Peugeot RCZ 2010

Peugeot RCZ Review

Rating: 7.0
$54,990 Mrlp
  • Fuel Economy
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The Peugeot RCZ represents the best value proposition for a 2+2 sports car in Australia today.
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The all new 2010 Peugeot RCZ represents the best value proposition for a 2+2 sports car in Australia today.

Peugeot has decided to step up its game. The all new Peugeot RCZ is set to take on the Audi TT, BMW 1 Series Coupe as well as the Nissan 370Z. Despite being considerably cheaper, it's arguably also the best looking and most sophisticated car in its class.

To celebrate the launch of the new RCZ in Australia, the French company took a group of automotive journalists to sunny Cairns to drive through the beautiful roads of Captain Cook Highway.

The RCZ is the first car by Peugeot not to carry numerical naming. The letters officially don't stand for anything, but some would tell you it means Rally Car Z. Peugeot decided to call it as such to showcase its uniqueness. After-all, this is the halo car for the brand and is expected to attract new buyers to Peugeot.

From the outside it's rather hard to fault the design. It's French, but it's not your typical Peugeot elongated quirky design that polarises opinion. A few may not like the look of the RCZ, but most will. It's gorgeous from the front, rear, side and pretty much any other angle as well.

The double-bubble roof and twin aluminium roof arches are two of the most unique features in a modern mass produced car today. Add in Peugeot's rather peculiar styling and all of sudden the RCZ has a certain presence to it.

Adding to its design, the rear makes use of an 'active' spoiler which is either deployed manually or automatically. Once you hit 85 km/h it will deploy by 19 degrees and further extends to 34 degrees once you hit 155km/h (but don't tell that to the cops, because surely no one travels at 155 km/h).

The design signifies what the French company can do. Based on the 308 platform the RCZ is Peugeot's chance to show off. If you see one of these drive past you, you will instantly know it's unique. You can't really say that about an Audi TT anymore, nor a BMW 1 Series Coupe.

I liken its design very much to the Audi R8, it has the same flat, really low centre of gravity look to it. It hugs the road even when it's sitting still. It has its paws stretched as wide as possible to gain maximum road grip. Being a Peugeot you expect it to handle well but the RCZ takes your expectations and pushes them to a new level.

Peugeot is no longer producing high performance sports cars, or even everyday hot hatches (having dropped the 207 GTI). So the RCZ has a lot to prove.

Nonetheless, the Peugeot RCZ isn't a performance sports car so to speak. It's going up against the Audi TT, but not against the Audi TT-S or Audi TT-RS. It's targeting the base 1.8-litre model. Similarly, it's not going up against the BMW 135i Coupe which is much more expensive.

The RCZ range in Australia consists of three different variants, a 1.6-litre high output 147 kW petrol turbo mated to a six-speed manual, the same engine with a lower output of 115 kW mated to a six-speed automatic or, my pick of the bunch, the 2.0-litre Hdi turbodiesel mated to a six-speed manual.

The range starts at $54,990* and ends at $54,990*. Yep, no typo there. Peugeot Australia has managed to bring all variants in at the exact same price. This will help buyers chose the right car regardless of price, according to the company.

It is a clever idea. As all variants tend to even each other out (diesel, automatic petrol or high output petrol manual being the draw cards) so I suppose to questions comes down to, what are you actually after?

At 55g, the RCZ is a great value proposition. Unless you're going for a base model 1 Series Coupe, the competition is going to find it hard hard to compete on price.

You may not put Audi and BMW in the same league as Peugeot, but frankly, if Nissan can do such a good job with the 370Z, the French should be able to add their European flavour and do it their way too.

Facts and figures aside, how does it drive? During the two day launch I had the opportunity to drive the high output petrol (147 kW – 275 Nm) as well as the diesel (120 kW – 340 Nm). Both of these variants are good in their own way.

Starting off with the petrol, my co-driver and I began our trip up Captain Cook Highway through what seemed like hours of twisty mountain roads only meters away from the ocean. A beautiful scenic drive if you happen to live up in north Queensland.

Chuck the RCZ around a few switchback left and right corners and it becomes rather obvious that it's not going to budge. You have to work rather hard to make it understeer and when it does, it tends to regain it self rather quickly (the nanny-controls let you have some fun first). It's helped in part by its low centre of gravity as well Peugeot's emphasis on balanced chassis engineering. Although it's based on the 308 platform, the RCZ is wider by 30 mm, with wider front (+44 mm) and rear (+63 mm) tracks.

The power delivery in the high-output petrol is overly linear, so much so that it's almost a chore to figure out when the turbo actually kicks. Nonetheless, I did find myself occasionally stuck at the end of second on the rev-limiter or sitting in low RPM in third gear without much boost. The gearing is perhaps not best suited to tight and twisty mountain roads.

There are two types of sports cars in the world. Ones that are built to be sports car and others that are forced to be sports cars. The RCZ is of the first kind. Its driving characteristics easily reinforce that belief. My only initial issue was the light clutch, but that's something you can quickly get used to. The manual gearbox is easy to use, even in traffic. If you like your sports cars then you'd have to be mad not to pick the diesel or high-output petrol variant over the low output automatic petrol.

Speaking of the diesel, although it goes from 0-100km/ in 8.2 seconds (compared to 7.5 for the 147 kW petrol), its monumental torque (340 Nm at just 2,000 RPM) means it flys out of corners a lot easier. On a twisty stretch of mountain road, it would be hard to say the petrol is actually quicker given the pull you get from the diesel. The downside, at least from my short drive in the diesel, was slightly more understeer. Perhaps due to the heavier engine at the front, it was just that little bit easier to get the front tyres out of line.

Even so, as far as handling goes both diesel and high-output petrol variants will leave the base model Audi TT for dead.

Peugeot says buyers of the RCZ love to stand out and that for the most part, they love their form over function. So you have to wonder then, why the interior is so functional? So much so that it's almost worth criticising for its rather unimaginative design. Don't get me wrong, I very much like the interior as a whole, everything is exactly where you'd expect it to be and it all works rather well (including bluetooth audio which took all of 10 seconds to setup) but it would be nice to see Peugeot take a few more risks and design a more 'out there' type interior, especially for their halo car.

The seats are covered in high quality leather and capable of three-way electric adjustment. They can do with more side support, but still do a good job of holding you in. The dashboard and parts of the door are wrapped in “Nabuck”, a leather-like material that feels great to touch and adds a great deal of ambience to the cabin. You can option this out to real leather for an extra $1,500, but the Australia sun will kill it within a few years.

The rest of the interior is very much taken directly out of Peugeot's parts catalogue. It would've been nice to see some of the more modern technical features of the Peugeot 3008 (e.g. head up display) in the RCZ.

On a side note, it's worth pointing out that given the French like to use a bit of aluminium around the cabin, it can mean some seriously hot switch gear when left in the Queensland sun. The first word out of my mouth after touching the gear knob of our RCZ was not G rated. My co-driver had to sit his cold drink above the gear knob to cool it down before we got started.

The boot is surprisingly large at 384 litres (760 litres when the rear seats are folded back down). You can easily fit the whole week's shopping in without too much pain. Although if you do happen to have a puncture, you will soon realise the space comes at the price of a full-size spare wheel or even a space saver. All you get is a can of goo to get you to a tyre specialist. Much more likely (and safer) to just call roadside assist.

Although I keep referring to it as a French car, RCZ is actually built by Magna Steyr in Austria. Never heard of them? Not to worry, they have built many models for a whole range of manufacturers before. Alongside the RCZ they are also currently building the Aston Martin Rapide. So the bar is set rather high.

Safety is paramount, as expected from all manufacturers these days. There are two adaptive front airbags as well as two side airbags. Electronic Stability Program (ESP) is provided by Bosch (8.1 system with ABS, EBA, EBD, ASR and Hill Assist). If none of that makes sense to you, it means it's much harder to crash the RCZ than you'd think. There is also an active bonnet system which helps minimise physical impact to pedestrians in case of an accident. It works by raising the bonnet by 55mm to avoid hard contact with engine components.

Peugeot expects to sell about 400 RCZs in Australia per year. The first 60 already have a deposit on them and there are hundreds of other interested buyers expected to test drive in the coming weeks.

If you're interested in buying one of these, I should point out there is a special edition RCZ 200 year anniversary limited edition model coming in December. That adds pearlescent white or black exterior colour, carbon fibre roof, wing mirrors, 19" wheels, black brake callipers as well as a black grille. It will retail for $62,490*.

The Peugeot RCZ is a brilliant car for the price. It's arguably the best looking car in its class with above average performance and comes packed with a whole heap of standard features.

    Three personalisation packages will also be available from launch:

    SPORTIF PACK ONE ($4000):

    • 19in “Sortilege” Matt Black Onyx wheels
    • Black painted brake calipers
    • Carbon roof in gloss finish
    • Black painted mirror shells (Perla Nera)
    • Black painted front grille (gloss)
    • Aluminium roof arches in black chrome finish
    • For body colours Opal White, Pearl White and Mercury Grey

    SPORTIF PACK TWO ($4000):

    • 19in “Sortilege” Midnight Silver wheels
    • Black painted brake calipers
    • Carbon roof in gloss finish
    • Black painted mirror shells (Perla Nera)
    • Black painted front grille (gloss)
    • Aluminium roof arches in black chrome finish
    • For all other body colours

    ELAN PACK ($3000):

    • 19in “Solstice” Black Onyx wheels
    • Carbon roof in satin finish
    • Black painted mirror shells (Perla Nera)
    • Black painted front grille (gloss).

    All three variants of the 2010 Peugeot RCZ start at $54,990.

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