Calling it C4 'by Loeb' makes it sounds like some sort of perfume. What's it for and did the world's greatest rally driver really have anything to do with it?
The C4 by Loeb (wouldn't 'Loeb edition' have sounded much less pretentious?) is a limited-edition C4 built to honour Sebastian Loeb's achievements in world rallying and Citröen's return to the WRC championship after a short break. As for the great man's involvment in the programme, it'd be nice to think that he toiled away for hours sorting out the damper settings and fighting with the engineers on our behalf for a proper haydraulic steering system. But what he probably did was get a bung in exchange for the use of his name. They asked me first of course but I wanted £15 and Citroen wouldn't do it. Apparently that's more than the company spends on a whole interior of a C4.
So what sets it apart from your common or garden C4 VTS?
Available only in either red or black, the C4 gets 17-inch rims in either white or grey, 'By Loeb' badging and an individual serial number to denote which of the 400 cars coming to the UK is yours. Inside, a mix of black and red leather and cloth brightens up the interior, there are Citröen chevrons embroidered onto the headrests and smatterings of chrome and aluminium on the dash and the pedals. Other than that it's stock C4. So it gets the still-cool steering wheel whose hub remains fixed as the rim turns and a stylish but ergonomically dodgy dashboard.
Any good to drive?
As good, and bad, as the standard car basically. Good because the engine is smooth and free-revving, the gearshift is quick and it corners flatly, grips well and refuses to be upset by challenging B-road bumps. Bad, because that gearshift is sloppier than a 20-year-old 205's and the engine really needs stoking to deliver its 180bhp. Neither that power figure nor the 8.0-sec 0-62mph time sound that great by current hot hatch standards, not when cars like the 225bhp Focus ST can do it in just over six. They also have six gears and the C4 just five. But the Citröen is meant to be more warm than hot, more a rival for the Golf GT rather than the GTi. And at £14,995 it's substantially cheaper than both. It also undercuts the mechanically identical C4 VTS by £3k although you miss out on xenon lamps, a CD changer and some other bits and bobs. But if a high-revving petrol engine's not your thing, there's a pair of 110bhp 1.6s, one petrol, one diesel, starting at £12,795. There's even a C2 supermini 'by Loeb' which nets you 16-inch alloys, an 125bhp 1.6 petrol four and the same black and red colour schemes for £9995.
It's not for shrinking violets and it's not up there with the hot hatch greats, but the C4 'by Loeb' is a surprisingly fun sub-GTi hatch with plenty of character. But would we buy one given the reliability issues our now-departed long-term C4 suffered? Sadly not.