To car guys, family vacations are the perfect excuse to plan an epic road trip, and this year the plan was to do an extensive tour of Switzerland. We began our journey by staying four days in Paris, giving us time to walk off our jetlag and visit quite a few bucket-list worthy attractions. My extended list had, of course, a few car-centric extras, namely the French manufacturers’ factory stores on the Champs Élysées. It’s there in the stunning Citroën Colours store that I looked at a very detailed 1:43 scale Grand C4 Picasso diecast in light metallic blue before placing it back on the shelf. Twenty-four hours later, I would kick myself.
After walking all over Paris, the girls were begging for wheels. My car-guy challenge was finding a European rental car that could seat five in comfort while allowing for three weeks’ worth of luggage in the trunk. Since our Swiss relatives would tag along on a few day trips, the rental car hunt had narrowed to the “5+2” MPV category. I was first offered an Opel Zafira Tourer at the rental counter (the Chevy Orlando’s prettier – but not bigger – German cousin), so I politely asked for a French-made option, and sure enough, they had a Citroën just returned that morning and if we were prepared to wait 15 minutes, they would prep it for us.
We really nailed the rental car lottery. Our Citroën Grand C4 Picasso was nearly new, and with only 2,000 km on the odo, it also smelled new. It came with built-in navigation, whose eight-inch touchscreen and secondary display promised easier use on the go than the small handheld we had brought along. This MPV also came with a turbodiesel engine, a cargo cover and an automatic transmission with flappy paddles. The Picasso’s interior configuration was ideal for us. The second row is made up of three identical bucket seats, so equal treatment for all. The outboard seats face flip-down “airplane” trays and passengers back there have their own HVAC controls. Room in that second row is impressive, and headroom is a non-issue front to rear. With the third row stowed, the trunk offers a flat load floor right at bumper height, perfect for heavy luggage. We had no problem fitting a full-size suitcase and four carry-ons, plus backpacks and camera gear, all hidden under the cargo cover.
This van offers a plethora of cubbies, including hidden floor compartments in the second row and behind third row, plus a huge front console storage bin that swallowed an SLR camera with attached zoom, a video camera, guidebooks and whatever else we had lying around. Keyless access meant not being able to lock the keys in the car, another plus on a family vacation. If the girls did read a bit of deception in my face, it was strictly because this van was identical to the diecast I did not buy at the Citroën store – right down to the colour. Oh well…