Peugeot RCZ

At last, Peugeot’s stunning new Audi TT rival is here. We give you the behind-the-verdict on the diesel model.

Overall Auto Express Rating

5.0 out of 5

Let Peugeot’s bicentenary celebrations begin – as the firm has come up with a car that’s great to look at and just as impressive to drive. The RCZ offers class-leading mid-corner poise and stability, as well as responsive steering – and our diesel model gave fantastic cross-country pace. Our road test will provide the definitive verdict – and we’ll get an even better idea when we drive the car in the UK. But all the signs suggest that Peugeot has finally produced a model which lives up to the legend of the 205 GTi.

There’s already been plenty written about the new Peugeot RCZ – and not all of it positive. The firm’s reputation has been blighted by lacklustre driver’s cars for more than a decade, so you can understand why.

But before we pick up on past mistakes, let’s get news of the future straight. The RCZ is a revelation. Smooth riding and agile in bends, it’s the finest-handling car Peugeot has built since the legendary 205 GTi – particularly the 200bhp 1.6-litre turbo petrol version assessed by our road testers.

Video: watch CarBuyer's video review of the Peugeot RCZ

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"content_narrow","fid":"68808","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image"}}]]

Here we take the wheel of the entry-level 2.0-litre diesel, and even this surprised us with its mid-corner poise and stability – no mean feat along the twisting Spanish roads we drove it on.

Firstly, though, let’s consider the looks. Anyone who has spent the past two years observing Peugeot at motor shows will have been well aware of the RCZ’s shape. The car was first displayed as a concept in late 2007, before being confirmed for production early in 2008.

The wraps came off a roadgoing version less than a year later. As well as a distinctive double-bubble roof and rear window, it features aluminium-effect pillars, plus a bold, cab-forward profile which instantly marks the new Peugeot out as a very different car to its closest competitors.

More importantly, the design gives the RCZ a handcrafted feel. It looks more expensive than its £20,450 price tag would suggest.

On the road, there’s really not much else to rival it for kerbside appeal, and although we feel some of the detailing lacks the upmarket finish of its German opponents, this is a car you will never tire of looking at.

Inside, it’s a similar story.

Our model’s leather-trimmed dash is neatly finished, with contrasting stitching and bright, jewel-like instruments. The large analogue clock in the centre of the dash makes a bold statement on the car’s fashion credentials, while chrome-effect trim adds a touch of sparkle, too.

Everything in the driver’s eye line looks good – but as with too many Peugeots, when you cast your eyes down, there are hard, scratchy plastics which lack the class of the materials used elsewhere. The same is true at the rear of the car, where some mouldings feel cheap and flimsy.

Family buyers should be warned as well. Although it is possible for adults to sit in the rear seats, they’re really only suitable for children – and even kids will find them short on room on longer journeys. The new car isn’t completely impractical, though – the rear bench folds to boost luggage space, and has a useful stowage net to stop things sliding around.

Refinement isn’t bad, either. Our model’s diesel engine proved smooth, with none of the rough idle often associated with such powerplants. In-gear acceleration feels strong, too – the engine’s torque is delivered right the way up to the 5,000rpm red line.

Gearchanges are slick, and the six-speed manual box offers a short throw and a lightness which we found perfectly suited the closely stacked ratios.

The steering was instantly responsive, and the front wheels provided huge amounts of grip. The system was accurate, too, although it lacked the ultimate feel and feedback on offer from class-leading front-wheel-drive cars like the Ford Fiesta.

The Peugeot’s trump card is its chassis, which is capable of absorbing the most challenging surfaces – as well as the fiercest abuse from drivers. It provides controlled, fuss-free progress, whatever you throw at it.

For example, you can brake hard to scrub off speed as you head into a bend without causing the car to wander away from your intended line. Yet enthusiasts should be aware that although the RCZ serves up a beautifully composed ride to match the classic 205 GTi, it lacks that model’s enthusiasm at the limit, as well as its perfectly weighted steering.

So where Peugeot’s original hot hatch was a delight to drive through tight bends, as well as occasionally frightening around fast-flowing corners, the RCZ is the reverse. It revels in high-speed turns, but is left scrabbling for traction when the road turns more sharply.

This is a minor criticism, though. Clearly, Peugeot’s team of chassis engineers has managed to rediscover some of the magic that allowed the company to dominate its rivals back in the late Eighties. We can’t think of a more fitting tribute as the Lion marks its 200th birthday.

Most Popular

New 2021 Vauxhall Astra teased for the first time
Vauxhall Astra teaser 1
Vauxhall Astra

New 2021 Vauxhall Astra teased for the first time

The new Vauxhall Astra will get electrified powertrains and a more premium image
8 Jun 2021
New 2021 Tesla Model S Plaid launched with 1,006bhp
Tesla Model S facelift - front
Tesla Model S

New 2021 Tesla Model S Plaid launched with 1,006bhp

Range-topping version of the Tesla Model S officially unveiled, with a sprint time of 0-60mph in less than two seconds
10 Jun 2021
New 2021 Volkswagen T7 Multivan replaces Caravelle
Volkswagen T7 Multivan - front
Volkswagen Caravelle

New 2021 Volkswagen T7 Multivan replaces Caravelle

The Volkswagen T7 Multivan MPV switches to the MQB platform and adds plug-in hybrid technology
10 Jun 2021
'Factories are at a standstill because they can’t get the parts to finish cars'
Car manufacturing
Opinion

'Factories are at a standstill because they can’t get the parts to finish cars'

Steve Fowler points out the fresh issues facing global car manufacturing
9 Jun 2021
'The hydrogen underdog disruptor is back in town'
Toyota Mirai opinion
Opinion

'The hydrogen underdog disruptor is back in town'

Mike Rutherford says hydrogen-powered cars could still be a frequent sight on UK roads
13 Jun 2021
‘Our switch to electric will soon make driving manual cars a lost art'
Gearknob
Opinion

‘Our switch to electric will soon make driving manual cars a lost art'

Want to drive a manual car? You need to take your test in a manual car. So what happens once all driving-school cars are automatic EVs?
8 Jun 2021
Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport vs Cupra Leon 300
Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport vs Cupra Leon 300
Car group tests

Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport vs Cupra Leon 300

The capable Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport goes up against its new Cupra Leon 300 sibling in this hot hatch battle
12 Jun 2021
New 2021 Lexus NX arrives with firm’s first plug-in hybrid drivetrain
Lexus NX - front action
Lexus NX SUV

New 2021 Lexus NX arrives with firm’s first plug-in hybrid drivetrain

The new Lexus NX 350h features a standard hybrid set-up, while the NX 450h+ gets a plug-in hybrid powertrain capable of 40 miles of pure electric powe…
12 Jun 2021
LEC launches affordable EV conversion for classic Mini
LEC MINI Electric
MINI

LEC launches affordable EV conversion for classic Mini

The conversion sees the Mini’s A-Series engine replaced with a dinky electric motor and a 20kWh battery for a range of 70 miles in the city
10 Jun 2021
Audi updates line-up for 2022 with new tech and trim features
Audi S5
Audi

Audi updates line-up for 2022 with new tech and trim features

Almost every car in Audi’s line-up has received a tweak, with major updates including Amazon Alexa integration and a Sonos stereo
11 Jun 2021
New Skoda Enyaq iV 2021 review
Skoda Enyaq iV 80 Sportline - front
Skoda Enyaq

New Skoda Enyaq iV 2021 review

The new Skoda Enyaq iV is the Czech firm’s first bespoke electric car and we've tested the full range on UK roads
10 Jun 2021
'GM taking over Honda would be a disaster'
Honda opinion
Opinion

'GM taking over Honda would be a disaster'

Mike Rutherford is worried about Honda's future, despite its recent motorsport success
6 Jun 2021
Mustang Mach-E: your next company car?
A red Ford Mustang Mach-E parked
Advertisement Feature

Mustang Mach-E: your next company car?

Thinking of getting a new company car? Here’s why you should consider putting the Mustang Mach-E on your shortlist
11 Jun 2021
New Volkswagen T-Cross Black Edition 2021 review
Volkswagen T-Cross Black Edition - front
Volkswagen T-Cross

New Volkswagen T-Cross Black Edition 2021 review

The small Volkswagen T-Cross SUV turns on the style in new Black Edition trim
11 Jun 2021