29 Jan 2014

Peugeot RCZ GT THP 156 – Initial thoughts

Colin Hubbard is running a Peugeot RCZ GT.  Here are his initial impressions

This week I have been driving the Peugeot RCZ, the French Audi TT wannabe that was launched following huge public interest when they showed a 308 coupe concept at Frankfurt in 2007.

Considering it’s been around since 2010 I can’t say that I have seen many on the roads but Peugeot has apparently sold over 50,000 units in its first 3 years in production.

Let’s start with the looks. Well, it is a gorgeous looking car with curves on the arches, the roof, pretty much everywhere you look and with the 19 inch ‘Technical’ alloys is better looking than the current TT which is its main competitor.

Style is what sells this car and, like a Mini, is available with a range of customisation options from the various items of bodywork to the design and colour of the wheels. This car comes in Charcoal Metallic with aluminium pillars and 'hephais' light grey alloys which work together to highlight the body curves and especially the double bubble roof and tinted rear windscreen.

On the inside it comes with Light Grey ‘Lama’ leather on the seat facings and some door highlights and Charcoal leather on the dash and door cards. Whenever I am looking at cars to buy if they have a grey leather interior I ignore and go to the next one but this combo works very well and combined with the piano black dash panel is something I would personally opt for.

The lighter seat facings give the interior an air of space but the double bubble roof counteracts that feeling by making me feel a little claustrophobic.  I am only 5’9 tall but there’s only about 2 inches of space above my head and I would like more. I think the issue is aggravated by the front seats being mounted too high.  If they were 2 inches lower would vastly improve the driving experience.

In the back and it’s definitely a 2+2 with 2 separate seats and little legroom, although marginally better than a TT. I could handle sitting in the back for a 15 minutes but no longer.  Young kids would be just fine back there and mine thoroughly enjoyed a ride out in it with no complaints.

Unlike the TT the RCZ has a bootlid only rather than a hatchback but the rear seats do fold down so longer loads can be accommodated when required. The boot is a fair size and would swallow a set of golf clubs or a good weekly shop with ease.

The 156 comes with a 1.6 turbo petrol engine and is the least powerful unit available in the RCZ, for the Petrolheads there are 2 other states of tune for this engine along with a 2.0 diesel for Company Car Man/Woman. Mated to this engine is a 6 speed manual gearbox which is a slick to operate and highly geared for maximum fuel economy with second gear capable of hitting sixty with ease. I found I only used 5th and 6th gears on dual carriageways and motorways as they drop the revs too much for enthusiastic country driving, which is my route to work. On the motorway it'll happily cruise at 70mph at approx 2,500 revs and showed an average of 45mpg on the trip computer.

In use the engine pulls cleanly and is sufficient to maintain a good pace but it is plagued with the same 2 stage throttle pedal I experienced in the 208 GTI whereby the last inch of travel is only accessible with a good prod and feels like a switch being pressed. Once you have realised that there's the extra travel then it opens up a little and is more fun to drive.

The handling is let down by the huge wheels and tyres (235/40/19) so bumps and potholes can push the car offline and send a crash through the cabin. On smooth roads the body is kept nicely in check so can be fun if you manage to avoid poorly surfaced roads but overall I would opt for the smaller 18’ alloys for a better ride.

The brakes are nicely weighted and inspire confidence to press on with the ABS only reigning things in when the monsoon weather came in at the weekend.

After 3 days of driving the car I am impressed with the package overall.  Yes there are some bad points such as the crashy ride but this is a poser’s car and the huge wheels are an essential part of the package to create that look. The compromised 2+2 layout is a small price to pay for its style both inside and out and the funny thing is whilst driving this car I have noticed so many more RCZ’s on the road.

One thing I have noticed, and this may be a Peugeot trait as I found the same with a week in a 208 GTI, is that initial driving impressions were slightly disappointing but every drive you go for you find something else to like about it.

Full report to follow.