Peugeot’s brilliant RCZ coupe couldn’t quite topple the VW Scirocco and Audi TT when we tested the trio last year in diesel form. Now we’ve tried the 197bhp petrol RCZ 200 to see if it’s good enough to be the coupe of choice.
197bhp, you say? Has the Peugeot RCZ 200 bought in a load of hot Clio engines from arch rival Renault?
No. This is the 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine Peugeot shares with BMW’s fast Minis. There’s a milder 154bhp RCZ available too, but this range-topping blown 1.6-litre petrol is much better. As well as that 197bhp, there’s 188lb ft of torque available in normal conditions and up to 203lb ft with overboost. While not as fast as its rivals – 62mph takes 7.6sec, the RCZ still feels plenty quick and easily outpaces its petrol (154bhp; 8.3sec) and diesel (161bhp; 8.7sec) sisters. And unlike many blown cars, it pulls hard to the redline too. Even makes a stirring noise. Well actually it’s more of a whisking sound, and we like it. Economy’s not bad either: 40mpg according to the combined-pie-in-the-sky cycle.
RCZ 200 – how does it drive?
The rest of the drive is just as good as the engine. Teamed up with stiffer springs and dampers, the RCZ 200 gets a different anti-roll bar to improve agility, and it definitely seems to work judsging by the way the Pug dives into corners. The steering feels a little sticky at low speeds but then loosens up nicely, something that front-end grip rarely does. This is a seriously grippy coupe. Stops well too, thanks to larger 340mm front brakes (up from 302mm).
On the downside the ride is more bobbly than your favourite jumper, while not delivering the same degree of handling finesse you get from the TT or Scirocco. Peugeot builds its own dampers, and used to be masters of combining a relaxed ride with razor-sharp responses – but good as the RCZ is, the German coupes on adaptive dampers offer a better balance of comfort and body control.
So far so good... what's the RCZ 200 like inside?
The cabin quality is good, with the £515 optional leather-trimmed dashboard bringing an extra sense of occasion to an interior that feels more durable than the frangible French stereotype. But once you get past the low-slung seating position and the drama of those arching side windows, you start to notice the flaws. Like the long arms-short legs driving position straight out of a '70s Alfa. The back seats are useless too, the price you pay for the RCZ’s swoopy roofline. But that same unusual styling has spectators’ heads turning like a windmill in a hurricane. And it’s good value: £23k buys the basic 200 Sport and £26k a top-trim GT.
The RCZ is at its best in 200 GT spec and a hugely desirable coupe, but that doesn't make it best in class. Our gut feeling is that the faster, roomier, more comfortable VW would still triumph in a rematch, but it certainly would be closer.
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