Peugeot RCZ review
The concept car looks of the Peugeot RCZ are backed up by a sporty driving experience, although rear space is a bit cramped
If you want to turn the most heads for the least amount of cash, the Peugeot RCZ should be on your list. It's far more stylish than the Audi TT and VW Scirocco, especially after its recent facelift, and it costs less, too. The rear seats may be tight and build quality not quite as good, but with an involving driving experience and wide range of engines. The brilliant 200 THP 'GT' model comes highly recommended, while very keen drivers should give the RCZ R a test drive. It's been developed by Peugeot Sport, the same team that does its rally cars, and features searing hot hatch levels of acceleration and handling. The RCZ R uses a 266bhp version of the 1.6-litre turbo from the 200 THP model, which also makes it the most powerful production car that Peugeot has ever built.
Our choice: RCZ THP 200 GT
The forte of the Peugeot RCZ is the way it looks. Whereas the Audi TT had the sub-£30,000 coupe sector to itself for many years, the RCZ - complete with its 'double-bubble' rear windscreen and sweeping silver roof rails - makes it look like a wallflower. Factor in a wide range of colours, optional go-faster stripes and 10 different alloy wheel choices, and you've got a real fashion champion. Mid-life changes were mainly focused on the front end, where the gaping Peugeot 308-style grille has been replaced by a smaller opening with a full-width vent underneath. On the inside, there are some neat soft-touch materials throughout, a classy large analogue clock on the facia and lots of seat adjustment for driver and passengers. That said, an Audi TT and VW Scirocco both feel more solidly built. All cars come with lots of standard equipment, with base Sport cars getting air-con, alloy wheels, a USB port for iPods and rear parking sensors. Up to 80 per cent of buyers go for top spec GT models, with leather trim and front parking sensors. The RCZ R gets its own bespoke styling, with forged 19-inch alloy wheels, matte black roof rails, and a fixed rear wing, instead of the electrically operated one used by the rest of the range. Inside, the R gets a pair of figure-hugging bucket seats, the small gearknob from the 208 GTi and racy red stitching.
The RCZ range is split into three. The lower-powered 156bhp 1.6-litre turbo petrol and 163bhp 2.0-litre diesel have a slightly less aggressive setup, the 200bhp 1.6-litre turbo petrol has its own front suspension and feels more agile, while flagship RCZ R has a completely different setup to ensure it performs on the track. The RCZ R is extremely grippy in the dry but can be unforgiving in the wet - its rear suspension is 44 per cent stiffer than the 200 THP, making it much more lively to drive. The R's punchy engine allows 0-62mph in 5.9 seconds and feels very fast - it's much more involving to drive. Huge brakes borrowed from the Peugeot Sport rally team provide excellent stopping power, and a limited-slip diff at the front axle prevents there being too much torque steer or wheel spin. The lower-powered versions don't have the same immediacy but are still good fun, though. Ride quality can be quite firm over broken tarmac, but all models are quite refined at high speeds on the motorway. Facelifted models are especially quiet, thanks to special acoustic insulated windscreens fitted to all RCZs.
With four airbags and electronic stability control, the RCZ is as safe as most coupes in its class. Reliability is not likely to be a strong point though, given Peugeot's reputation and Auto Express's own experience of running an RCZ, which suffered from a couple of faults - failure of the automatic headlights and washer jets – during our brief time with the car. The RCZ R engine and the gearbox have been developed using motorsport technology and the pistons are forged with F1-grade aluminium, so it should prove to be extremely sturdy, but even on the launch several cars developed a worrying wheel wobble under braking. We'll wait until driving it for a longer period before passing final judgement, but the Peugeot badge simply does not inspire confidence like its premium rivals do, which makes the high pricing of this performance flagship difficult to swallow.
A VW Scirocco has a proper hatchback and beats the Peugeot RCZ for ease of loading and all out boot space - but with a 384-litre boot and split/fold seats, the RCZ is more practical than you might think. The most awkward thing is that you have to raise luggage/shopping over the wings/rear bumper to access the wide load area. The rear seats can carry two small adults but only for very short journeys as there's little legroom and headroom is compromised by the steeply raked rear window. The RCZ R - as you might expect - is quite a loud and raucous thing, although the ride quality is comparable to the 200 THP.
If you want to spend the least at the pumps, get the diesel, which does 53.2mpg, whereas the THP 156 does 42.1mpg and the THP 200 returns 40.9mpg. Strangely though, the flagship 'R' model returns better figures than the GT, with a claimed 44.8mpg and just 145g/km. However if you do use the ferocious performance on offer then that figure will fall quite rapidly. The diesel is cheapest to tax as well, emitting 139/gkm of CO2, while the petrols emit 155g/km and 159g/km respectively. Running costs shouldn't be as high as an Audi TT or VW Scirocco, and residuals are firm at the moment because of strong used demand. We expect that to continue, as the RCZ is a rare sight. However cabin quality, and the durability of the electrics, windscreen washers and other consumables is not likely to be as good as the best premium rivals in the coupe segment.