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Citroën A-type Driving Safety

© Copyright: M. van Well & J.Cats.

Some facts about safety and cars:
  • Bigger cars are safer then small cars
  • Heavy cars are safer then small cars
  • Roadholding and handling have improved dramatically the last 10 years
  • Brakes have improved has dramatically the last 10 years

The reason for this is the continuation of improvements in technology. First we'll define car safety. Safety is devided in 2 sections. Active safety are the components on a car that prevent accidents. These components include tyres, suspension, brakes, brake assistance (ABS), traction control (ESP) and others. Passive safety are the components on a car that protect the people inside the car in case of an accident. The only way to be able to say anything about passive safety is to do crash test or look at crashed cars in accidents. So for more information about passive safety check out Citroën 2cv Crash Test In this article we'll look at active safety of a 2cv compared to modern cars. We'll see that the 4 facts described above are no facts but assumptions, assumptions people made because they believe what the car industry shows us in advertesments. We'll see that these assumptions are wrong. And we'll look at some examples that prove these assumptions wrong.

The best way to check these things is to do some testing. High quality testing is done on proving grounds. On November 28th 2002, a part of the Rotterdam (NL) police force goes to the NIV (Nederlands Instituut Verkeersveiligheid or Dutch institue for traffic safety) track in Hellevoetsluis (NL). Here these guys and girls will get advanced driving tuition. All tests and tuition on the day will be done with VW Golf TDI and VW Transporter TDI. Both vehicles are nearly new, have continental tyres with 6-7mm thread on them. One of the guys has brought his 1957 2cv AZU (van), equipped with Michelin 125x15 tyres 4-5mm thread at the front, 2-3mm at the rear, 1981 onwards 2cv braking system with disc brakes at the front, drums on the rear.

At first we'll compare braking distances, after a emergency stop from 40km/h on a special slippery surface. As expected the the VW Golf have a shorter stopping distance compared to the VW Transporter. Then 2 Transporters are compared, one had Continental Vanco tyres, the other Coninental Cotrans. The Transporter with Cotrans tyres had a shorter stopping distance. Next the same test on the same surface is done with the 2cv AZU. With locked up wheels and to everybody's supprise the 2cv has a shorter stopping distance compared to the VW Golf and Transporter. This test is repeated but this time special care is taken not to lock up the wheels. The braking distance is shortened by yet another few meters. It is shocking to all participants and especially the instructors that the 2cv can stop so quickly compared to the much more modern ABS equipped VWs!

The next excersize is stopping with the left wheel on slippery surface and the right wheels on not slippery tarmac from 40km/h and 70km/h. Here ABS proves it's point and the VWs brake in a good straight line as expected. Up to 60km/h 2cv does very good again, it pulls slightly to one side but is easily corrected. Again the braking distance of the 2cv is much shorter then that of the VWs. At 70km/h the 2cv spins 360 degrees, something that would have happened to every car with no or malfunctioning ABS.

Next up, handling test. With orange cones a curve is laid out on the slippery surface of the track. At 30km/h the VWs are out of control and the cones start flying. The 2cv has no control problems at 30km/h, 40km/h and 50km/h. There isn't even a hint of understeer. At 60km/h some understeer is felt but still the cones are left alone as the 2cv goes through the curve. As a last attempt to get the 2cv to spin the throttle is lifted mid corner, hoping to provoke oversteer. This fails, the 2cv still goes through the curve fully controlable without oversteer.

The little 2cv van has received respect from the instructors and co-workers for doing such a good job. More info (dutch) and photos can be found on The photos are not very spectacular as the 2cv did it's job so well. It's amazing that the little 2cv conquered the expensive VWs with their high tech stuff and many years of computer development. Next we'll look at some emperical data.

Below is a table comparing braking distances as found in several road tests, sources are mentioned.

YearModelWeight (kg)Braking distance 100-0km/h (m)Comment

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