Peugeot RCZ 2.0HDi Road Test
Being made in Austria, you would expect the RCZ to be solid, reliable and just a little bland. Right, right and wrong; this car is just a little bonkers.
While from the front it is clearly a modern Peugeot, the silhouette and curves are nothing short of radical. They also split opinion, but I am a fan. There are comparisons with the Audi R8 and TT, but there are plenty of worse cars to look similar to.
That double bubble roof and rear window are unique to the RCZ though, and simply gorgeous.
Inside the cockpit the styling extravagance continues. This space-pug has very similar pricing and performance to the VW Scirocco, but is a far more stimulating interior design exercise.
Other than the interior styling there is little to split the two coupes. Both are excellent drives and virtually unusable as a four-seater. If I had £23k to spend on either car I just don’t know which I would have; probably the VW, but for the constant feeling that I had bought the wrong car – until it came time to sell it.
So outside and in we have undeniably impressive aesthetics, but what of practicality, performance and economy?
Well if the car is a piece of art, the rear seats are definitely impressionist. You can see what they are meant for but you would struggle to find someone who could sensibly use them. To be fair there are few coupes that offer a genuine four seat solution. If you want a practical coupe, either buy the Volvo C30, or behave and get a hatchback.
Comfort is far better in the front than the back, the sports seats are great looking and serenely supportive. They also give good feedback when making the car work. The high feet – low butt arrangement gives a fighter pilot driving position which only adds to the dynamics.
The boot on the other hand is a very generous and usable space. It is quite shallow but offers a good length and decent opening. It seems to be designed for Ikea aficionados as it is perfect for anything flat-pack.
Even cleaning the car before the photo-shoot was entertaining, shining that Beyonce-esque rump made me giggle childishly. Giving the car a good polish reinforces the smooth curves to your eye. You also notice lovely little finishing flourishes and touches that were not Peugeot hallmarks in the past, such as the aluminium roof lines and organic 19 inch wheels.
Steady driving gave me a thoroughly acceptable 56mpg, and had its charms of quietness and comfort. It also gave passers by an opportunity to admire the car, which many took advantage of.
However there are quite a few Peugeots that come alive when worked, and this one is no exception. The 163hp 2 litre diesel unit revs freely in the midrange but does not enjoy being overly thrashed. The exhaust emissions are quoted at 139g/km CO2, which made me feel less guilty about testing higher speed driving performance. Using the strong torque out of tight turns can give a bit of movement which the driver can easily turn from understeer to oversteer as the heavy engine keeps the nose planted. It is not a drifting car, but it made me seek out far more roundabouts than was strictly necessary.
Bumpy B-road sweepers were also invigorating. The low seat gave a nimble go kart-like sensation as well as making fast corners feel much faster. The performance figures of 0-60 in 8.5 and top speed of 135mph are not any better than a similarly priced Golf or Focus, but it feels quicker so who cares about the numbers? Enjoy it but don’t race it. Exuberant driving still gave a very creditable 47.5mpg over 50 miles of mixed roads.
At £23k I would say this car delivers more than you pay. In my experience perceived cost is often a long way from reality and I have a simple way to test it – Park somewhere with lots of bystanders. If people watch to see who gets out the car it is either seen as something special, or on fire.
I parked, they watched. I got out; they looked disappointed.
So sorry Peugeot, I wont be buying one; the car is great but I’m just not pretty enough.
words and pics – Mark Wolens