Police modify advanced saloons for the beat

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 June, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 17 June, 2006, 12:00am

The Hong Kong Police Force's fleet consists of almost 900 motorcycles and more than 1,600 four-wheeled vehicles, of which more than 400 are saloon cars. But the government didn't just shop along Gloucester Road for a couple of Saturday afternoons, as we might.

Officials bought their Tiidas by the book in November.

'The force is not responsible for the choice of general-purpose vehicles ... that is allocated to meet the needs of all departments and bureaux,' says the spokesman, whom the force doesn't want to name. 'The choice is dependent on the outcome of an open-tender exercise.'

The force has received the basic 'Luxury' version' (retailing for $129,800), and had them fitted for a more modern show.

'The expansion of the Strategic Road Network has increased demand for high visibility, mobile patrols, and the demographics of Hong Kong also demands a strong mobile response capability,' the spokesman says.

The police Tiidas support uniformed and plainclothes operations, as part of 'the force's overall response and 'watch and ward' capability', he says.

The force needed the Tiidas because the majority of its Mazda 323s are at the end of their serviceable life. 'A rough guide would see most cars used for at least seven years; motorcycles at least four years, but there are many examples that exceed these limits,' the force says.

Hong Kong's police cars are often modified with special lights, radios and a split-charging system, but are 'certainly not' bullet-proofed, the spokesman says. But wire cages on windows and lights suggest the Tiidas are ready for trouble. 'This feature is most commonly used in typhoons, but they are also designed to be used in extreme circumstances of disorder,' the spokesman says. 'They are normally fitted on late-night beat duties.'

But the mesh may be phased out, as the quality and safety of glass improves, the force spokesman says.

The Tiida is built for tough patrol use, thanks to advanced engineering and superior safety systems, says Honest Motors spokesman, Chan Wai-to. 'Its suspension system incorporates rebound springs, ripple-control shock absorbers and other advanced features to deliver outstanding handling, stability [and] ride comfort.' Chan says the government could have been impressed by the economy of the Tiida's 1.5-litre HR15DE aluminium engine. Recent tests in Hong Kong say the Tiida only consumes a dollar's worth of petrol per kilometre, based on the fuel cost of $13.48 per litre.

The Tiida's also certified as a Super Ultra-low Emission Vehicle [SU-LEV] last year because it emits 75 per cent fewer emissions than the levels required by Japan's 2005 exhaust-emission regulations. Towngas has signed up for 20 Tiidas, Honest Motors says. Sales of Mazda3 were 13 per cent higher than those of the Tiida in 2005, says Mazda Hong Kong spokeswoman Yvonne Kwok, but Gary Tsang, former editor-in-chief of Automobile, says that Asia's Finest are well-equipped.

'The Tiida is the most spacious car in the class,' he says. 'Officers will be in good shape after any journey, too, [because the saloon's] equipped with one of the most supple suspensions you can get in a small sedan, and the drive train is efficient, but it's not designed for a speed chase, a safety factor for the public.'

The police Tiidas have the same engine as the Deluxe, and its 109 brake horsepower has all the oomph to pull-over a Ferrari in Hong Kong. Watch your mirrors.