This month, Peugeot’s hotly anticipated RCZ hits dealer showrooms and with it a tidal wave of customers. The car has been gathering quite a following since it made its debut at the Geneva Motor Show in 2008 and it represents a huge leap forward for the French firm.
Why? Well, this is a Peugeot that’s strolling into the Audi TT’s domain and who would have ever thought that coupe’s market dominance could be challenged?
It helps that the Peugeot doesn’t just look good – but looks stunning! From the front, the car has the family nose – like a 308, or other generic Peugeot. It’s not really that inspiring at all. But, walk around to the side and it just gets better and better. Squat, aggressive shoulders, a beautiful profile and a roof with two gentle bumps targets the 30+-year-old male buyers that the RCZ is aimed at.
This is the first car the French manufacturer has launched without the familiar three digit number name. The RCZ is a standalone model and is the first to carry the marque’s refreshed badge design.
Inside is a comfortable, pleasant place to be with chunky controls, supportive seats and lots of visibility. The only real stand-out bad point in the cabin is the somewhat flimsy plastic which covers the transmission tunnel and flexes nastily when you release the handbrake. The rest of the car though has some classy materials. The two silver strips on the roof are aluminium and there’s high grade leather coverings inside (in the GT model) both combining to give the RCZ an expensive, upmarket feel.
And that’s the clever bit – because the RCZ really isn’t that expensive at all. The entry-level model with a 156bhp, 1.6-litre petrol, is just £20,450, rising to £25,050 for the 200bhp range topper. Compare this to the Audi TT, which starts at £26,370 and Peugeot already has the upper hand. Buyers just need to get past any badge snobbery they may be harbouring.
For this test we tried the petrol GT model with 156bhp petrol. This level gives buyers 19-inch alloys and leather. Also included as standard are heated front seats, front and rear parking aid, auto-dipping mirrors for reversing, auto lights, come home lighting and auto wipers.
The ride is a bit harsh on those bigger 19s, but we think it is worth it for the better looks. And on the subject of specs, Peugeot have been very clever here. You can have the entry-level car, with all the looks of the top end model for an extra couple of grand.
The performance figures are not the most exciting with a 0-60mph time of 8.3 seconds and a top speed of 133mph. Having said that, it still pushes on pretty well. There’s good feel from the front wheels and in the right hands you can still have a bit of fun.
However, it is at lower speeds and around town where it really excels. What’s more, it’s here buyers can show off those stunning looks to pedestrians who’ll stand there open-mouthed! Peugoet dealers must be feeling rather smug right now. They’ve got a car with the looks of a premium German manufacturer for a relative bargain price – and in these cost-conscious economic times, that’s a real winner.
The only problem we can see is availability – Peugeot doesn’t anticipate a problem, but did tell us 30 per cent of this year’s UK allocation was already sold. And that’s before the more powerful 200bhp has got here. Our advice? Tell your customers to get their orders in quick…
by DUNCAN CHAPPELL