Sydney Morning Herald Friday 22 April 2005 - Drive

Inspector Gadget
 

Pedestrian safety campaigner Harold Scruby rates the new high-tech Citroen C4.  By Joshua Dowling.

 

Even if you haven't heard of Harold Scruby, you would have seen the results of his handiwork. The head of the Pedestrian Council of Australia, an organisation described by its detractors as "Harold and his fax machine", is a prime agitator of the media and aggressive campaigner against large four-wheel-drives and oversized bullbars.

 

A fighter for "the walking class", his work is also one of the main reasons we have 40kmh school zones. Yes, that's him.

 

He has been known to follow armoured vans and photograph them when they are illegally parked on footpaths and then rush to the media with the results - and he doesn't stop ringing until his shots are published. He makes more complaints about racy TV ads than anyone else in Australia.

 

He is also the reason the City of Sydney council installed steel posts on the footpath near the famous Sydney landmark, Harry's Cafe de Wheels - to stop cars parking there. His latest mission: an overhaul of the licence demerit points system.

 

Not surprisingly, Scruby is widely regarded as an enemy of motorists and the car but it's a notion he rejects. "I drive a car, too," he says. For the record, it's a Subaru Outback, which is why he's careful to be critical of "large" four-wheel-drives and goes to great lengths to explain the differences between "those monsters" and his "soft-roader" and others like it. Just ask him.

 

But for once, the energetic Scruby is lost for words and doing all the listening. The man from Citroen is walking him around a new car, as if it were a sales demonstration. Indeed, Mr Citroen has a tough customer.

 

They're inspecting the new Citroen C4 and, to borrow a phrase from science fiction, it's a small car but not as we know it. The C4 is laden with high-tech equipment usually reserved for luxury flagships. Among its long list of innovations, it is the first vehicle to score five stars for occupant protection as well as four out of a possible five stars for pedestrian protection, according to the European New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) testing. It's the highest aggregate score so far and an amazing double act.

 

Scruby can't believe what he's hearing, perhaps because it's such a shock to his system: here's a car he might actually approve of.

 

"If I were to be hit by a car, I hope it's this one," Scruby says, before quickly adding with a smile: "I should be careful how I say that, I don't want to give anyone ideas. I get threats every week. The bullbar brigade aren't a friendly lot."

 

Scruby is still absorbing the information from Mr Citroen. Just as he has had time to raise his eyebrows and say: "Gee, is that right? That's amazing," Mr Citroen is rattling off the next safety feature.

 

In brief, the bonnet is aluminium and does not have a brace behind it, so it crumples more easily. The front guards, headlights and some front support sections are plastic. The radiator and other "hard points" under the bonnet are set lower or further back than normal. The windscreen and bonnet are of a similar angle, to better deflect pedestrians and the wipers are made of a soft, floppy plastic, so they won't poke an eye or gouge some skin. There is a special foam rubber bar behind the bumper skin which is designed to minimise pedestrian injury and lift a pedestrian on to the bonnet rather than under the car. The front of the car is rounded. "It's great," Scruby says. "It's just a pity it took us this long to get to this point."

 

He believes the introduction of new European standards are as important to pedestrian safety as the introduction of seatbelts were for vehicle occupants. "We've been improving occupant safety for decades. Now it's time to look after pedestrians, particularly as the population ages," he says.

 

Those on the side of the automobile argue that pedestrians shouldn't stagger onto the road in the first place. According to a study by the NRMA, 40 per cent of male pedestrians killed in NSW are found to be intoxicated. But, Scruby points out, that is because the figures are calculated from .05 - the legal driving limit. "You can still walk straight at .05." Ah yes, but at .05 your judgement is deemed not good enough to drive. How does alcohol affect a pedestrian's ability to judge the speed of a car at night?

 

Either way, Scruby argues that motorists should be concerned about pedestrian safety because we all pay for it in compulsory green slip insurance fees.

 

"Deaths are cheap but pedestrian injuries are twice the cost of vehicle occupant injuries," he says. "The cost comes out of everyone's pocket. We've got to start recognising we are all pedestrians, even though some motorists seem to think they are aliens."

 

But back to the car. With Scruby's scrutiny out of the way, it's Drive's turn with

 

Mr Citroen. Here's the highlights package:

 

The C4's air-conditioning system has a perfume diffuser. Three scents are standard and 12 more are available as an option.

 

A fatigue-warning system, which alerts the driver if the car is drifting from its lane, will be optional later in the year (the seat cushion vibrates to alert the driver).

 

The steering wheel's airbag hub is fixed and the steering wheel rim spins behind it. This lets Citroen fit a larger, rectangular airbag to better protect the driver. (All other steering wheel airbags are round so they can be activated even when the wheel is turned). The fixed hub also ensures steering wheel-mounted controls are in the same place all the time.

 

Citroen uses natural light to solve the problem of flare on LCD screens. The screen is translucent, so as the surrounding light gets brighter, so too does the screen.

 

In addition to cruise control, the Citroen C4 is the first small car with a digital speed limiter.

 

For improved personal security, you can activate the headlights by remote control - and switch them off again.

 

If you walk away from the car and forget to lock the doors, they will lock themselves.

 

If you lock the car and forget to close a window, it will close automatically.

 

On cars equipped with audible reversing sensors, the volume of the stereo automatically drops so you can hear the beeps (other cars do not so this).

 

A Citroen service adviser can work on the C4 anywhere in Australia via the internet thanks to the car's Multiplex electrics.

 

After our demonstration - and more time to absorb the information - Scruby can't hide his enthusiasm.

 

"I can't believe [Citroen] can do all this in a small car. This car proves that pedestrian safety is not only possible but possible at a price that's reasonable." Both the five-door and three-door cost from $25,990 for the 1.6-litre manual. Automatic adds $2000. The flagship 2.0-litre-powered Coupe VTS, pictured, is $36,990.

 

While cars such as this will no doubt improve the chances of a pedestrian surviving being struck, we're not likely to see a drastic drop in pedestrian deaths now that the C4 is on sale. Just 900 C4s are expected to be sold in Australia this year and 1200 annually in subsequent years but more cars like this are on the way thanks to new European pedestrian regulations, which apply to all new models launched from October this year.

 

It is undecided when these or similar standards will become an Australian Design Rule requirement but the expectation is that new pedestrian safety regulations should be enforced locally by either 2011 or 2012.

 

The industry needs such a long lead time because it takes up to six years to develop a new model. At present, the various safety authorities around the world are discussing whose criteria to adopt: Europe's, Japan's or the US's.

 

In the meantime, people such as Harold Scruby will have a lot to talk about.

 

Want to know what the C4 is like to drive? See Sunday Drive in The Sun-Herald.

 

it's a small car, but not as we know it what sets the c4 apart from the rest

 

LCD SCREEN

 

Citroen uses natural light to solve the problem of flare on LCD screens. The screen is translucent, so as surrounding light - and the light coming in through the windscreen - gets brighter, so too does the screen. An in-built light illuminates the display at night. The digital speedometer also has a speed-limiting option - a first for a small car.

 

PARKING COP

 

On cars with radar parking sensors, the volume of the stereo automatically drops so you can hear the beeps. This is believed to be an industry first. A display on the screen shows which section of the front or rear of the car has prompted the beep and the proximity of the obstacle. The air-conditioning system has an in-built perfume diffuser. Another industry first.

 

WHEEL DEAL

 

The steering wheel's airbag hub is fixed and the steering wheel rim spins behind it. This enables Citroen to fit a larger, rectangular airbag to better protect the driver. The fixed hub also ensures steering wheel-mounted controls are in the same place all the time. Another industry first which is likely to be copied by other brands and used on future Citroen models.

 

RUMBLE SEAT

 

A fatigue-warning system, which alerts the driver if the car is drifting from its lane, will be optional later this year. Sensors under the front bumper detect when the car is crossing the lane markings or the edge of the road when not indicating. The seat cushion vibrates to alert the driver. The right side vibrates if the car is drifting to the right and vice versa.

 

DEFLECTOR SCREEN

 

The windscreen and bonnet are of a similar angle, to better deflect pedestrians. And the extremities of the windscreen have soft edges. The wipers are recessed below the bonnet line and made of a soft, floppy plastic. If you forget to lock the doors, they will lock themselves. If you lock the car and forget to close a window, it will close automatically.

 

LIGHT WORK

 

The headlights, front guards and some front support sections are plastic. For improved personal security, you can activate the headlights by remote control. The headlights swivel in the same direction as the steering, even at walking pace (other systems work only at cruising speeds). They are designed to break away easily in a crash to minimise pedestrian injury.

 

BONNET, BAY

 

The bonnet is aluminium and does not have a brace behind it, so it crumples more easily. The radiator and other "hard points" under the bonnet are set lower or further back than normal. A Citroen service advisor can work on the C4 anywhere in Australia via the internet. From Citroen's Homebush HQ he can flash the headlights of a car in Townsville.

 

GET BUMPED

 

There is a foam rubber bar behind the front bumper skin which is designed to minimise pedestrian injury and "lift" a pedestrian on to the bonnet rather than under the car. Underneath the front bumper apron are the tiny cameras that are used in the lane depart- ure/driver fatigue warning system, which will be optional on the C4 and other Citroen models later this year.
 
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