Peugeot RCZ review
With concept car looks and a sporty driving experience, the Peugeot RCZ is a left-field alternative to the Audi TT.
A rarer sight than the Audi TT and far more striking than the Volkswagen Scirocco, the Peugeot RCZ is a four-seater, two-door coupe worth looking at if you want to turn heads for a modest amount of cash.
Peugeot has successfully captured the true essence of a coupe in the RCZ. With its concept looks, this car never fails to turn heads, while superb driving dynamics prove it has the substance to match its style.
Based on the first generation Peugeot 308 family hatch, the Peugeot RCZ is powered by a choice of three mainstream engines - a 156bhp 1.6-litre THP turbo petrol, a 200bhp version of that same THP unit and a 163bhp 2.0-litre HDi diesel. Buyers seeking even more by way of performance can also opt for the RCZ R model. This uses a third version of the 1.6-litre THP petrol that produces 266bhp.
In addition to the flagship RCZ R, the RCZ is offered in Sport and GT trim levels. The GT version with the 200bhp THP engine comes very highly recommended by us.
Our choice: RCZ THP 200 GT
Good design is what coupes are all about, and the RCZ is no exception. Launched in 2009, it caused a stir with its outrageously good looks and sports car stance. The double-bubble roof and bare metal roof pillars help the Peugeot ooze concept car appeal.
A recent facelift has incorporated the brand’s new family face, meaning the upper grille is now smaller and neater, and sits above a wider, wing-shaped intake. More angular headlights add to the unique look of the RCZ. If you want to attract attention, it still takes some beating.
So it’s a shame the dramatic design doesn’t continue inside. The dashboard is carried over from the previous-generation 308 hatchback, with the only noticeable tweaks being limited to revised trim around the gearlever and on the doors.
There are too many fiddly buttons and the switchgear feels cheap and flimsy compared to the solid build quality of the BMW 2 Series. You’ll find plenty of room up front, though, and there’s lots of equipment included as standard. You get heated leather seats and climate control, plus Bluetooth hands-free connectivity.
Entry-level Sport RCZs get air conditioning, alloy wheels, a USB port for iPods and rear parking sensors as standard kit, whereas GT models get leather trim and front parking sensors thrown into the deal.
The hottest Peugeot RCZ, the RCZ R, gets its own styling to underline its performance credentials, with bigger forged 19-inch alloy wheels, matte black roof rails and a fixed rear wing. The sporting theme continues over to the interior of the RCZ R, and owners are given some racy red stitching, a pair of figure hugging front seats, and the short-throw gearknob from the excellent Peugeot 208 GTi hot hatch.
If you want a Peugeot RCZ for its concept car looks more than pure driving thrills, then either the lower powered 156bhp 1.6-litre petrol, or 163bhp 2.0-litre diesel should suit. Drivers seeking a more involved experience with their RCZ should opt for the 200bhp 1.6-litre petrol, which feels more nimble and has its own front suspension geometry.
The Peugeot RCZ R with its 0-62mph time of 5.9 seconds and a rear suspension that's 44 per cent stiffer than the 200bhp car, feels completely different. Due to its higher level of engagement it should appeal to the more hardcore driver . While it offers buckets of grip in the dry, the RCZ R can be unforgiving in the wet.
Peugeot Sport, who helped Sebastien Loeb smash the Pikes Peak record in 2013, provide the brakes for the RCZ R, and in turn, these items provide excellent stopping power. Furthermore, the limited-slip differential at the front axle prevents there being too much torque steer or wheel spin.
It displays impressive composure and suffers virtually no body roll, while the sharp, direct steering is backed up by a slick six-speed manual gearbox and decent brakes.
Push this car hard, and you’ll find loads of reassuring grip, helped by the electronically activated rear spoiler, which rises at speeds above 53mph and helps boost stability. The RCZ is certainly more agile and engaging to drive on twisty roads than the ageing Scirocco, and it even gives the rear-wheel-drive BMW 2 Series a run for its money.
Plus, the ride is smoother than we expected from the low-profile 18-inch tyres, although things do deteriorate quickly over poorly maintained roads, with the suspension crashing into larger potholes.
Low-slung leather sport seats and a lower centre of gravity give the Peugeot more of a sports car feel than the hatch-like Scirocco or grown-up 2 Series. It also provides plenty of seating and wheel adjustment, which means a great driving position – although taller owners may be concerned by the high-set pedals and lack of an off-clutch footrest.
The RCZ hasn’t been crash tested by Euro NCAP, but it only features four airbags as standard; the BMW and VW offer six each. Still, stability control is standard, as are automatic lights, while xenon headlamps and tyre pressure monitoring are available as part of the £680 Vision Pack.
Peugeot is struggling to boost its reputation for quality and reliability, and a lowly 31st place finish in Auto Express’ Driver Power 2013 survey won’t have helped.
Worse still, its network was ranked 26th in the dealer poll, with over 30 per cent of owners claiming technicians failed to identify their fault.
As you’d expect, there’s a price to pay for the Peugeot’s sleek looks and low-slung stance. The rear is shockingly cramped, with seats that are too upright to be comfortable and a sloping roof line that offers very little in the way of headroom. In fact, the tiny rear seats are only really suitable for small children.
However, the RCZ does provide a surprisingly spacious boot. It’s not as deep as the VW Scirocco’s, but offers 309 litres of capacity, and when you fold the split rear seats, you can increase that to 760 litres.
Elsewhere in the cabin, you’ll find a decent amount of storage space, including handy door bins and a number of cup-holders. As with all Peugeots, though, most of the RCZ’s glovebox capacity is eaten into by the fusebox.
Strangely, the flagship Peugeot RCZ R model returns better economy figures than the THP 200. On the combined cycle it manages 44.1mpg and CO2 emissions of 149g/km, as opposed to the 1.6-litre THP 200's 42.1mpg and 155g/km of CO2.
If, however, you want to spend the least amount of money at the pumps, then the Peugeot RCZ with the 2.0-litre HDi engine is the one to go for with a combined economy of 54.3mpg and a CO2 level 135g/km.
Other good news about the Peugeot RCZ's running costs, comes in the form of firm residuals which come as a result of strong used demand.
However, while the RCZ isn't as costly as an Audi TT or Volkswagen Scirocco to run, don't except it to be as good as its German rivals in terms of overall quality.