In September 2007, at the Frankfurt Motor Show, Peugeot unveiled an exercise in style that left most observers gob smacked, the Peugeot 308 RC Z Concept car. The idea of marketing the car on a commercial basis quickly became a reality after the public reaction; however, the transformation from concept car to production vehicle required real determination, boldness and inventiveness, qualities for which this manufacturer is renowned. Sometimes they can let you down, but this time the French carmaker has not disappointed. Its latest challenger, the RCZ, is a sport coupe designed to take on the might of the Audi TT. It is one of the best-looking models that the manufacturer has ever produced and is a statement of intent. Inspired by their Le Mans racing cars, the most arresting aspect of the car is its ‘double bubble roof’. It’s an interesting design that has function as well as form. When it rains it channels the water off the roof and down the rear screen and onto the ground. Very neat. The car is involving to drive but it’s also easy to live with because it’s not focused on outright power like some rivals in this sector. Thankfully, Peugeot has combined power and driveability into a good-looking vehicle. Let’s check it out:
Behind the wheel
The driving position is spot-on and even taller drivers will find it perfect because the steering wheel is adjustable. The standout features are the prominent circular analogue clock in the centre of the dash as well as the button that raises and lowers the rear spoiler. Much of the interior has been lifted from the 3008 but this is not a criticism because the quality of craftsmanship on the maker’s most recent vehicles has improved drastically.
The quickest RCZ is the 147 kW 1.6-litre turbocharged model. Under the bonnet is a twin-scroll turbocharger, direct petrol injection, variable valve lift coupled with variable valve timing on both intake and exhaust camshafts. With Peugeot’s ‘Sound System Technology’ you can hear every glorious note, making for an engaging drive. This all-new engine allows the car’s chassis to fulfil its true potential. With its maximum torque of 255 Nm at 1700 rpm (or 275 with over boost) and a maximum power of 147 kW at 5800 rpm, the Peugeot RCZ benefits from dynamic acceleration (80 to 120 kph in 6.5 seconds in fifth gear); 0 to 100 kph in 7.5 seconds…) while its fuel consumption does not exceed 6.9 litres/100 km in the combined cycle (less than of159 g/km of CO2). The top-end RCZ is a second slower on the sprint to 100kph than the entry level Audi TT but the Peugeot fares better when it comes to emissions. The fantastic six-speed, short-shifting manual gearbox is available on the petrol and the 2.0HDi turbo diesel which produces 120 kW @ 3750 rpm and a readily accessible 340Nm of torque available from 2000 to 3000rpm.. An automatic gearbox is also available in the 115kW petrol power plant. (Peugeot sources their petrol engines from BMW).
The RCZ is fun to drive. It’s smooth, agile and feels like a true sports coupe with style and, more importantly, substance. Steering is responsive and grip levels are high, no doubt helped by the standard-fit traction control. On the test cars we tried – the 147kW and the 120kW diesel unit – the French engineers have increased the diameter on the front hubs of the petrol unit by incorporating a lower bracing bar, giving this model a sharper turn-in than the lower-powered petrol and diesel models. Challenging roads, littered with undulating surfaces were absorbed with ease and when cornering hard there was very little body roll. The adjustable active rear spoiler also contributes to this aerodynamic efficiency: it deploys in to two positions, according to the speed of the car, to ensure an ideal balance between fuel consumption and road holding. The first position (19°) activates at speeds of more than 85km/h and folds back below 55 km/h, while the second position (34°) is activated at speeds in excess of 155 km/h returning to position one at 145 km/h.
The ride was very pleasant thanks to a sensible suspension set-up and it coped well with the most undulating surfaces. The 147kW engine delivers a very satisfying burble that is plumbed into the cabin. Apart from this, exterior noises are kept to a minimum. The cabin is a snug place to spend time and the sporty seats in leather keep you in place when you are cornering and fit like a glove. All controls are easily within reach of the driver’s hands. The full dash panel is covered entirely with a soft feel material, leather in appearance and very nice.
Not many coupes are practical and although the RCZ has little room in the rear for passengers (try none) there is a sizable 384-litre boot that has storage space underneath the floor. Load room in the boot can be expanded to 760 litres when folding backrests on the rear seats, which is fairly cavernous for a coupe. There are not too many cubbies up front but the door pockets are of a decent size and depth. It does offer two occasional seats in the rear, fully sculpted and perfectly usable, especially since the design of the roof with its double bubble offers extra headroom to these occasional rear passengers. But take note these are best used to stow a bag because it is ridiculously tight in the rear.
The trim level is top of the, standard kit includes leather upholstery, electric and heated front seats, with three-way electric adjustment – height, slide and recline with manual lumbar adjustment and seat heaters. The driver’s seat also features a position memory function. Carpet mats, front parking sensors, auto folding door mirrors, automatic lights, automatic ‘follow me home’ lighting, automatic windscreen wipers, automatic ‘approach’ lighting, 19” alloy wheels were fitted to. There are numerous optional extras so contact your dealer.
Every RCZ is equipped with driver and passenger front and side airbags, stability control, electronic brake force distribution (EBFD), emergency braking assistance (EBA), ultrasonic alarm, immobiliser and hill assist. The RCZ hasn’t been crash tested by Euro NCAP but like other models from the Peugeot range it should perform well as the Euro NCAP awarded the donor 308 CC five stars and the company expects the same for the RCZ.
It has been quite a number of years since any Peugeot model has had us sitting bolt upright. The RCZ Sports Coupé has changed all that. This is undoubtedly one of the finest looking Peugeots ever created, and one of the most attractive cars of 2010/11. First shown as a concept at the 2007 Frankfurt Motor Show, the RCZ has stayed impressively faithful to the original concept (Peugeot has even included the double-bubble roof and rear windscreen which must have presented its designers with more than just a few headaches). And in real life it looks even better than on these pictures. Sportingly low-slung, aggressively wide-stance and accented by two beautifully curved roof arches, the RCZ really is pretty in a head-snapping kind of way. As a sports coupe with RVP of $54,990 across the range it is very hard to fault. Do yourself a favour and take a close look at the turbo diesel it’s the sleeper in the range and a real cracker.
What is good and not so good?
What is good?
- Good value for money
- Comfortable and easy to drive
- Dynamic handling
- Punchy 147kW engine
- Cheap to run
What’s not so good?
- No spare
- No auto diesel
- No sat nav
- Tight rear seats