Scratch the TT off the shopping list - this is the car you want
- 2010 Peugeot RCZ; 1.6-litre, turbocharged, four-cylinder, petrol; six speed manual; two door coupe: $54,990
How often it is that we see a manufacturer putting a concept car on its motor-show stand, only to have the production version fall way short of expectations. With Peugeot's RCZ, however, it's the complete opposite.
It's a concept car for the road. Three years ago, the 308 RCZ Concept was unveiled, and here we have the production version.It's a breath of fresh air to see it almost completely unchanged, but more importantly, the most refreshing thing is how it drives.
If there was one clue as to who Peugeot was aiming for when it created the Peugeot RCZ, you only have to look at its instumentation. The font used is called Eurostyle Bold Extended. Another car company which uses that font in its instrumentation is, you guessed it, Audi. Now, technically, it's not exactly the same, Peugeot having gotten around it by putting little cuts in the strokes of the letters, but the homage is there.
As is the exterior design. They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Thing is, though, in this writer's eyes at least, Peugeot has nailed it and the Audi TT looks like the poor man's version of the RCZ. Sure, the front end looks identical to the 308, but the rest of the design is completely unique, and completely sexy. Men and women watch this car drive past. If you want people to ogle you, get behind the wheel of an RCZ.
From the brushed steel roof rails, through to the sculpted shoulders and arches and twin-bubble rear glass, the Peugeot RCZ has a classic coupe shape, if a little front heavy. There's some lovely detailing underneath the skin as well, such as how the bonnet hinges upwards, exposing the vertical stubby struts at the trailing edges, tucked into little recesses. There's also details like the logo's chrome surround at the front mimicked by the crease surrounding the logo on the boot. The retractable spoiler looks as good up as it does down, and about the only thing that would improve it would be centrally mounted exhaust tips. It's a truly stunning design.
It's not half bad inside, either. There's beautifully trimmed (faux) leather across the dashtop, replete with contrast stitching, plus chrome-bordered air vents, a shapely, flat-bottomed wheel, gorgeous instruments and brushed steel highlights on the door pulls. The front seats are simply fantastic with plenty of comfort and good bolstering, plus there's heaps of headroom, though entry for very tall people is a little effort to stoop underneath the silver rails. The back seats, unfortunately, are almost impossible for adults to get in and out of, and even with young children the driver will have to move forward slightly. Best think of them as an extra large space behind the front seats, or temporary seating at best.
The boot is deep and square, and is actually very spacious. Cabin room is fine in height and length, though it does feel a little small in width. The sloping fascia also tends to make you pull the steering wheel a little closer to you to be comfortable. No matter, because the driving position is fine and you'll find yourself heel-and-toeing in no time. If you've got large feet, the pedal box may feel a little cramped, though.
Visibility is pretty good up front, though the low roof line tends to cut off the view at the top. However the rear visibility is - there's no other way to put this - the best of any coupe on sale today. Because the C-pillar (which is just an extension of the A-pillar) is so far forward comparitive to the front seats, the bubble glass wraps around the entire rear of the car. That means there's no obstructions to your rear three-quarter view, and in a car park situation while reversing, the RCZ is one of the best cars to see out of.
There's a neat analogue clock which takes centre stage between the air vents, and the low entry price shows up in some cost cutting, most notably the same centre stack/stereo setup as in other Peugeots. A metallic charcoal finish has been used to make it feel less cheap, however the switchgear sharing is still evident. Thankfully the normally rubbish Peugeot stereo has been improved by the addition of a JBL unit.
The gearbox is a little notchy in slow moving traffic (we had the six-speed manual on test; there's an auto available, too) but it will shift quickly if encouraged. The clutch takes up progressively and is light enough to make smooth changes a sinch. And you will be changing up and down because this engine is a peach.
Flexible, with a rorty, classic, rally-inspired soundtrack, the 1.6-litre turbo makes 147kw and 275Nm with a super flat torque curve that begins at 1700rpm. It's got pull in just about every gear and it revs out with a barky note that'll have you flicking through the 'box. While its 0-100km/h time of 7.5 seconds may not seem that quick, it's in gear acceleration is plenty enough for the every day driver.
Tallying up our fuel consumption we used more than the official 7.3-litres/100km with the RCZ returning just under 9.0L/100km - not bad for an engine that was well used throughout the week in several spirited runs.
Thing is, though, it's more than just the straight line acceleration. As a coupe, it has to offer a complete package of driveability. And that's exactly what the RCZ does.
Unlike any Peugeot on sale today, the RCZ excels in its steering and handling. It's the complete opposite to the limp steering on the Peugeot 3008 which goes thoroughly limp when put into a corner. This car maintains its weight and feedback throughout the lock so you feel confident throwing it into corners. You don't worry about it binding up in slalom work. You can feel what the car is doing, and boy does it respond when asked.
There's a complete neutrality to the handling, almost like a Mitsubishi Evo, where you can turn in and know it will stay true to the line you've chosen. It doesn't budge with mid-apex undulations or potholes, and it never seems to understeer, even when pushed in the wet. Probably its relatively light weight (1267kg) helps here. The RCZ has miles of grip, yet the ride is never harsh or crashy. It's firm, for sure, but there's still a compliance that enables it to be a perfect daily driver.
Peugeot's RCZ is a surprise package. Here's the first Peugeot that delivers on its quirky looks by giving an involving and engaging drive with no drawbacks. Audi's TT may have carved out a name for itself in this segment, but complacency is a weakness. The Pug is priced right ($9000 cheaper than the Audi TT 1.8TFSI) and although it's 0.3s slower to 100km/h, it makes up for it with better looks and better steering, with none of the commonality of the Audi. The TT doesn't turn heads like the RCZ does.
Peugeot's on a winner with the RCZ. The fact that all three variants - the turbo manual, turbo automatic and diesel manual - are the same price (54,990) will make choosing the right one just a little bit more difficult.
Other manufacturers should take note: a concept car can be brought to production, and people will buy it.
CarAdvice Overall Rating:How does it Drive: How does it Look: How does it Go:
*Pricing is a guide as recommended to us by the manufacturer and does not include dealer delivery, on-road or statutory charges.