Sporty Peugeots. Remember those?
It been a long time since the words Peugeot and Sports car could be used in the same breath. The halcyon days of Pug’s sportiest eighties/early nineties era are distant memories for most and since the 306 was phased out, driving enjoyment from a French car just hasn’t hit the mark.
So when Peugeot New Zealand introduced the new RCZ, the first Pug to not have a zero in its name, as a proper sports model, naturally, I still have my reservations.
Still, you don’t need to drive this car to understand why people will buy it. The frontal treatment is just a stretched 308 (on which the RCZ platform is loosely based) visage, I think there’s an argument for a greater distinction and the proportions conspicuously lend themselves to future folding hardtop-a-fication, rather than a truly beautiful coupe. So while some say ‘gorgeous’, I think I’ll stick with ‘attractive’.
Be that as it may, the more obvious design cues like the hunkered down stance, accentuated wheel arches, unique double bubble rear glass and the aluminium arches undeniably deserve your attention and are complimented nicely with standard 19” wheels and electronic, retractable rear spoiler.
Take another look, bear in mind an Audi TT starts at $86,990 and think of a price based on styling alone. We’ll see how you did at the end of the article.
Refreshingly though, there’s more to the RCZ than its looks.
Peugeot has done a good job of injecting some of the handling ability lost as cars of the last two decades became heavier, an achievement all the more impressive given the French’s continued use of beam rear axles over most sports model’s preference for independent rear suspension.
Where the 308 feels stodgy, the 10mm lower, firmer suspension in the RCZ affords shifts in direction that nothing else in the brand’s portfolio can suitably replicate, and impressively it doesn’t come at the detriment of ride comfort.
Don’t get me wrong, steering feel is still unimpressively synthetic and on any given back road the rigidity of a Scirocco or lightweight construction of a TT would still outshine the RCZ around bends. But, credit where it’s due, this is a promising sign that Peugeot’s on the right track and the reality is, unless you’re an out and out driving enthusiast, you’ll be satisfied with the Pug’s driving characteristics.
Current drive train options are a 1.6-litre, 147kW / 275Nm turbocharged six-speed manual or a detuned, 115kW / 240Nm version of the same engine with a six-speed automatic. Fuel efficiency ranges from 6.9L/100km (manaul) to 7.3L/100km (auto).
Co-developed with BMW, we’ve enjoyed this engine in every application we’ve sampled it in. A proven enjoyable and efficient unit, it rivals a modern diesel with its ability to develop peak torque at low rpm; this translates to a responsive and strong performer on the road.
Shame the auto can’t deliver the grunt of the manual, even with the added power the manual doesn’t dominate the driving experience and is a nice match for the RCZ’s ‘almost there’ chassis. It sweetens the pot with a more tuneful exhaust note too. No question, I’d opt for the three-pedal variant any day of the week, but I appreciate few others will share this opinion. Softies.
It also holds its own on the specification front with a usable 309 litre boot, the full complement of essential modern coupe safety features, including stability control, front and side airbags, active cornering headlights and even a pyrotechnic active bonnet for pedestrian safety.
The interior largely resembles the 308, but adds specific sports seating and leather upholstery on the chairs and dash facia, Bluetooth hands free, a premium audio system, tyre pressure sensors, rain-sensing wipers, dual-zone climate control and steering wheel mounted audio and cruise functions. Marketing have even incorporated a tasteful analogue clock to really drive home a premium feel. All you’re really missing is rear leg room, which is non-existent here.
So, the cost? Peugeot New Zealand’s $64,990 asking price for either version seems a fair cop to me. At the end of the day it’s a rung down the sports car ladder from the TT, but for those just wanting a stylish coupe that can put a smile on your face every other weekend, this genuinely fits the bill and I’m picking will prove cost effective day to day as well.
Find a Peugeot dealer near you.