Originally a 1997 motor show concept car, the RCZ's excellent reception tempted Peugeot into building it, the finished thing looking remarkably similar to the show car. A two-plus-two coupe pitched at the VW Scirocco, the pricier Audi TT, Nissan's 370Z, Renault's Laguna and Megane coupes and the more conventional BMW 1 Series Coupe, it's based on the mechanicals of the 308 hatchback. Despite the relatively unsophisticated mechanicals of this car Peugeot has massaged them very effectively to produce quite a sporting drive, especially from the 200bhp version whose sharper steering and more robustly located front suspension have produced one of the most entertaining Peugeots for years.
The RCZ's engine range starts with a 156bhp 1.6 litre turbo petrol – it's essentially the same engine as you'll find in the Mini, co-developed by BMW and Peugeot – includes a 163bhp 2.0 diesel and is topped off with a 200bhp version of the same 1.6 turbo petrol, this version largely developed by the French company. All models get a six-speed manual gearbox as standard, and there's a six-speed auto option for the 156bhp petrol.
The RCZ's dashboard bears some resemblance to the 308's, but it's unique to the car, as are the attractive instruments, the stylish analogue clock and centre console. It's a very well finished interior, arguably even classier than the Audi TT's and may well seal the deal for those tempted by the RCZ's good looks. Its strongest competition will come from the VW Scirocco, which is even better value and can house a couple of adults in the rear, but it's a strong contender in the class and like the recently launched 3008 and 5008, takes Peugeot's cars to a new level of quality and capability.