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Peugeot RCZ 2.0 HDi (163)

Diesel engine adds decent economy to coupé’s catwalk looks

Few cars have caused quite such a stir as the Peugeot RCZ. After years in the design doldrums, thefirm has rediscovered its flair, delivering a sleek coupé capable of conquering the class leaders.

The range-topping petrol-powered version has already scored a convincing group test victory against the Audi TT and VW Scirocco. Now it’s the turn of the diesel to take on the cream of the coupé crop.

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Visually, there’s little to distinguish the oil-burning RCZ from other models in the line-up, which means you get the same jaw-dropping, show car styling. Everywhere you look there are eye-catching details, such as the ‘double-bubble’ rear window, bare metal roof pillars and an electrically operated spoiler that rises automatically at speeds above 53mph. Even drivers of the VW will become invisible to other road users when the Peugeot pulls up alongside them at the lights.

Sadly, the flair of the exterior isn’t mirrored by the RCZ’s cabin. The uninspiring dashboard is largely carried over from the 308 hatchback, while the switchgear feels flimsy and cheap. Plus, the token rear seats are pretty useless, too, as even small children will struggle to get comfortable.

Still, the optional £515 leather dash, fitted to our test car, helps to raise the ambience, while the large rear window creates a light and airy atmosphere.

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Open the large bootlid, and you’ll discover a useful 309 litres of carrying capacity. This increases to 709 litres when you fold the two individual rear seats flat. There’s plenty of standard kit, too. Parking sensors, cruise control and Bluetooth phone connection all feature – these handy additions will cost you an extra £965 on the VW.

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The RCZ’s smooth and sophisticated image is dampened when you fire up the 2.0-litre diesel engine. Not only is the 163bhp powerplant short on refinement, it trails the Scirocco in the performance stakes. At the test track, the Peugeot needed 8.5 seconds to complete the 0-60mph sprint – a full 1.2 seconds behind the VW.

On the road, the differences are harder to gauge, as the RCZ’s muscular 320Nm torque output results in strong mid-range pace. Better still, the positive action of the six-speed transmission is a significant improvement on the manufacturer’s previous efforts. It’s also clear that Peugeot’s engineers have put in a lot of effort to optimise the RCZ’s handling. Turn into a challenging corner, and the car displays impressive composure, gripping hard and suffering virtually no body roll.

The only dynamic black marks are reserved for the extremely firm ride, numb steering and long-distance refinement, which is hampered by a combination of wind noise and tyre roar.

There’s little to criticise when it comes to price. At £24,550, the extremely well equipped Peugeot undercuts the Scirocco tested here – fitted with the DSG gearbox – by £225. Better still, the Peugeot has more kit than its rival, and offers the kind of glamorous looks that few cars can match at any price. So, is the rakish RCZ about to add to its already crowded trophy cabinet?

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WHY: With jaw-dropping looks and sharp driving dynamics, the RCZ is evidence that the Lion is roaring again. Diesel engine aims to add shoestring running costs to the package.

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