Peugeot RCZ 1.6 GT THP 200: Road test
The RCZ is Peugeot's first coupe rival to the Audi TT and Volkswagen Scirocco. However, it is more than that, as this car is a return to driver's car form, an element missing from the French brand for a while.
So, this Peugeot coupe's looks might have made it from concept to reality fairly unchanged, but what is the RCZ like to live with? I spent a week with the range-topping, £25,945 GT THP 200 version to find out.
Peugeot hasn't really produced a decent looking coupe since the 406, but the RCZ is definitely a step in the right direction. Toned down from the concept, the RCZ's curvy design certainly looks the part. Highlights include the aluminium roof arches, double-bubble roof, pop-up rear spoiler and Citroen CX-like distorted rear window.
Overall, I liked the side and rear styling best, although I'm not too sure about the mouthy frontal design, that looks too similar to a standard 308, in my view. Still, the RCZ really stands out and makes the opposition look a bit ordinary by comparison.
Our test car was fitted with the more powerful of two petrol engines available for the RCZ, the 197bhp 1.6-litre turbo petrol. Despite being a torquey, powerful engine, emissions are just 154g/km, the same as the lesser THP156 and the combined fuel consumption figure is 42.1 mpg, which is only a little less considering the extra performance.
Rear visibility is poor, because you sit very low. The front windscreen pillars are on the thick side too, but like the rear visibility, it is the price you pay for the original design. Front and rear parking sensors thankfully are a standard feature. The 200THP's steering is a big improvement over the lesser THP156, feeling well-weighted, sharper and dynamic enough to match the RCZ's looks.
The dynamic feel continues in corners, as it has an uprated chassis over standard. There is very little body roll and the body control is excellent.
This range-topping GT spec RCZ test car was on 19-inch alloy wheels, which equals a hard ride. However, having driven the lesser 156, this car feels more consistently damped and rides the bumps much better.
The interior is borrowed pretty much from the 308, but neat touches like the large analogue clock and the leather trim on the dashboard makes it feel more special.
All the switchgear is good quality and logically placed, but the controls for the sat-nav and stereo are fiddly and overcomplicated.
The 1.6-litre THP200 punches above its weight performance-wise, always feeling capable and fast. The only fly in the ointment, is that it is far noiser and unrefined than the THP156. This extra noise can become tiring on longer journeys.
The slick, short throw six-speed gearbox is well-mated to this engine. Performance isn't quite up to rivals, but with 60mph coming up in 7.5 seconds and a top speed of 147mph, it is more than respectable.
The RCZ's driving position is comfortable and the front seats supportive. However, just because there are two seats in the back of the Peugeot, don't think of it as anything other than a 2+2. I tried and failed to get my son's babyseat into the back of this car (the only test car so far!). However, space in the back should be fine for children, although adults will complain on longer journeys as it is cramped and claustraphobic.
The lack of rear room might be disappointing, but the 384 litre boot is large for its class and can be expanded to 760 litres with the rear seat backs folded.
In GT trim, the RCZ includes leather-trimmed sports seats, Radio/CD changer, automatic dual-zone air-conditioning, auto-dipping door mirrors and automatic windscreen wipers.
Our test car was fitted with the optional Peugeot Connect Media Navigation system (£1,470) and the JBL sound system (£420). The maps for the navigation system are not very detailed, plus the controls are not easy to use. The JBL sound system is quite bassy and gives excellent sound reproduction.
So to sum up, in THP200 form, this RCZ is the best version in the range. I just wish this Peugeot was more refined and easier to live with.