It could be argued that Peugeot hasn’t been desirable since the seminal days of the 205 GTi, and even back then it was only attractive to pre-pubescent boys. The company’s bringing sexy back, however, by creating cars such as the RCZ — a compact sports coupe that’s pretty enough to lick.
It sporty Pug certainly looks the part, but it faces strong competition from several corners. Can it drag its French maker kicking and screaming into a century where buyers want their cars to be functional as well as fun? We settled our buttocks into the £25,050 GT petrol model to find out.
If you aren’t a fan of the RCZ’s looks, we recommend you visit a doctor, because you’re almost certainly dead inside. At first glance, its curved front and rear overhangs, stepped belt line and dome-style roof give it a look of an Audi TT, which is no bad thing. Look closer, however, and you’ll find plenty of detail unique to the RCZ.
The most prominent feature is a ‘double bubble’ roof, which looks a bit like a pair of glass buttocks floating on the surface of water — in a good way. We also love the feline-inspired front end, bulbous wheel arches and the way the cabin is biased more towards the front of the front of the car, giving it a purposeful, aggressive look.
Coupes tend to be about as practical as an umbrella in a tsunami, but the RCZ doesn’t completely shame itself in this regard. Sure, it’s hard to see out of the winscreen because the pop-up sat-nav, large wing mirrors and chunky a-pillars obstruct your vision, but this is a car you can live with on a day-to-day basis. The boot has a 309-litre capacity, which is only slightly less than you’d find in a supermini such as the Honda Jazz. Its rear seats even fold down to allow long awkward loads such as skis — if you’re that way inclined.
It’s not all peaches and double cream, though. The RCZ has rear seats, but they’re completely useless to anyone other than children — and subjecting even kids to their unique brand of torture is borderline child abuse. It’s more comfortable up front, there’s only one very shallow cup holder so you’ll have to remember to bring two straws if you’re travelling with a passenger.
Performance & handling
The RCZ may look sporty, but it shares its platform with the far less glamorous Peugeot 308 family hatchback. We won’t hold that against it, though, as the car is an entertaining drive. Its suspension offers a good blend of compliance and firmness, meaning it’s comfortable being driven over most roads surfaces, yet balanced enough to be entertaining when you decide to throw it around twisty B-roads.
Peugeot offers 1.6-litre petrol engines tuned to deliver either 156bhp or 200bhp with either manual or automatic transmissions and a 163bhp diesel engine with a manual gearbox. Sadly, none of these offers white knuckle accelaration, but the quickest of the bunch, the 200bhp petrol unit, can propel the RCZ from 0-60mph in 7.6 seconds and onto a top speed of 146mph, so it’s quick enough to provide a few giggles if not full blown belly laughs.
Economy & environment
Fuel economy isn’t too shabby with an RCZ. The slower of the two 1.6-litre petrol models returns 44.1mpg and emits 149g/km of CO2 which is the same as you get in an Audi TT 1.8.T FSI — though that particular TT gets to 60mph a second quicker. The most frugal RCZ is the diesel coupe model, which returns 53.2mpg and 139g/km of CO2. Again, though, it’s not as fast as its diesel Audi TT counterpart, taking over a second longer to reach 60mph.
Equipment & value
The RCZ comes in three trim levels — Sport, GT and Asphalt. The entry-level Sport model is the cheapest of these, and comes with a rear parking aid, Peugeot Connect USB media playback with hands-free Bluetooth capability, dual-zone air conditioning, 18-inch alloys, and an active rear spoiler. This deploys when the vehicle passes 53mph and retracts when it dips below 34mph (it can also be manually deployed at the push of a button on the centre console).
The GT model adds a front parking aid to the mix, leather trim with electric and heated front seats, 19-inch alloys, automatic headlamps, wipers and courtesy approach lighting and door mirrors that tilt downwards to help you see the curb as you reverse. The top of the range Asphalt model gets branded “Asphalt” leather trim, a soft-touch leather steering wheel and sports gear lever, tyre pressure sensors, the Peugeot Connect Media Navigation system, a relatively decent JBL hi-fi system and xenon lights.
If you want to save a bit of cash — and you probably are if you’re considering the RCZ over a rival such as the TT — you’re probably better off going for the Sport model and adding options as necessary. Steer clear of the sat-nav system, though, as that’ll set you back £1,470. The JBL hi-fi system is more reasonable at £420, while leather will add £530 to the price tag.
Peugeot hasn’t yet subjected the RCZ to a Euro NCAP crash test, but every car gets driver and passenger front and side airbags, emergency braking assistance — which increases brake force when it senses you aren’t pushing the brake hard enough — and electronic brake force distribution. All RCZ models ship with an alarm and immobiliser.
The RCZ isn’t as fast as it looks, and its front-wheel drive layout means it’s not a car you can throw around as wantonly as you can an Audi TT. However, it still has plenty going for it. It offers a good blend of comfort and balanced, predictable handling. It has slightly more boot space than its Audi rival and — most important of all — it looks the part.
If you’re looking for an affordable coupe that will turn heads and isn’t as common as the TT, the RCZ is a very safe bet.
Model tested: Peugeot RCZ GT THP 200
Engine: 1.6-litre petrol
Acceleration: 0-62 in 7.6 seconds
Top speed: 146mph
Emissions: 159g/km CO2