Peugeot RCZ: Coupe de France

When’s the RCZ coming? When you get it will you bring it ‘round for me to see? Never before have I had so much interest in a press car.  Maseratis and Bentleys don’t cause this much of a stir, even my Mum, who never really gets excited about these kinds of things, wanted to know when the latest version of Peugeot’s slinky coupe was going to show up. Says a lot really doesn’t it? When did Peugeot last build a car that caused this kind of anticipation from such a wide audience? Perhaps it’s got something to do with the way it looks. After all, you could ask yourself when was the last time Peugeot built a car that could accurately be described as a bit of a looker? (Although you have to admit the 208 GTi is pretty too).

But a looker, that’s exactly what the RCZ is. Originally shown at Frankfurt as the 308 RCZ concept, the RCZ made it into production without having had too many alterations made to its original design. Apart, of course, from the 308 tag being dropped. Despite being based on the 308’s under-pinnings, albeit now in a stiffer, wider-tracked and 40mm lower configuration, Peugeot’s coupe was to be known by letters alone. Despite the film star looks there were no Peugeot double O’s to be found here.

It is un-deniably handsome though and from the super-car wide nose, up over the double-bubble roof and down to the Karmann-Ghia-esque rear haunches the RCZ manages to mix both muscularity and feline sensuality. Although some claim in places the over-all design looks a little busy.

Inside, it’s a similar story. The optional leather trim, and the flat bottomed steering wheel fitted to the Sport spec car shown here do a fine job of making this car feel special, even if some of the hard to reach lesser switches don’t – why Peugeot did you hide the radio and phone controls behind the wheel rather than placing them on it?  And thanks to easily adjustable seats and both reach and rake adjustability of the steering column it’s possible to find a nearly perfect driving position (for shorter drivers like me the seat offers little in the way of under thigh support).  Still, at least Peugeot have finally worked out where to put the pedals – at last there not offset to the left; instead they’re mounted directly ahead of the driver and perfectly placed for heel and toe down-changes.

It’s a shame then that both the steering and the gear lever lack a feel of mechanical weight that would make the driving experience truly engaging. Despite the 235/40-R19 tyres gripping like limpets – Sport specced cars come with some beautiful  19” alloys, but  they make one question whether they enhance the ride in the same way they do the looks – the RCZ never really rewards the driver in the same way as other similarly priced coupes do (Scirocco anyone?). If you think that Peugeot’s 2+2 will be as good to drive as the legendary 205 GTI was, or indeed the 208 GTi is, think again.

But don’t be put off too early. RC means in French what GT does in English and the RCZ makes swift, stylish and comfortable cruiser. The ride is a little on the firm side and there is tyre rumble to be heard, but overall it’s far better than average and thanks to that slippery shape wind noise is barley noticeable. The large flat boot is more than capable of accommodating a weekend’s luggage even if the tiny rear seats struggle to take your toothbrush and the cabin is wide and airy. The firm seats, although lacking a little side bolstering, remain comfortable even after a couple of hours and the 1598cc turbo unit  as tested here offers brisk, (0-62 in 7.6 secs) and smooth performance without ever resorting to excessive noise or thirst. 40MPG + is attainable – if you’re careful.

The RCZ may not offer the kind of thrills or the ultimate quality of finish of Audi’s TT with which it is inevitably compared. But judging by the comments it received from many a kerb-side admirer whilst on test it does offer the one element that stands for nearly everything in the fickle coupe market in which it sits – style. Even now, when we’re used to seeing and RCZ it’s still capable of turning heads.

 

Peugeot RCZ Sport THP 200

 

Engine: 1598cc 4cylinder 16valve turbo

Transmission: 6 speed manual

Power: 200bhp @ 5800rpm

Torque: 275 lbft  @ 1770rpm

0-62mph: 7.6 sec

Max Speed: 146mph

Mpg: 42.2 (combined)

CO2: 155g/km Band G

VED: £175 for 12months

Price: £23985 (GT spec: £26,385)

 

Many thanks to Peugeot UK’s press office for the loan of the RCZ.

 

 

www.liam-bird.com

 

@bird_liam

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Liam Bird Liam Bird

I'm Liam Bird, a freelance Motoring Writer based in the South Shropshire Marches. I currently write car reviews and road tests for a number of regional lifestyle magazines and newspapers which are distributed throughout Cheshire, Herefordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Worcestershire, most of Wales and beyond.

As a member of the Welsh Group of Motoring Writers I'm as happy behind the wheel of a super-mini as I am in the latest super-car. I have press accreditation with most of the major motor manufacturers, meaning that as well as always being on the look out for further commissions, I always have a number of cars arriving each month ready to review.

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