A great looking oil-burner but has some stiff competition
- 2011 Peugeot RCZ HDi; 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, turbo-diesel; six-speed manual; two-door coupe: $54,990*
If you're after the best value-for-money two-door coupe on the market, with the widest variety of drivetrain choices, then there's only one: the Peugeot RCZ. Here at the CarAdvice office, we love this car. It's a fantastic-looking, fun-to-drive, easy-to-love machine that impresses with its styling, quality and economy.
Rather than confuse customers with a bewildering array of prices for every single variant in its range, Peugeot has come up with a simple strategy for its RCZ coupe. The price is the same, no matter which one you pick - $54,990.
There are three to choose from: a 147kW 1.6-litre turbo petrol manual (which we tested earlier), a 115kW 1.6-litre turbo petrol automatic , and a 120kW turbo-diesel manual.
On test this week is the diesel model, and while that power figure doesn't seem all that impressive, it's the torque which counts. It makes 340Nm, comfortably eclipsing the turbo petrol model's 275Nm figure.
That means that its in-gear acceleration feels fantastic - for a time, at least. The RCZ's motor's sweet spot doesn't last that long, unfortunately. Peak power is made at a relatively low 3750rpm, so while peak torque begins at 2000rpm, it runs out of breath pretty quickly. If you can change gears quickly and keep it on the boil, it feels reasonably quick, but in fact its 0-100km/h time is 8.2 seconds - a full 0.7 seconds behind its petrol sibling. What would really help the RCZ diesel is a quick-shifting auto, or even a dual-clutch transmission.
The engine sounds like a typical modern turbo-diesel, but in the RCZ it's a fraction louder. The rattly timbre doesn't really sit well with the swoopy shape, and next to the petrol version it really sounds out of sorts. At least it's pretty frugal. In the week of testing exclusively in the city and its stop-start traffic, we tallied a fuel figure of 6.9-litres/100km.
Also not helping its cause is the slightly different suspension compared with the petrol model. The diesel misses out on a special lower anti-roll bar that is fitted to the petrol version, and as such, the front end dips a bit when cornering and encountering undulations, as well as pushing the nose a bit wider when pressed. This could also be because the diesel RCZ weighs around 75kg more than its brethren - you can feel it in switchbacks.
If you've never tried the petrol model, you'd still enjoy how it handles. Its road holding is still very good, and the ride can be rumbly over bad surfaces, but on the whole it's firm and compliant. Thankfully the fabulous steering setup shines in the RCZ HDi. There's excellent weight and feel and a consistency which is missing from most of the Peugeot range. Braking is excellent, and apart from the notchy gear change, the RCZ's controls all feel brilliant.
The same goes for the interior. Quality build is a highlight, with beautiful metal tabs on the steering wheel where your thumbs sit. Nabuck (an imitation leather) swathes the dashtop, while the real-leather seats are nothing short of superb, with their premium feel, standout comfort and bolstering that locks you right in place.
The rear +2 seats are not so great. Apart from being ultra small, there's barely any legroom and tall people will be ultra cramped. They do fold down, though which is good because it increases the already huge boot space to create an even bigger cargo area. For all intents and purposes, this is a two seater with an excellent boot.
Everything inside the HDi variant is exactly the same as the other RCZ models. There's good headroom but visibility is shortened by the low-slung roof line. The pedals are a little close together, however heel-and-toeing is fairly easy but that doesn't always work in a diesel. The analogue clock looks fantastic and the top of the centre stack echoes the double-bubble roof with its wavy outline of the circular air-vents. When the handbrake lever is engaged it's fairly tall and looks a little awkward, however when released it's not as noticable. One very shallow cupholder is a little disappointing, though.
Rearward visibility is absolutely superb and you'd think that the curved nature of the back window would distort your vision, but it doesn't at all. It adds to the styling of the car, though, and even though it's completely obvious that it's designed to be a competitor of the Audi TT, it has its own unique flair. The brushed silver roof rails also draw your eye - if you don't want to be noticed, the RCZ is not for you.
Let's cut to the chase - the petrol RCZ manual is the pick of the litter. It's more balanced, sounds better and goes better, too. If you're hell bent on having a diesel, then it's for economy or emissions reasons. You're going to end up with a manual anyway, so why not have the most advanced and quickest diesel coupe out there. Problem is, it's not a Peugeot.
Sure, you could spend an extra $14,000 for Audi's TT TDI Quattro, but there's an even better option. BMW's 123d Coupe is quicker, more balanced, more involving, sounds better and is more practical - its back seats can actually be used by adults if need be.
Okay, it's not as exciting to look at as the RCZ, but it is the better car, and considering its performance advantage (more than 1.2 seconds quicker to 100km/h and half a second quicker than the petrol RCZ) then the extra $3200 is money well spent. The BMW can be had with sat-nav, which is currently unavailable on the RCZ. But here's the kicker: unlike the Peugeot, you can have it in auto if you want.
Put simply, if you want a Peugeot RCZ diesel, buy a BMW 123d.
CarAdvice Overall Rating: How does it Drive: How does it Look: How does it Go:
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*Pricing is a guide as recommended to us by the manufacturer and does not include dealer delivery, on-road or statutory charges.