Road test: Peugeot RCZ
What is it?
It's Peugeot's flagship sports car – a model so far removed from the rest of the French firm's line-up, it may as well boast a different badge. A limited range of both petrol and diesel engines power the front wheels in what is a fizzy, if not all-out rapid package.
What's under the bonnet?
Sporty Pug punters can opt for a 1.6 petrol in two states of tune, 156bhp or 200bhp, and a diesel HDI unit that produces 163bhp and a whole slab of extra torque. The test car we drove was fitted with the 200bhp petrol engine mated to a slick manual gearbox - it provided a few smiles when driven like an absolute hooligan but managed to eat motorway miles with little fuss.
What's the spec like?
The RCZ is an expensive car so customers will expect a high level of interior fit and finish but we can't help but feel it isn't quite special enough. There is plenty of leather covering the dash and some neat piano black touches but so many parts from Peugeot's lesser models peer through the cracks. Owners will be treated to sports seats, automatic lighting, rear parking sensors and Peugeot Connect USB with Bluetooth (which is a bit fiddly) but don't expect the kind of cabin a German rival would offer.
The (relatively) affordable sports car market is fairly buoyant at the moment with Toyota offering the brilliant GT86 at a fantastically reasonable £24,995. Granted, the Japanese offering doesn't pack the same visual punch but it is a proper rear-wheel-drive sports car that offers bags more practicality. The Audi TT also starts at a tempting £24,360 but the base 1.8-litre TFSI engine can't quite match the BHP produce by the energetic 1.6 petrol unit found in the Peugeot. It is a tad more refined, though.
What's it like to drive?
Not bad at all. The more time spent in the little French fancy, the more one gels with the car's playful character. The steering is direct and responsive (even if it does lack a bit of feel), the chassis pliant enough to smooth over rough roads yet not so flabby it falls down at corners. As mentioned previously, this won't get the hairs on the back of your neck standing on end but that doesn't mean you can't have a bit of fun at the weekend. Above all else, the RCZ drives like a warm hatch yet looks like an exclusive sports car, perfect for those who don't want to fully commit to the spine-crushing ride of a true performance machine.
The AOL Cars verdict
The new nose adds another dose of chic to the already pretty package but the tweaks beneath the surface don't make a huge difference. Those in the market for a well-groomed sheep in wolves' clothing will not be disappointed with this car but anyone requiring a serious adrenaline fix should look elsewhere.
Price: £26,380 (as tested)
Engine: 1.6 litre, 4-cylinder petrol
Max speed: 146mph
0-60mph: 7.6 seconds
MPG: 42.1 mpg (combined)
Emissions: 155 g/km CO2