The RC-Z, they said, was the car Peugeot had to build. It was sexy, it was cool and it gave the French manufacturer a certain je ne sais quoi – or a little va va voom if you’re cheeky.
Before the RC-Z the sexy tag in the French range was probably carried by the 607 – a fine car but not exactly a halo car. With the RC-Z, Peugeot has pulled something special out of the fire to such an extent that you wonder why it’s taken them so long.
To recap, the RC-Z is a 2+2 coupe with ‘Audi TT competitor’ written all over it. Only the RC-Z is ten grand cheaper and comes with impressive running costs.
While it’s based on the same platform as the 308 family of models, you wouldn’t know it to look at the RCZ. It’s a stunning compact coupe with enough detailing to mark it out as a Peugeot but sufficient flair to ensure it looks very different.
The double bubble roof, designed to improve aerodynamics, is a stunning addition that immediately makes the RCZ stand out from a crowd, and the small French coupe – aided by a low, squat stance – attracted lots of admiring looks during a short test drive.
An automatic rear spoiler adds a dash of serious intent too – it’s a feature rarely seen on anything but the fastest cars.
While the RCZ is not a Veyron, it does not lack performance. It has a number of small-displacement engines, but they’re tuned up and paired with a small, lightweight car so there’s no lack of grunt.
Our test model featured a 163bhp 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine, with a huge 236lb-ft of torque through a six-speed manual gearbox.
Powerful enough to provide a distinct push in the small of the back, yet capable of 53.2mpg and refined even at low speeds, it’s a strong powerplant.
And that’s ignoring the excellent 1.6-litre THP petrol engine – as seen in the Citroen DS3 and Mini Cooper – that’s also available. 43.1mpg and low CO2 emissions for low running costs make this an excellent choice too.
There’ll be a more powerful version of the 1.6-litre THP, boosted by turbochargers, along in the summer too. Small engines, low running costs, big performance.
Sport and GT are the only trim levels at launch, with both generously equipped. Dual-zone aircon, electric windows and mirrors, stability and traction control and twin sports exhausts are standard, while the GT trim we experienced features 19″ alloys, leather upholstery and heated and electrically adjustable front seats, parking aids and automatic lights and wipers.
All of the stats are mere preparation for the way the car drives though. Sure, a car like the Peugeot RCZ has to look good and present an attractive buying and owning proposition, but there’s not a lot of point to it if it can’t deliver the goods out on the road.
Luckily Peugeot has recognised this, and the RCZ is a wonderful car to drive – performing with assurance and verve when slung into corners and offering enough power to make driving a thrilling experience.
It’s sharp, good-looking and a very good buy – three things that can’t be ignored in any car. We loved it, as did the Peugeot dealership we visited and their customers, who are buying faster than they can sell them.
In the case of Peugeot it really is a car to give back the manufacturer a sheen of excitement, fun and – yes – sex. Well done Peugeot.