found enough room for three to sit side by side and even after hours on the road we were spared the usual arguing over whose elbow was in whose space.
The Grand C4 may also have the best mechanism for accessing the third row of seats. Unlike the usual tilt-and-slide setup, the Citroën’s seat cushion folds up vertically before the seat slides forward, creating greater access space than any alternative.
Unsurprisingly, the third row seats – hidden in the boot – are less roomy. Nevertheless, with all three rows well arranged, the Grand C4 is really capable of carrying seven average-sized adults.
In the seven-seat guise, the 155-litre boot doesn’t fit much, but in the standard five-seat configuration, there’s a whopping 632 litres. If you need more, all three second-row seats fall flat to create a completely flat boot floor and easily accommodate a few bikes, paddleboards or other lifestyle accessories you may have. The front passenger seat can even be folded flat to accommodate extra-long loads.
In addition to space for passengers and luggage, the Grand C4 is dotted with extra storage spaces. From the huge, roll-up central box that can hold a week’s worth of travel sweets, to hidden compartments under the floor that can hold an iPad, there’s room for an entire family’s belongings. Easy-to-use details such as airplane-style backrest tables and retractable blinds further demonstrate that this is a car designed to be as family-friendly as you could wish for.
With the interior emphasizing usability, the overall design is quite simple, although the DS-inspired gear lever behind the wheel is a reassuringly avant-garde Citroën touch. Cab materials are all quite impressive considering the advancing years of the car, with a mix of premium soft-touch materials and hardwearing fabrics designed to withstand family life.
One area where the Grand C4’s age is visible – and one of the reasons for its demise – is under the hood. While the brand embraces hybrid and electric options, our test car was equipped with a simple petrol engine.
At 1.2 liters and 128 horsepower, it’s not the most powerful yet, especially against the S-Max’s 2.5-liter hybrid, but it’s still amazing what it can do. Even if there were five of you with a week’s worth of luggage, it never felt like it was struggling, although you should definitely take a more relaxed approach to driving and the automatic gearbox can vibrate at low speeds.
Another sign of its age is that the Grand C4 doesn’t benefit from Citroën’s Advanced Comfort suspension or seats. Nevertheless, Citroën still maintains Citroën’s traditional focus on comfort and passengers will have little to complain about – be it slick European car routes or potholes in the UK. The S-Max drives no doubt better, but the Citroën drives better and is just as quiet on the road.
Citroën’s decision to sell the Grand C4 no doubt makes business sense, but it’s a shame that buyers are being robbed of another brilliantly practical family car.
Despite its age and some irritating design quirks, it still fulfills its purpose, offering phenomenal space and versatility that no comparably priced or comparable SUV can match.
Citroen Grand C4 SpaceTourer Shine
Price: £32,500 (£33,045 as tested); Engine: 1.2-litre three-cylinder, turbo, petrol; Current: 128 hp; Couple: 170 pound feet; Transfer: eight-speed automatic; Top speed: 124 km/h; 0-62mph: 10 seconds; Economy: 38.7-46mpg; Co2 emissions: 150g/km