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First Drive: the new Peugeot RCZ
Ah, the Peugeot RCZ.
Very astute, but you need to add the word ‘facelifted’. Don’t tell me you missed it. I know it’s easy to get distracted by the RCZ’s sweeping proportions and low rear deck, but up front there’s a new nose. A better nose. One that no longer looks like a gaping black maw. Yes, the huge single grille with its black bumper insert is now a much svelter two-level grille, separated by a body colour section.
OK, so what else is new?
Not a whole lot. This facelift is emphatically from the trim, kit and colour school of easy upgrades. You can have the roof rails in matt black as well as silver now, the base Sport model is available with a leather/alcantara trim combo (for £1,200), there’s a new 19-inch wheel for the higher spec GT version and, umm, that’s about it.
Hmm, so everything as it was before?
Everything. So you’re probably wondering why we’re bothering with it. Well, sometimes it’s worth reminding ourselves about a car, and the thing with the Peugeot RCZ is that’s it’s easy to forget what a decent car it is. It’s easy to deride it as another style-over-substance Euro-coupe, and, true, I expect most people buy it for that exact reason. However, it’s also more than halfway decent to drive. The ride is nicely taut, not harsh or crashy, just well judged and sporty. It has strong front end bite and turn-in and a real appetite for corners. OK, so refinement isn’t perfect due to short gearing and above average road noise, but the RCZ is engaging enough to get you excited about driving it, and the 1.6-litre engine…
Yes, surprisingly so. Given the small displacement, I expected it to be fitted with a big sluggish turbo to deliver the claimed 197bhp, but actually it’s immediate and effortlessly eager and feels quicker than a 0-62mph time of 7.8 seconds suggests. It even sounds good in a gruff way. The whole car is responsive and reasonably engaging. But then this is the engine to have I suspect, the other options being another variant of this 1.6 turbo with 156bhp and a 161bhp 2.0-litre diesel. The 200bhp version is only 6g/km dirtier than the lesser petrol at 155g/km and returns a claimed 42.1mpg (we got a consistent 35mpg).
What’s it like inside?
Well, the ambience is pretty good. There’s a lot of glass, so it’s light and airy with good visibility (bar the intrusive A-pillars), but…
But… the seats are too flat, unsupportive and mounted too high in the cockpit, the bulbous steering wheel is ugly and the rim isn’t that well shaped, the pedals are too far up the footwell and the electronic systems (sat nav, stereo etc) are frustrating to use. And although the boot is big and well shaped, that roofline means only kids will fit in the back. And small ones at that. But my main criticism is that you never feel snug in the RCZ. I think they should have paid more attention to the Audi TT before signing it off.
Speaking of which, It’s pretty costly too, isn’t it?
Well this flagship GT is £26,380 and that’s on the high side, but prices start at £21,595 for the 156bhp Sport model and given there’s not that much to justify the £2,400 mark up from Sport to GT versions, we reckon the 200bhp Sport at £23,980 might just be the range sweet spot. However, for an extra £90 you could have an entry level TT 160 Sport…
Now what’s this we hear about a hot RCZ?
You hear right. Peugeot unveiled an RCZ R at the Paris motor show last September, complete with a tuned 256bhp version of the 1.6-litre and lowered, stiffened suspension. It could be rather good, but it won’t be here until much later this year. We have the 208 GTI to look forward to before then.
A proper Peugeot hot hatch?
That’s the word on the street. Although it’s gonna have its work cut out against the new Renaultsport Clio and Ford Fiesta ST. Still, the RCZ shows that Peugeot can still do a driver’s car, and that bodes pretty well.