FIRST DRIVE: Limited edition Citroen DS3 Racing … Can it take the Clio 200 crown?

By Philip Hedderman

If you ever wondered what Sebastien Loeb uses on the schoolrun … then wonder no more.

Yes folks, we here at thenextgear have it on good authority that his little runaround at home is in fact a Citroen DS3.

But it’s no ordinary DS3.

Nope, it’s the DS3 Racing – the savage, limited edition pocket rocket which is packin’ 207bhp with a 0-100kph in just over 6 seconds and a top end of 250kph.

Only 2,000 are being made of which 200 will make it onto British and Irish roads and yes, you guessed it, we blagged a spin in her.

Well, if it’s good enough for the seven times World Rally champ … then it’s good enough for yours truly.

Now, don’t be put off, or indeed fooled by the day-glow orange roof and detailing around the 18 inch Nemesis alloys, double chevron in the grille and badging on the bonnet and rear panels.

Some would say it’s just Chavish – others would argue that it’s nature’s way of warning you to ‘Treat With Respect’.

Unfortunately the Tango-ing continues on the inside with a slab of bright tangerine dashboard facia looping the cabin, broken only by the massive DS logo in silver.

It’s every teenager’s dream but a little to much for a fat, ould fella like me.

Colour aside, this is a beastly looking machine and there are subtle little clues that give away its true pedigree. Giant brake callipers, twin exhausts, and smatterings of carbon fibre all over its muscular body tell you this ain’t no LBR (Little Boy Racer) tweak.

Inside there is further evidence of the Rally- inspired performance lurking beneath – namely a rev counter which bottoms out at 9,000 RPM, drilled aluminium pedals, bucket style racing seats, flat end steering with carbon inlay and a growl from the exhaust that would make an Aston Martin blush.

So, on paper this should be a serious contender to the mega Renault Sport Clio 200 and the MINI JCW and given it’s unrivalled motorsport success should leave them for dead?

Let’s look at just what the racing team did to get her road ready.

Firstly they opted for the same BMW 1.6 litre petrol unit favoured by the MINI.

Loeb’s team of boffins set to work to squeeze every last drop of performance from it by remapping the Engine Control Unit and tweaking the turbo.

Steering, brakes and shocks also got the full Monty with the suspension lowered by 15mm and the front and rear tracks widened by 30 mm giving the supermini a much lower squat stance.

Turn the key and the roar of the little monster leaves you in no doubt that this is gonna be fun … with a capital F.

The six speed gear box is crisp, tight and the change is brisk. Open the taps and the horses are unleashed as the rev counter loops judders, drops then loops every time you hit the hammer and change up.

Unlike the Clio Sport the madness isn’t as instant or in-your-face.

In order to get close to crazy you have to keep the throttle on as she climbs over 3,500 rpm and then the magic begins to happen.

Now some will be hugely disappointed by this, but the poke is there it’s just a matter of finding it in the right gear at the right time.

Handling-wise the Racing is not as sharp or as focussed as the Clio and the steering is not engaging enough for a high peformance motor of this calibre.

It’s like Citroen have gone out of their way to make it too comfy thereby missing the whole point of a hot hatch and more importantly what those who buy them crave.

The ride though is superb thanks to the adapted front and rear suspension and you only have top tap the anchors and the four piston callipers glue her to the spot.

That in itself means the Racing can do longish commutes without the driver having regular visits to the chiropractor.

It’s also the most frugal speed demon I’ve ever driven returning an unbelievable 44 mpg while keeping emissions down to 149g/km and annual Road Tax at €302.

Despite the one or two niggles this is a serious piece of kit and considering it is Citroen’s first stab at high performance in quite some time she scores a definite nine out of ten.

If Loeb’s half term report highlights the same, the Mark II version will be absolutely blistering.

The DS3 Racing also comes in the less daunting Polar White with matching Carbon Grey roof and for the more fragrant of us even comes with it’s own factory-fitted air freshener.

And considering that prices start at €29,990 – it’s not to be sniffed at.