Peugeot 308

All the glamour of a TT in an affordable Peugeot package. We see what the 308 RC Z has to offer.

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

This stunning Peugeot is every bit as exciting to drive as it is to look at. So what if there’s a heavy dose of Audi TT in the design – the 308 RC Z is a worthy rival, with its own powerful character. Practicality is passable, with great headroom in the front thanks to that clever roof. And the rear seats fold down easily to enhance the impressive 415-litre boot. Add in a superb engine and gearbox, as well as a capable chassis, and the newcomer promises to put Peugeot back on the performance car map.

The Lion is back... and with it comes the promise of a £17,500 Audi TT rival that looks set to put Peugeot at the heart of the performance coupé class.

So say hello to the new 308 RC Z. Although it’s officially a concept, this 2+2 coupé is as production ready as any prototype we have ever driven, and offers a distinctive taste of what drivers can expect to come from the French manufacturer.

The curvaceous bodywork and lithe silhouette look sure to become a familiar sight on British roads. And Auto Express became the first magazine in the world get behind the wheel.

The 308 RC Z debuted as a concept at September’s Frankfurt Motor Show, and was the star attraction. But with its 1.6-litre engine and six-speed manual gearbox, it didn’t take long for Peugeot to admit the car was much more than a simple design study.

Inspiration for the styling has clearly come from Audi’s latest TT, but while there are many similarities between the two cars, a number of things set them apart. The biggest difference will be the price. Peugeot promises the non-turbo 120bhp 1.6-litre VTi model will start from around £17,500, while the flagship RC Z variant is likely to cost in the region of £26,000.

Its engine is still in the experimental stage, yet the turbocharged THP version of the 1.6-litre petrol motor Peugeot shares with MINI produces 215bhp and is very impressive.

It also has 300Nm of torque, and provides strong performance. Yet is the front-wheel-drive chassis up to the job of distributing all that power evenly? The simple answer is yes. Normally, pre-production models like this have to be driven slowly and cautiously. But that wasn’t the case with the Peugeot. Even though it’s a one-off so far, the car is effectively ready for the showroom – which meant we were free to push the sporty coupé to its limits.

The newcomer is based on the 308 chassis, but in flagship spec it’s 59mm wider, to improve the handling as well as the looks. Add in special 19-inch tyres and lightweight alloys, and it’s easy to see why the car is so exhilarating to drive. Although the steering is a bit numb, winding roads are a joy.

Enhancing the whole experience is the all-new six-speed manual transmission. It shifted through the neatly arranged ratios easier than we anticipated, allowing us to make the most of the engine’s 7,000rpm red line.

The turbocharger in this early version can readily be heard during both acceleration and deceleration, and it’s a welcome sound. Many of the tight curves on our test route were followed by an uphill dash, and an easy change down to second had us launching up to the top of the slope with ease.

Our only complaint concerns the amount of wheelspin from the front tyres out of such bends. But the RC Z doesn’t struggle to get its power down in a straight line, with the sprint from 0-62mph completed in seven seconds flat.

The fact the car tips the scales at only 1,350kg helps this pace, although large ventilated brake discs front and rear ensures it stops just as well. Inside, the unique sport seats are extremely comfortable. The layout of the cockpit will be familiar to owners of the standard 308, with the exception of the stylish clock on the dash.

The entire front shelf is lifted up to meet the lower edge of the special panoramic windscreen. And a carbon fibre roof panel adds plenty of headroom, plus has a nice double-bubble shape when seen from the rear. The extra width of the bodywork means improved shoulder and hip room.

So when will the 308 RC Z reach UK dealers? For now, Peugeot bosses are remaining tight lipped. But unofficially, the company has admitted the newcomer could arrive here in little more than a year. We can’t wait.

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