If you’re in the market for a family vehicle that can carry up to seven people in relative comfort, youre not short of options these days. Most volume manufacturers have at least one model in their lineup that will do the job, so which do you choose?
It would be easy to think that the most expensive one you can afford must be best, but thats not always the case with this type of vehicle. Thats why carwow is here to give you the lowdown on two of the main contenders, the Volkswagen Touran and the Citroen C4 Grand Picasso.
Historically, most would favour the German cars chances. But does this French upstart buck the trend? You might besurprised
The multi-purpose vehicle (MPV) segment is one of the few areas of the market where the styling of a vehicle isnt necessarily at the top of a buyers tick list. Of course, nobody wants a vehicle thats been hit with the ugly stick, but people-carriers are largely chosen on theirpracticality, not their looks.
Before you take a look at the Citroen and the VW, you might expect that the sharp-suited German would take the styling honours Citroens have been hit-and-miss over the past few decades. However, Citroens designers have workedwonders with the French brands styling in recent years and they certainly havent overlooked the Picasso.
The Volkswagen is clean and tidy looking, but not overly attractive. If anything, it seems to resemble the VauxhallZafira of a few years ago, which isnt quite what you’d expect from a VW. By contrast, the Citroen is thoroughly modern, with a futuristically swept-back lighting arrangement at the front that really draws your attention.
The Touran is boxy and functional; the Grand Picasso is probably about as stylish as you could ever hope for a people-carrier.
Interior and practicality
Now we’re getting to the point of people carriers,and both score highly here. Each car featuressliding and folding middle-row seats, but the third row in both cars isnt the most comfortable place for adults to spend long journeys. No matter, as these seats are rarely used anyway.
The overall look and feel of the Volkswagens interior is a little more upmarket than the Citroens, although the difference in quality between the two brands is not as great as it once was.
Although materials and build quality feel a touch better in the VW, the Citroens cabin is more stylish, funky and modern. Despite the undoubted quality of the Touran, the interior could be accused of being a bit boring compared to the Picasso.
Both the Touran and the Picasso come well equipped, even in standard form. The days of German cars coming with almost nothing as standard are long gone, and even in its entry-level form, the Touran is equippedwith alloy wheels, Bluetooth, air-con and a USB socket to let you charge your mobile devices on the move. However, the Citroen sees all that and raises it with the inclusion of a digital (DAB) radio, an optional extra on the VW.
If the actual ride and handling of the vehicle is of the utmost importance to you, the Touran comes out as a clear winner here.
Although the VWs ride is firmer than the Citroens, especially at low speeds, this is more than compensated for by the kind of body control that will prevent passengers feeling queasy when you are negotiating the bends on a winding country road.
By contrast, the Citroen tends to lean quite a lot, and rough and bumpy roads certainly seem to unsettle the car.
However, the Citroens steering is lighter than the Volkswagens, which is great around town but doesnt inspire a great deal of confidence when travelling at greater speeds.
The Touran has four different engine options; two petrol and two diesel variants. The petrol engines follow the current trend for small, economical turbocharged models and come as a 102hp 1.2-litre and a 138hp 1.4.
The diesels will be of most interest to the majority of buyers though thanks to their headline economy figures, and you have the choice here of a 103hp 1.6-litre or a 138hp 2.0-litre option. The 1.6 can best be described as ‘adequate’ (though it’s economical, at up to 61.4mpg), so its likely the 58.9mpg2.0 TDI will be the best choice if a diesel modelappeals to you.
The Citroen also comes with 1.6 and 2.0-litre diesel engines, but they both produce more power than their VW counterparts; the 1.6 delivers up to 113hp and the 2.0-litre will get you 147hp, which is notably more than the Touran. Opt for the lower-power Citroen diesel though–at 91 horses–and with Citroen’s automated manual transmission up to 74.3mpg is possible.
For the relatively few people that will want a petrol derivative in such a large car, there are two versions of the same 1.6 which will deliver either 113hp or a relatively paltry 89hp. The 1.6 is surprisingly good at moving the C4 along with a full load of passengers, but the 89hp engine is really only there if economy is your primary consideration. There’s another 1.6 too, this time turbocharged. It’s most economical at 47.1mpg, quickest (9.2 to 60mph),but most expensive too.
Value for money
Both vehicles represent good value for money in their entry-level versions, although a fully-equipped Touran will start to look pretty expensive with all the bells and whistles. Theres only 360 between the two at base model level, but the extra equipment you get with the Citroen does make it look better value from the start.
Dont be fooled into thinking that plumping for the VW will mean a better resale value when you sell it. The Touran is one vehicle in the German manufacturers lineup that doesnt really conform to this stereotype.
Although Citroens have never been renowned for strong residuals, this may start to change as the latest models start moving onto the used market.
The C4 is also very economical and the 1.6 e-HDi is a great choice for company car users thanks to its very competitive tax costs. For private users VED is free for the 1.6 e-HDi with the ETG6 transmission, and the 98g/km rating also means 15 per cent BIK for 2014-15, or 17 per cent for 2015-16. No Touran can match that.
People of a certain age would probably look at the Citroen C4 Grand Picasso and the Volkswagen Touran and immediately be biased in favour of the German car, and ordinarily we wouldnt blame you Volkswagen and Citroen’s reputations precede them in very different ways.If you want a badge on your drive you will probably favour the VW, which does what it does very well.
But an MPV is the type of vehicle that is bought to be used and not necessarily admired by the neighbours. The Grand Picasso tends to come out ahead of the Touran in most of the areas that really matter for this sort of car, which may surprise some.
The bold new styling, spacious interior, excellent economy and high levels of standard equipment make a compelling case for the Citroen.
Its indicative of the fresh new offer that is setting the French motor giant apart from its countrymen at the moment, as well as quite a few of its continental rivals into the bargain.