23 December 2014
Peugeot has turned its concept into a reality with the RCZ and it’s an absolute belter. Looks-wise, the RCZ is virtually unchanged from the show car and stands out thanks to its curving aluminium roof arches. It offers decent cabin space and a large boot, while the engines are punchy and frugal. Best of all, the RCZ rediscovers Peugeot’s brilliant balance of ride and sports car handling to be the true spiritual successor to the iconic 205 GTi. With prices that sit neatly beneath the Audi TT’s, the RCZ is a serious contender for any coupe buyer’s attention and cash.
The most powerful engine in the RCZ line-up is a turbocharged 1.6-litre petrol motor with 197 at its disposal. Swift rather than outright fast, this model cracks 0-62mph in 7.5 seconds and purrs through its six-speed manual gearbox with assured muscle. There’s enough in-gear flexibility for the driver to leave the car to do the work on twisty roads, or you can use the revs to get the very best from the RCZ’s superb handling. There’s also a 154bhp turbo 1.6 petrol that covers off 0-62mph in 8.3 seconds to feel brisk, while company buyers will be tempted by the 2.0-litre turbodiesel that serves up 161bhp. The diesel may be the slowest from 0-62mph, taking 8.7 seconds, but on real roads this engine is every bit a match for the more power turbo petrol thanks to its impressive low- and mid-rev shove. It lets the driver flick between third and fourth gears on back roads to maintain momentum. Only the 154bhp 1.6 petrol is offered with an automatic gearbox, which takes 9.0 seconds to get from 0-62mph.
Many have mourned Peugeot’s loss of direction when it comes to mixing fine ride comfort with superb handling. Not any more. The 3008 crossover and 5008 MPV have shown the seeds of Peugeot’s recovery in this area, but the RCZ is the full blossoming of this renaissance. There isn’t quite the sharpness on turn-in to corners as there is in an Audi TT, but the RCZ rewards you with a more competent ride on blistered roads to make the French coupe every bit as adept at quick cross-country driving. When it comes to corners, the RCZ also has steering that is full of feel, accuracy and subtlety of what is happening under the wheels to let the driver make full use of the impressive amounts of grip. The RCZ may not have the four-wheel drive of a TT, but it’s more than a match for the German. It’s also very refined when in cruising mode for motorway work and all of the engines hold their peace in such conditions. Use the diesel to full effect and there is some tell-tale clatter, but perhaps more of an acquired taste is the 197bhp turbo petrol’s engine amplifier. This is a membrane that resonates when fed gases from the turbo to give the engine a sporty note. At certain revs it sounds great, but at full chat it can give the exhaust note a coarse edge.
The engines in the RCZ have been proven in other Peugeot models, as well as the MINI, so there are worries on this front. The same goes for the gearboxes, while the RCZ’s underpinnings have also shown their mettle in the 207 hatch. Inside, Peugeot has obviously studied the likes of the Audi TT and Volkswagen Scirocco as all of the surfaces are finished to a high standard, the materials appear top grade and all of the buttons work with pleasingly solid actions. Of particular note, the centre console uses a new arrangement of buttons for the stereo controls that feel more substantial and look much better than those used in the likes of the 207.
One star is lost here for the RCZ as it doesn’t come with curtain airbags. There are twin front and side ’bags, along with anti-lock brakes and ESP electronic stability and traction control on all models. An alarm, immobiliser and deadlocks will foil even the most determined thief.
Coupes are not noted for their practicality, but the RCZ does a better job than most. The French car doesn’t have as much rear seat space as a Volkswagen Scirocco and it’s best to view the RCZ’s rear pews as very occasional seating for small children or added storage space. The split and fold rear seats can be used to augment the already excellent boot space, which is long, wide and deep enough to cope with most suitcases when laid on the side. It’s certainly big enough in the boot for a couple to head away on holiday without having to compromise on what they pack. The driver is well catered for and, despite the sweeping roof, there’s ample headroom that is helped by the double-bubble styling of the roof that curves into the design of the rear screen. Even so, there’s no distortion caused by the rear window when looking through the rear-view mirror. All-round vision is good in the RCZ and driver comfort is excellent thanks to a two-way adjustable steering column and height adjustment for the seat. Elbow, leg and shoulder space is also top notch.
There are queues forming to buy the RCZ, which bodes extremely well for the RCZ’s future values. On top of this, the coupe is keenly priced at the same level as many hot hatches that lack the RCZ’s stunning looks, yet the French coupe cleverly avoids head-on competition with the Audi TT by topping out price-wise at the point where the TT starts. Running costs for the RCZ are affordable thanks to 40.9mpg for the 154bhp 1.6 petrol, 39.8mpg for the more potent petrol and a fine 52.3mpg for the diesel engine. The diesel emits 159g/km of carbon dioxide, handily coming in just under the 160g/km marker for company car drivers, while the petrols record 155g/km and 159g/km for the 154bhp and 197bhp models respectively. Choose the automatic version of the 154bhp petrol and emissions go up to 168g/km. There are two trim levels to choose from – Sport and GT. The Sport is the cheaper but comes with air con, electric windows, CD stereo with MP3 connector, alloy wheels and rear parking sensors. Move up to the GT and you get leather seats, larger alloy wheels, front parking sensors, heated front seats and automatic wipers and headlights. There’s also a long list of optional extras to personalise the RCZ including different alloy wheels and paint finishes.
Submitted: 13/04/2010 09:57:06
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