Citroen's Bonny Baby with Brains to Match; at Last the French Have Harnessed Flair with Reliability in the Trailblazing New C4 - a Car That Puts Safety First

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), July 18, 2004 | Go to article overview

Citroen's Bonny Baby with Brains to Match; at Last the French Have Harnessed Flair with Reliability in the Trailblazing New C4 - a Car That Puts Safety First


Byline: RUSSELL BRAY

Three decades ago, Citroen's innovative engineering meant its cars looked like nothing else on the road.

Their styling was most politely described as aerodynamic in the case of the big, long CX saloons, or quirky where the 2CV and Visa were concerned.

Their insides looked very different too and, while they were ahead of their time with ideas such as selflevelling suspension, they also had a reputation for fiendish complexity that made most motorists steer well clear.

Something had to be done and in 1983 came the more conventional BX range that turned Citroen towards the sales success it enjoys today.

Well now Citroen has managed to produce a beautiful combination of the ingenious and, hopefully, the dependable. Its new C4 replacement for the seven-year-old Xsara, unveiled ahead of its world debut at the Paris Motor Show next month, will again offer trailblazing features, this time backed by reliable electronics.

Designed to challenge the Ford Focus and VW Golf, it will come as a sleek five-door hatchback or a striking coupe that has an extended back window for greater rear vision more often seen on cars from TVR, Maserati and Lamborghini.

When it goes on sale from November prices are expected to start at [pounds sterling]11,000.

Citroen has been back to the wind tunnel and both the sharp-suited coupe and the curvier hatchback have class-leading aerodynamics that cut fuel consumption at speed.

Turn a corner at night and the headlights, activated by a sensor in the steering wheel, will turn as well to give better illumination.

Swivelling headlights are nothing new to the French company: the revolutionary DS, known as the Goddess, piotion

neered them in 1967. But they operated in a different way and now they use Xenon headlights for maximum brightness.

What I have never seen before on a production car is a system that warns the driver if he or she starts to drift out of lane on a motorway.

The system, probably offered as an option, uses sensors under the car to monitor the white lines. It vibrates the side of the seat cushion according to which side the car moves unless the driver has used the indicator. But it only operates above 30mph so parking will not upset it and it can be turned off.

Another contribution to safety, increasingly seen on more expensive and high-performance cars, is a sensor on the valve for each tyre.

This sends a warning to the instrument panel if pressures drop.

There is also a pushbutton device to prevent the car going over a speed limit. It can be overridden in an emergency by heavy pressure on the accelerator pedal.

An innovation that I have seen before only on concept cars is a steering wheel where the centre boss remains stationary while the rim moves.

This allows easy access to the hub-mounted controls for the radio, cruise control if fitted, trip computer etc.

Its unique design will also improve driver safety by allowing the housing of a specially designed airbag.

Steering-wheel airbags currently have to be circular because engineers do not know exactly what posi-

the wheel will be in when an accident occurs. …

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