The Citroen C4 by Loeb: A Missed Opportunity

Citroen has been off the boil for quite some time now. The days of the wacky, unique and very French DS, SM and 2CV seem light-years away. The automotive landscape is worse off for it too — nobody seems to want to be bold and stand out or even stay true to their brand values for that matter. Let’s talk about why the Citroen C4 by Loeb is a Missed Opportunity.

Why is the Citroen C4 by Loeb a Missed Opportunity?

With modern-day lease and finance contracts and their play-it-safe design style, Citroen are turning cars into disposable white goods that are thrown away as soon as the lease term ends. If that’s the business model that keeps company’s in the black, then I guess that’s the way it has to be for now. I do, however, believe each manufacturer should have a halo model; something that’s a showcase of what they can do if they put their mind to it, a shining example of brand values and a source of passion for everyone connected to them.

Citroen had the perfect opportunity to launch such a car with a special edition C4. Years previously they had already racked up 3 drivers titles and 3 manufacturers titles with the Xsara (2006 drivers title being in a non-works Xsara). 2007 saw Sébastien Leob add a fourth world drivers title in the C4’s debut season, showing then (if he hadn’t already) that Citroen had a legendary driver leading their WRC campaign. The C4 went on to win a total of 3 constructors titles and Leob, another 3 drivers titles, taking the Citroen/Leob partnership to 13 combined world championships.

Rewind back to 2007. After a year away from the sport, Citroen returned for a works assault at the WRC with the C4 and celebrated this with the C4 “by Loeb” and my god did it not live up to his name. When you look back at cars bearing drivers names, many of them have been unforgettable, adding to their racing pedigree. Think Subaru Impreza RB5 and RB320, the Mitsubishi Evo VI Tommi Makinen Edition and the Toyota Celica GT-Four ST185 Carlos Sainz — all were based off AWD platforms and possessed turbocharged 4 cylinder engines, as per WRC regulations.

Why Citroen Let Loeb Down

So, why would Citroen make their tribute to Loeb an FWD 2.0, naturally aspirated weed with just 180bhp? Your guess is as good as mine. It’s as if they didn’t even try. You could argue that Citroen didn’t have an AWD system or 6-speed gearbox capable of handling big power, you could say it would have cost a fortune making this from scratch, along with the adjustments to the engine for it to be able to cope with boost; however, halo cars don’t have to be sold in big numbers. They don’t even have to turn a profit.

The rally replicas I mentioned before did wonders for their brand’s reputations, especially Subaru and Mitsubishi. Seeing Evo’s and Impreza’s standing next to regular models in a showroom gave the rest of the range a bit of kudos.

What is the Citroen by Loeb Missing?

I remember my Grandad owning a 1997 Honda Civic 1.4 automatic and he always mentioned Honda’s Formula 1 success with Williams and McLaren, as if in some way it was linked with the engineering in his car. Citroen desperately needed that kind of link and it should have come to them with ease. After dominating the world rally scene as they did, they had the perfect excuse to create a beast of a car. One of those cars that stands out in the showrooms, that we can look up to with a sense of aspiration… “If I work that little bit harder, one day I could trade in my base model, for the car that looks just like the one I watch on the TV.”

What does the Future Hold for Citroen?

As I am writing this, people are getting excited about the arrival of the new Toyota GR Yaris. It’s got all the makings of a future classic — like the Supra and GT-Four Celica’s. Toyota is a badge that people will point at and you can be proud of, rather than being told you only bought it because you couldn’t afford whatever “upmarket brand” they consider to be superior.

For Citroen, that opportunity is gone and it may never come again. Their legacy in the WRC history books will last forever but years down the line when crowds of people are gathering around Audi Quattro’s, Lancia Delta Integrale’s and Escort Cosworths at car shows and reminisce about seeing them tackle the worlds rally stages, there will be no C4 “by Loeb” there.

Let me know your thoughts on the C4 by Loeb below!

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