If I were a paranoid type, I think someone at Citroen was trying to wind me up.
A week after I arranged to take the Grand C4 Spacetourer on a holiday test drive back to its motherland, the French brand announced it was discontinuing the seven-seat people carrier.
Production of the slick-looking Spacetourer will stop at the end of July, with Citroen citing “changing customer habits” for the move - everyone’s buying SUVs instead of MPVs.
So you can’t walk into your local dealership and spec one for yourself any more. However there are plenty of delivery-mileage examples out there as well as a healthy second-hand market and, off the back of our week with it I can confirm it’s still almost unrivalled for larger families looking for the ultimate in practicality and versatility.
It’s perhaps a sign of waning interest in the segment that apart from some specification upgrades, the car hasn’t 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 remains as feature-packed as ever.
That lack of change brings positives and negatives. Stylistically, the Grand C4 always was and remains a step above its ungainly rivals like the Ford S-Max. Its proportions are well managed and thin split-level lights and a neat silver trim running round the top half of the car break up its boxy form. Its visual “lightness” and interior airness is enhanced by a windscreen that stretches far back into the roofline, where it almost connects to the huge panoramic sunroof.
Also on the bright side, you can properly disable the nannying lane assist, yet the car still features advanced functions such as adaptive cruise control and auto-dipping lights.
Less great is the presence of just one USB port and the rear parking camera’s 1990s video game image quality. There’s also an archaic infotainment system housed in a meagre seven-inch screen. Thankfully, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are present, meaning you don’t have to rely on the previous generation Citroen software, unless you want to adjust the air con.
There are other design “quirks” that really should have been engineered out by now - front cupholders too small for anything but a skinny bottle of Evian and rear door pockets barely broad enough for a paperback book - but they’re all outweighed by what the car gets right.
Absolutely central to that is the space and how you can use it.
The Grand C4 is around the same length and width as a C-segment SUV but with a longer wheelbase that offers far more passenger legroom and kneeroom. Even with the driver’s seat at full stretch and the rear seats moved forward to extend the boot there’s masses of space for adult passengers in the second row and their feeling of space is enhanced by the completely flat floor.
Just as importantly, each rear seat is an Isofix-equipped full-sized individual unit which can slide, recline and fold independently. Even with one child still in a chunky car seat, we found plenty of room for three to sit side by side and even after hours on the road we were spared the usual fighting over whose elbow was in whose space.
The Grand C4 also has possibly the best mechanism for accessing the third row of seats. Unlike the usual tilt-and-slide arrangement, the Citroen’s seat cushion folds up vertically before the seat slides forward, creating a larger access space than in any alternative.
Predictably, the third row seats - hidden in the boot floor - are less spacious. Nonetheless, with all three rows arranged properly the Grand C4 is genuinely capable of carrying seven average sized adults.
In seven-seat guise you won’t fit much luggage in the 155-litre boot space but in standard five-seat configuration there’s a massive 632 litres. If you need more than that then all three second-row seats fall flat to create a completely flat boot floor and there’s easily space for a couple of bikes, paddleboards or whatever other lifestyle accessories you have. The front passenger seat even folds flat to help accommodate extra-long loads.
As well as room for passengers and luggage, the Grand C4 is littered with extra storage spaces. From the massive roll-top centre box that will hold a week’s worth of travel sweets to hidden underfloor compartments that can hold an iPad there’s space for a whole family’s worth of stuff. User-friendly touches like airline-style seat back tables and pull-up window blinds further show this is a car designed to be as family friendly as you could ask for.
With the interior emphasis on practicality, the overall design is pretty simple, although the DS-inspired gear selector behind the steering wheel is a reassuringly avant garde Citroen touch. Cabin materials are all pretty impressive given the car’s advancing years, with a blend of high-end soft-touch materials and hard-wearing fabrics designed to withstand family life.
One area where the Grand C4’s age is showing - and one of the reasons for its demise - is under the bonnet. While the brand is embracing hybrid and electric options, our test car was fitted with a straightforward petrol unit.
With 1.2 litres and 128bhp, it’s not the beefiest thing ever, especially against the S-Max’s hybrid 2.5-litre, but it’s still astonishing what it can do. Even five-up with a week’s worth of luggage it never felt like it was struggling, although you definitely need to take a more laid back approach to driving and the auto gearbox can feel dithery at low speeds.
Another sign of its age is that the Grand C4 doesn’t benefit from Citroen’s Advanced Comfort suspension or seats. Nonetheless, it still has Citroen’s traditional focus on comfort and passengers will have little to complain about - whether tackling smooth European autoroutes or potholed UK roads. The S-Max is undoubtedly better to drive but the Citroen rides better and is just as quiet on the road.
Citroen’s decision to kill off the Grand C4 undoubtedly makes business sense but it’s a shame that buyers are being robbed of another brilliantly practical family car.
Despite its age and some infuriating design quirks, it still nails its brief, offering phenomenal space and versatility that no similarly priced or sized SUV can rival.
Citroen Grand C4 SpaceTourer Shine
Price: £32,500 (£33,045 as tested); Engine: 1.2-litre three-cylinder, turbo, petrol; Power: 128bhp; Torque: 170lb ft; Transmission: Eight-speed automatic; Top speed: 124mph; 0-62mph: 10 seconds; Economy: 38.7-46mpg; CO2 emissions: 150g/km