Andrew Didlick, Director of Public Relations at Peugeot, drives an RCZas his company car and has a game; pretty much wherever he stops thecar draws an admiring crowd and people come up for a closer look.
How much do you think it costs? he asks. The replies tend to startsome way north of 30,000 and he takes amusement from the look ontheir faces when he says that actually, even the most expensiveversion will leave change from 25,000.
The RCZ is Peugeots finest car in a long time and it is no surprisethat of the 2,500 earmarked for the UK this year almost a third havealready been sold.
I remember seeing the concept at the Frankfurt Motor Show two yearsago when Peugeot was gauging public reaction before deciding whetheror not to put it into production. I said they should but thought thatinevitably a lot of the concepts glamour would be lost in the journeyto production.
But thankfully it hasnt so the RCZ retains features such as thatgreat-looking `double bubble rear windscreen that adds a little bitmore headroom for anyone sitting in the back of this 2+2; it retainsthe wide stance with the wheels pushed out. Call it an Audi TTlook-a-like if you will and the comparison is an obvious one butto me the Peugeot looks by far the more dramatic car. Seen againstother traffic it is absolutely sensational.
Its based on what Peugeot calls Platform 2 which provides the basisfor the 308, 3008 and 5008 models but with the wheels set furtherapart. (Actually for the anoraks out there, thats not entirelyaccurate because the flagship 200 PS model is based on Platform 4which is the basis for the 407 and needs its bigger wheel hubs,bearings and so on because of its extra performance). The point hereis that by being able to use existing platforms Peugeot was able tomake the RCZ a reality at a very affordable price.
But does it feel special inside or is it just a 308 with a sexy body?Well, theres no denying that there is a degree of familiarity aboutthe controls and switchgear as you slip down into the low cockpit butthe view from the drivers seat is like nothing Ive ever seen in aproduction Peugeot. Framed by sleek aluminium roof beams which curveover the cabin into the rear deck it feels exotic and sporty.
Even though I had only a short drive on the high speed and handlingtracks at Millbrook test facility the RCZ impressed me. It rides quitesoftly for a car like this and you can sense the weight of the enginein the nose if youre really pushing on because its default handlingis mild understeer but thats not a bad thing for safety. What it doesnot feel like is a 308 its much sportier than that. Its not quiteTT-sharp but you are still in no doubt that this car goes and handlesas its styling suggest.
My test car had the 156 bhp turbo 1.6 that Peugeot shares with BMW(youll also find this engine in the MINI Cooper) which gives it 8.5second 0 to 60 time and 130 plus top speed. Adequate I would say, fortodays road conditions.
I would need longer behind the wheel but I suspect that the RCZ isgoing to be a superb all-rounder its stylish, sporty to drive yetcomfortable for daily use, is great value for money and actually,surprisingly practical. The rear seats may be a children-only zone butthe luggage space is very generous, especially so with the rear seatsfolded down flat.
As I said, 30 per cent of this years allocation of 2,500 is alreadysold; next year Peugeot plans to have 3,500 available which will beenough to satisfy demand but not fold the market and depress residualvalues.
I think this is a stellar car.
Some key numbers for the Peugeot RCZ GT
Price: 22,7500 to 60: 8.3 secondsTop speed: 133 mphCO2: 155 g/kmMPG: 30 (urban) 54 (motorways and main roads) 42 (average)
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