Test drive : Peugeot RCZ

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Meet the Peugeot that's so popular dealers in the UK can't get hold of enough of them. The RCZ is the maker's game changer, a model that takes the brand in a whole new direction.

Just look at it - even if it drove like a canoe, dealers would still be shifting them by the bucket load. And that's because style sells, especially when it doesn't cost the earth.

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Peugeot has set its sights high for the RCZ. It's gunning squarely for the market leading sports coupe, Audi's TT, and the Germans must be worried.

Problem is the French firm has a bit of a habit of making stunning cars that don't deliver in the driving stakes. Take the 206CC as an example – that was a car that brought a folding metal roof to the masses, but my word was it unpleasant to drive.

So what about the RCZ? Have Peugeot got the combination right this time? Well, climb behind the wheel and your first impressions are dominated by an interior that doesn't feel as you'd expect. The driving position isn't as low as you'd imagine – you sit up quite high, much like you do in the hatchbacks the marque's famous for.

The interior doesn't feel as stand-out as you'd expect either, especially after the visual drama of the exterior. Don't get us wrong, it's well laid out, just lacking in the excitement some buyers may demand.

On the road it's grippy and well balanced in the bends and although the steering is light, it's precise and well weighted. There is a fair whiff of body roll in the bends though which comes as a surprise considering its sports coupe proportions. What's more the gearbox feels a little sloppy.

There's a high-powered 200bhp version of the RCZ available, but for this test we tried the 156bhp model. The 1.6-litre unit is a bit underpowered and needs an incredible amount of revs to get the best out of it. With a 0-60mph time of 8.4 seconds it hasn't really got the go to match its show. That being said, it's still an involving car to drive and surprisingly entertaining to boot.

But as we said, for most buyers it might just as well be powered by steam - they really aren't concerned with what's under the bonnet. For them it's the looks that count and we have to agree - this could actually be the best-looking Peugeot ever. Those curvy lines, lumpy roof and striking nose are the reason dealers can't get hold of enough to satisfy demand - and the reason it will become a very common site on our roads.

Whether it'll have the same visual appeal when they're two a penny in the staff car park remains to be seen. But, for now, it's one of the stand-out cars of the moment.

Peugeot RCZ

  • Price: £20,450
  • Engine: 1.6-litre
  • Power: 156bhp, 244Nm
  • Max: 135mph
  • 0-60mph: 8.4s
  • Economy: 42.1mpg

The Rivals

Audi TT

  • Price: £26,475
  • Engine: 2.0-litre TFSI
  • Power: 211bhp, 349Nm
  • Max: 152mph
  • 0-60mph: 6.1s
  • Economy: 39.8mpg
The original and some would say the best – but you'll certainly pay a premium for it. The base TT is £6,000 more than the Peugeot which is why the RCZ is already so popular! With the Audi you get a 2.0-litre lump that's far more sporty than the RCZ's unit, rock solid residual values and the kudos of that four-ringed badge.

VW Scirocco

  • Price: £20,665
  • Engine: 1.4-litre TSI
  • Power: 160bhp, 240Nm
  • Max: 135mph
  • 0-60mph: 8s
  • Economy: 44.8mpg
It's like a Golf, only prettier - but at the same time still a little boring! The Scirocco is in the same price bracket as the Peugeot, performance is on a par, plus it has the added advantage of a second row of seats. But it lacks the excitement on the road of the Audi and Peugeot and its looks aren't quite as dramatic either.