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Click to view road test review picture gallery“A sporting gem from
  CitroŽn, the C4 ‘by
  Loeb’ is also that rarity:
  an absolute bargain.
  Try one and buy one.
  But be quick — half of
  the UK’s allocation
  of 400 cars have
  already been sold...”

GENERALLY SPEAKING, motoring writers drive the very latest models and motoring magazines tend to concentrate their coverage around main-stream models. So it makes a real change to discover a non-volume production model that is not only a real gem of a sporting coupť but is also being sold at a bargain price.

The 'gem' in question is the special edition CitroŽn C4 'by Loeb' launch-ed earlier this year to honour one of the world's most successful rally drivers, current World Rally Champion Sebastien Loeb; and also to mark the launch of the CitroŽn C4 WRC rally car. Frenchman Loeb has taken three World Rally titles in a row (2004-2006) and currently lies in second position in the 2007 championship. Since he debuted for CitroŽn in 2002 he has won over 30 World Championship rallies.

CitroŽn has made just 400 units of the C4 'by Loeb' available for sale
in the UK. These comprise the flagship 180bhp 2.0i-litre — priced at a bargain £14,995 — and two even more affordable variants, the 110bhp 1.6-litre petrol and diesel with prices from just £12,795. Not surprising-ly, more than half of these special edition models have already been snapped up by savvy customers.

At the same time, CitroŽn launched the C2 Junior World Rally Champ-ionship contender — also with the 'by Loeb' treatment. Just 310 of these 125bhp, 1.6-litre petrol models went on sale at £9,995, and again customers have wasted no time in buying them.

The undoubted star in the 'by Loeb' collection is the range-topping 180bhp C4 2.0i I've already mentioned, and which I find remarkably
well priced at £14,995. For this particular CitroŽn, do not expect any
of the French company's well-known discounts or cashback offers.

The 180bhp flagship model is based on the attractively-styled and undeniably sleek C4 three-door Coupť and is available in CitroŽn Sport Red or black — the red looks terrific. The coupť-style body has flared wheelarches and a rear tailgate spoiler, with 17-inch white or grey alloy wheels and subtle 'by Loeb' badging, discreet stripes and the vehicle's individual 1-400 serial number.

Inside the C4 'by Loeb' are sports seats upholstered in a smart com-bination of red/black cloth and leather trim with the CitroŽn Chevrons embroidered on the leather front head restraints. The sports theme continues with a chrome gear knob and centre consol trim, leather-clad steering wheel and central armrest and the fitment of drilled alloy pedals.

Other than body colour, the C4 'by Loeb' has no other options. It comes fully equipped with such items as a multi-function on-board computer, remote central locking, automatic dual-zone air conditioning, tinted windows, electric front windows and door mirrors, scented air freshener, stereo radio/CD player, steering wheel-mounted controls, fully adjustable driver's seat and adjustable steering column, automatic wipers and lights and, to make the most of the load carrying space, split/folding rear seats.

This special edition model is based on the C4 Coupť 180 VTS with the same 2.0-litre engine, firmed-up suspension and roughly the same equipment levels that sells for £18,020, or currently £15,020 with CitroŽn's cashback offers in place. So if you cannot find a C4 'by Loeb' for sale, go for — at more or less the same price but missing the 'by Loeb' cosmetic styling details — the C4 VTS Coupť instead.

It is not unusual for car manufacturers involved in motorsport to offer go-faster styling and performance replicas to the buying public. But generally they are vastly more expensive than the C4 'by Loeb' and
not really that comfortable or easy to drive on public roads. This little beauty is no competition for the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, Subaru Impreza WRX STi or the Ford Focus ST for out-and-out performance;
it isn't priced in that category. Not only is it substantially cheaper to buy but it also costs far less to run and, day in, day out, it is nicer
to drive and has a higher level of specification.

It scores heavily over all competitors in its class for value for money and real-life driveability. Top speed from the four-cylinder petrol engine is a very serious 141mph. Zero to 62mph is covered in just over eight seconds and it will, officially, return 33.6mpg and it has a competitive insurance group rating of 15E.

Naturally, it has anti-lock braking and an electronic stability programme that includes traction control as well. With today's traffic-congested roads and prolific tax-gathering speed traps and cameras, is there any point in paying far more for performance when it cannot be used?

This CitroŽn is comfortable without the suspension being too soft or too firm. It has copious amounts of road grip, with a precise steering system giving good feedback to the driver. The engine is responsive; and in conjunction with the five-speed close-ratio gearbox, it is at home on fast A- and B-roads as well as in town. Perhaps a sixth gear would be nicer for motorway driving, but that is not crucial. Road noise intrusion is minimal.

The C4 Coupť 'by Loeb' is a win-win car. Its refined sports styling treatment looks great, it's versatile, fairly sporty, very well equipped and very affordable. The versatile body design is large enough for four adults and, to cap it all, it delivers good and easily useable perform-ance. Against? Absolutely nothing. And there are very few cars you can say that about. It is, in three words, Everything You Need. — David Miles

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CitroŽn C4 2.0i 16V 180bhp 'by Loeb' Coupť | £14,995
Maximum speed: 141mph | 0-62mph: 8.3 seconds
Overall test MPG: 32.5mpg | Power: 180bhp | 149lb ft
CO2 200g/km | Insurance group 15E
Visit CitroŽn's website Click to go there now

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