The Numbers

1598cc, 4cyl, FWD, 147kW, 275Nm, 6.9L/100km, 159g/km C02, 0-100km/h in 7.5secs, 240km/h, 1372kg

The Topgear Verdict

Surprisingly impressive sports-car effort from the Frenchies. But a slightly scary price increase and many tempting alternative drives will likely be a challenge for it.

2013 Peugeot RCZ

Few humans admit that we base the relationships we enter into on looks. But we do. Oil tycoons and bank CEOs don't date bimbos with shoe-size IQs to debate them on the paradigm-shifting linguistic theories of Chomsky. It's more to do with the fact that the letters of their school grades somehow transferred to their bra sizes.

And so it will be with buyers of Peugeot's face-lifted RCZ - the French manufacturer's striking two-door coupe that has just undergone a mid-life nip/tuck. The RCZ's unique styling has always been polarising - the 'double-bubble' roof resembling sensuous curves to some, and a plumber bending over to others. It's sexy, but in a weird way. You feel an attraction, but aren't quite sure if you should. Like a Lady Gaga video.

We can make the assumption that RCZ buyers are shallow, beauty-craving creatures because the overwhelming majority will opt for the automatic model, when there is a faster, six-speed manual version available for the same price. So fast blasts around race tracks won't be at the top of their agendas. Oddly, this is exactly where TopGear tested the new RCZ - at Melbourne's Sandown International Raceway to be specific.

Around the track the six-speed manual version, with 147kW and 275Nm, offered plenty of punchy and torquey acceleration from its 1.6-litre turbo petrol engine with precise steering and stable, confidence-inspiring handling through the bends, aided by the active rear spoiler which deploys above 85 clicks. The ESP program was also unobtrusive under all but the most ridiculous strain, and the engine produced a gruff, almost throaty tune thanks to, I kid you not, a vibrating diaphragm in the engine acoustics system (cue schoolboy laughter).

The automatic version, with 115kW and 240Nm, does have a noticeable power drop-off and is also markedly less fuel efficient (7.3L/100km vs the manual's 6.9), but its smoothness adds to the RCZ's aptitude as a comfy sports-cruiser. So, too, do the seats, which bolster you firmly in position without shattering your spine into tiny fragments.

There's also a 2.0-litre diesel six-speed manual version (which wasn't available on the launch) which offers 120kW and 240Nm and is the most efficient at 5.3L/100km. It also falls right in the middle in terms of performance, hitting 100km/h in 8.2 seconds where the petrol manual will do 7.5 and the auto 8.4.

All variants of the newest RCZ now enter the market at $58,990, a $4000 increase over the last model. However Peugeot says you get an extra $5800 worth of standard goodies for your extra cashola including sat-nav, xenon headlights, 19-inch alloy wheels, matte black arches and a black grille and brake callipers.

To us, that doesn't quite sound like almost $6000 worth of extras, and all that's really left is the face-lifted front end with its six LEDS and lower air intake. So you have to ask yourself: how much are looks worth?

Reviewed by: Tim Booth

Driven: June 21, 2013