31 Jul 2013

Peugeot RCZ GT THP 200 – Driving Impressions by Josh Ross

Background & First Impressions

For Peugeot, RCZ marked a return to the era of beautiful coupes. Most recent in our memories was the Pininfarina penned 406 Coupe. Launched in 1997 it faced tough competition from luminaries like the Fiat Coupe, BMW E46 Coupe, Alfa GTV and Volvo C70. Arguably one of the most handsome designs of the last thirty years 406 Coupe continued to win the affections of buyers throughout its six year model cycle. While it’s not a direct replacement, RCZ follows in the Coupe’s hallowed tyre prints. It’s a car designed to stimulate our emotions with its inimitable marriage of haunches and curves and one that effortlessly delivers on the promise set by the concept.

First shown to the public at the 2007 Frankfurt show, it was met with approval and warmth from masses of onlookers. As such the model was quickly given the green light for production with UK sales beginning in Summer 2010.

The design is far more exotic than one would expect of a Coupe priced from just over £21k. Indeed, for kerb side appeal it positively shades the Audi TT and looks every inch as desirable as rivals like the Toyota GT86, Subaru BRZ and VW Scirocco.

Among RCZ’s stand out features are a series of sharp creases that meet the bulging arches at their middle and lower parts. The car’s billing as a sporting Coupe meanwhile is immediately apparent from the high window line, sharply raked screen and tightly sculpted bodywork – examine the RCZ from any angle and you’ll search in vein for hints of extraneous metalwork. The Zagato inspired double bubble roof and finely tapered rear are particularly striking and invite comparison with more exclusive Coupes.

Buyers can choose from the following models:

- 1.6 THP (156 bhp) 6 speed manual or automatic
- 1.6 THP (200) 6 speed manual
- 2.0 HDI FAP (163) 6 speed manual

Equipment includes:

- Bluetooth & MP3 player connectivity
- Full leather interior
- 19″ alloy wheels
- Front, Side & Curtain airbags
- Electronic Stability programme, Traction Control & ABS
- Front & Rear parking sensors
- Electric folding mirrors
- RDS radio & CD player
- Cruise Control
- Satellite Navigation (£1470 option)
- Metallic Paint (£495 option). Car on test is painted metallic, Pearl White
- Electric Windows
- Electric, heated wing mirrors
- Electric seats with memory function
- Satellite Navigation

Inside Story

To win a place in one’s heart the interior of a coupe should tug unflaggingly on its strings. RCZ’s innards owe much to the 308 donor car but it’s nonetheless a satisfying and sporting place in which to spend time. The driving position is set suitably low and the firm seats are wrapped in luxurious, nappa leather. Rear interior space is as you would expect from a low slung sporting coupe – the seats offer reasonable room for children and young adults on shorter journeys.

The RCZ has a focused, sporting brief and this is reflected in the cosy, low slung driving environment. The seats closely hug the transmission tunnel and the gear stick falls easily to hand – this is imperative in a car where you’ll be swapping cogs for pleasure as much as to aid motion.

Swathed in tastefully finished leather the centre console is a clever readaptation of the base 308 architecture. A minor criticism is the placement of the single cup holder behind the handbrake and within a single horizontal arm movement of the gear lever. It means that your elbow can quickly brush any drink stored in this moulding. A dash mounted unit or one that retracts from the centre console would be more appropriate.

The climate functions are quickly learned and while the navigation and JBL Hi-Fi system takes a little longer to operate comfortably, they are by no means counter intuitive. The Satellite Navigation unit rises from the dash top and offers a 3D view of routes which allows one to navigate journeys with ease, while all the primary audio functions can be operated from conveniently placed indicator stalks. Operating the dash functions is made all the more pleasurable due to finely damped, expensively machined switches.

On the Move

Using the PSA ‘Platform 2′ the RCZ shares its underpinnings with all 308 variants, 3008 Crossover and 5008 Compact MPV.

The standard 308 track has been widened for this application and you immediately notice the car’s broad, sporting stance. This pays dividends on more challenging stretches of road where the wide track and generous mechanical grip provide a considerable amount of front end bite. The car darts with agility through both tight and wide roundabouts, your confidence building as you discover new levels of unimagined adhesion.

Equally surprising is the ride. Grippy Continentals cover 19″ alloy wheels and work with the finely honed chassis to deliver a delicious combination of firmness and comfort. One occasionally notices a slight fidget over the more severely deteriorated town stretches, but the primary ride is mostly beyond question. As speeds increase this sensation passes and you flow with ease over challenging, tight B roads.

Pedal feel is reasonable and the brakes though well calibrated, at first feel a little snatchy. The pedal action is sharp and there is virtually no resistance. Steering is weighty and direct but I would have preferred more on and off centre feel. That said you are fed reasonably clear streams of information about the road surface and the loads being exerted on the chassis through the controls. This encourages a flexible driving style in which you quickly adapt your efforts to suit the road conditions. A snappy, short gear change further enhances the sporting package.

The RCZ’s gearing is perfectly suited to a car in this sector with a sporting agenda. The ratios are short and tightly stacked but with 2nd and 3rd providing enough breadth to enjoy the sonorous engine note and generous performance. The engine is wonderfully tractable and a fine instrument too. Raspy and pleasingly vocal throughout the rev range, it works with the exhaust to deliver a crescendo that builds as you enter the higher echelons of the power band. And yet this is a unit defined by its flexibility.

Fifth and even sixth gears can be engaged at town speeds and provide enough urge to comfortably progress to motorway speeds. At higher speeds on stretches of motorway and open B roads you can comfortably utilise the performance which makes country roads such a joy.

Essentially the car feels much quicker than the 0-62 of 7.6 seconds suggests. A clue is found in the engine’s impressive in gear times – 50-75 in 5th gear is reached in a rapid 6.5 seconds. Power delivery meanwhile is free from any hint of turbo lag and the performance is so linear that one can imagine a naturally aspirated unit nestling beneath the bonnet. That the mpg hovered consistently at 33 on mainly town journeys with 95 miles covered on A and B roads and the motorway, is testament to the car’s frugality.


Peugeot has created a desirable, finely engineered Coupe that turns as many heads as cars costing twice the price. Yet this is far from the marque’s greatest achievement. That in essence is the dynamic polish which characterises the RCZ package. Like much of their current range RCZ demonstrates that Peugeot is once again focused on producing thoroughly engineered, finely constructed cars that you look forward to driving.


Price – £ 25,945
Power bhp – 200 @ 5,800 rpm
Torque lb ft – 206 @ 1770
0 – 60 – 7.6 seconds
Top Speed – 146 mph
Urban mpg – 32.1
Extra Urban – 50.4
Combined – 42.1
CO2 emissions (g/km) - 155
VED (12 months) – £170
Weight (kilos) – 1421
Length (mm) – 4290
Width (including door mirrors open) (mm) – 2107
Height (mm) – 1352
Boot volume (litres) – 309
Warranty: 3 years/60,000 miles
Service Interval: 2 years/20,000 miles

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Thanks to the Peugeot Press Office for their excellent service.