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Peugeot RCZ 2.0 HDI 163 (2010) review

Published:15 March 2010

The new Peugeot RCZ coupé tackles the snowy roads near the Sochaux factory, France
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This is the new Peugeot RCZ coupé, a car with a huge weight of expectation on its incredibly broad shoulders. It is – yet again – an opportunity for Peugeot to get back to the sort of chassis dynamism that stole our hearts back in the ‘80s and early ‘90s with a string of seminal GTI hits including go-faster versions of the 205, 405, 309, 106 and 306.

If the new Peugeot RCZ drives as well as it looks we’re in for a treat, because this French coupé really is a stunner. It looks exotic, low and really, really wide in the metal with a hint of Spyker about its rear haunches. Seriously. This is one concept car that broke out of the motor show and spirited itself straight into dealer showrooms.

The TT, the RCZ's most natural rival, is a real Plain Jane in comparison. And that's praise indeed for a democratically priced French coupé.

Peugeot RCZ: the range at a glance

The new Pug RCZ will come with three engines at launch: a 163bhp diesel and two 1.6-litre turbocharged petrols, one with 156bhp and the range-topper with 200bhp. The four-cylinder petrol is the same engine as the Mini Cooper S's, so we already know it’s a cracker.

Whichever engine you choose you’ll have the option of Sport or GT trim. The latter brings full leather trim and 19-inch alloys. Prices start at £20,450 for the HDI 163 FAP Sport and rise to £24,500 for a GT-spec THP200 model. That’s considerably cheaper than the TT, which starts at £26,245.

Driving the Peugeot RCZ diesel

CAR snagged a very early drive in the RCZ, ruling out testing the intriguing THP200 model. That’s a great shame as the 200 has extra bracing under the engine for added stiffness and response, a smaller steering wheel, shorter-throw gearshift and retuned suspension with a more aggressive edge.

However, the HDI 163 FAP is still a seriously quick little coupé and with 250lb ft (check) it should thump along the road just as a sports car should. You can read how it stacks up against the coupé class benchmarks – the Audi TT and VW Scirocco – in CAR Magazine's exclusive triple test in the new April 2010 issue of CAR Magazine out on 17 March.

But to continue reading our quick web review, click 'Next' below.

A Peugeot coupé: can it really live with a TT?

Inside, the new RCZ feels pretty special. Perhaps the interior isn’t TT-special, but it’s still generally nice quality and the double bubble roof and swoopy rear glass give it a unique and airy feeling – nothing like the claustrophobic Audi TT's tight cockpit. That double-bubble roof is endlessly dramatic and well worth all the headaches it must have caused the Paris designers.

The RCZ cabin gets all the basics right: the driving position is spot-on, the pedals are well located (unusual on Peugeots of late) and the gearshift is a shade long of throw but feels nicely mechanical.

And on the road?

Over those first few hundred yards, early indications are good: gone is the super-jumpy brake response, the light, feel-less steering and the RCZ actually communicates the road surface back to your hands and backside. Are we straight back to 1986 all over again?

Sadly not quite. The RCZ rides well and changes direction cleanly, but the heavier diesel engine we're testing makes the Pug feel a little ponderous on occasion. Having said that it finds strong front-end grip and feels very, very benign and predictable. But where Peugeots of the past keyed into the road and relished lunging into corners, the RCZ is simply more inert, at least in diesel spec.

'Very, very benign'? 'Predictable'? Uh-oh. Sounds dull!

Yep, that means the Peugeot RCZ is no lift-off oversteer hero like the 205 GTI (how many mainstream 2010 cars are?) but it is secure and stable. Is it inspiring, madly enthusiastic? Would it make you get out of bed early for a sneaky drive? On this evidence we’d say not.

However, the same could be said of a TT and a quick passenger ride in an RCZ prototype with 200bhp and petrol suggests the story doesn’t end with this effective, enjoyable but slightly ‘safe’ diesel model. The crackling 200bhp RCZ felt much more like a bespoke sports car. So we still live in hope.

>> Read our exclusive cover story testing the RCZ vs TT vs Scirocco in the new April 2010 issue of CAR Magazine out on 17 March

Specs

Price when new: £22,250
On sale in the UK: May 2010
Engine: 1997cc 16v 4cyl TD, 163bhp @ 3750rpm, 250lb ft @ 2000-3000rpm
Transmission: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Performance: 8.5 0-62mph, 135mph, 48mpg, 139g/km
Weight / material: 1370kg/steel
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm):

Rivals

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Photo Gallery

  • Ice cold. The best angle of the Peugeot RCZ; just check out the double-bubble roof. Still want that TT?
  • Making a splash: the new Peugeot RCZ is good, but it's still not a car to make an enthusiast weep, says Jethro Bovingdon
  • The Peugeot RCZ is mainly 308 beneath. We tested the RCZ diesel, but expect the 200 petrol to be a livelier affair
  • Interior of the RCZ is smart, but lacks the drop-dead gorgeous, supercar-style exterior wow factor
  • One ace card that sees the RCZ trump the TT and Scirocco: a really big, very useful boot. How refreshing in a coupé!
  • Read the exclusive triple test of the Peugeot RCZ versus the Audi TT versus the VW Scirocco in the new April 2010 issue of CAR Magazine
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