If Citroen distributor Sime Darby’s sales plan works, it will result in year-on-year growth never before seen in the New Zealand new-vehicle industry.
The French carmaker is aiming for sales of 450 vehicles in 2014, a whopping 50 per cent hike on last year’s 301 sales. Says Citroen divisional manager Simon Rose: “Our sales last year were up 20 per cent on 2012 and we believe we are this year heading for our best-ever year,” he said.
Sales in the first two months suggest the target mightn’t be as ambitious as it seems. Citroen has already sold 30 per cent of overall 2013 sales – 50 cars in January and an expected 40 in February.
It has always been a niche badge in New Zealand, with a best year of around 350 sales. But its executives believe it is in a better position than ever to capitalise on a new range of vehicles that showcase Citroen’s core strength – its quirkiness … being different in a world chockablock with clones.
Take its latest arrival, the Grand C4 Picasso, a stylish seven-seater that’s 110mm longer than its predecessor. Two models are available: ‘Seduction’ at $42,990 and the better equipped ‘Intensive’ at $49,990, both with maximum five-star crash ratings. But they are not ‘people-movers’, not to Citroen anyway. Rather they are ‘family’ cars, says Citroen. It doesn’t like the moniker ‘people-mover.’ Too impersonal for a carmaker that has done its own thing for 95 years.
Nevertheless, Grand C4 Picasso – we’ll call it GP from here on – is what it is, a five-seater with two smaller seats that fold into the rear cargo floor. When they are in use, access to them is simply a matter of tumbling the second row of seats forward. It’s an easy-peasy, one-touch procedure, as clever as it gets. Of course, in use they reduce cargo space.
“Easy access to the third row is really important in the seven-seater segment – it’s a big selling point,” said Rose. Important, too, is how other things work and look in the cabin. This is where GP shines.
In the centre of the dash are two coloured screens, one 30cm, the other 18cm. It’s a multimedia feast. Everything you need to know about what the GP is doing, where it is going and so on … can be displayed, along with the views from a reversing camera and a 360-degree camera.
The cabin itself is modern with soft-touch materials, nice styling touches and plenty of places to put stuff. The front seats both have an electric massage function. The passenger seat has a push-button, airline-type footrest that extends to a point where the seat could become a bed of sorts, once the seatback was lowered.
There is plenty of head- and leg-room in the second row, where snacks can be had on airline-style trays in the back of the front seats. Sun blinds are standard, as are three 12-volt power sockets. Three iPads can be charged at once, says Citroen.
The view from the driver’s seat through an enormous windscreen and split A-pillar is excellent. In tight spaces, the driver gets the help of an electronic park assist function developed on many of the narrow, congested streets of Paris. Optional is a panoramic roof with sunblind.
The GP is powered by the PSA Peugeot Citroen group’s new-generation 2.0-litre BlueHDi diesel engine delivering 110kW/370Nm and mated to a new six-speed slick automatic gearbox. It is a Euro6-compliant drivetrain, quiet and flexible and at its best when overtaking or heading into hills.
Citroen claims town-and-around fuel use for the GP of around 4.5 litres/100km (63mpg), but the test drive north and south of Auckland showed around 7 litres/100km. The test cars needed more miles on the clock before economy could accurately be figured out.
In a nutshell, road noise was pretty much absent on smooth surfaces, noticeable on course chip. The test car rode on 18-inch alloys, but 17-inch are standard. Suspension worked well, with slight body roll through corners, not unusual for such a vehicle. Steering was nicely weighted and reasonably accurate.
As a family vehicle, the GP pretty much comes with everything that opens and shuts. There is no spare wheel, instead an aerosol-based puncture repair kit.