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Driven: Peugeot RCZ 156 THP GT. Image by Peugeot.

Driven: Peugeot RCZ 156 THP GT
We finally come to terms with the RCZ... at precisely the wrong moment.

 



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Peugeot RCZ

4 4 4 4 4

Good points: stunning looks, relative rarity, peppy engines

Not so good: not long for this world, tiny rear seats

Key Facts

Model tested: Peugeot RCZ 156 THP GT
Price: RCZ range starts from £22,350, rising to £32,250 for RCZ R; car as tested £24,750
Engine: 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: front-wheel drive, six-speed manual
Body style: two-door, 2+2 coupé
CO2 emissions: 149g/km (Band F, £145 annually)
Combined economy: 44.1mpg
Top speed: 133mph
0-62mph: 8.3 seconds
Power: 156hp at 6,000rpm
Torque: 240Nm at 1,400- to 5,000rpm

Our view:

Pity the poor Peugeot RCZ. It's attractive. It drives nicely. It is affordable in relation to its most obvious competition. And it is made by a brand that is finally - finally! - on the up and up, after too many years in the doldrums. As one of many cars that falls into a wide catch-all category, entitled 'Something A Bit Different To The Norm', the RCZ is a very worthy entry. And it's doomed.

Allow us to expand on this. It was only facelifted last year and, to our eyes, so few minor alterations have rarely made such a huge difference. I was never the biggest fan of the original model, with its black-bar grille, beaky nose and strange, double-bubble profile, but the 2014 tidy-up of the grille plus new light clusters and a smoother bonnet design have helped the RCZ no end. True, in range-topping R guise - an all-new model released around a year ago - it possesses even more presence but even a 156 THP in grey with a black roof looks smart. There's no doubt which particular, phenomenally successful German coupé was firmly in the Peugeot design team's crosshairs when penning the RCZ, but only now do we feel the French car can stand visual comparison to Audi's TT. We might even go so far as to say we think the Peugeot is more distinctive and our preferred choice...

The interior has been overhauled too, feeling of a higher quality than before and featuring nicer dials and displays. Again, it feels of a suitably lofty standard within, although in the i-cockpit age of Peugeots with diddy steering wheels and instrument clusters perched on top of the dashboard, the giant wheel of the RCZ feels old hat. But the driving position is superb, all low down and ensconced in the chassis, while the level of equipment is pleasingly comprehensive on all models. Bear in mind the Sport and GT trims are coming to an end, leaving GT Line (£27,500) and the ultimate R.

And it's dynamically well-sorted. While the RCZ R once again steals the limelight if you're after the most fun behind the wheel, the base petrol feels punchy, taut and engaging, in a way it has taken the Audi TT three generations to finally perfect. We're not saying the RCZ will go down in the annals of Peugeot history as one of its most engaging chassis of all time (no, we're not about to mention that particular '80s motor right now...), yet clean, precise inputs see the Peugeot scribing impressively tidy lines around corners. The steering is nicely weighted and there's a general lack of understeer that's most commendable, although the rear axle doesn't feel like it's willing to play a huge part of proceedings. What the Peugeot does do is marry decent road-holding skills and body control to a ride that's never uncomfortable. Indeed, for pootling about town, it's benign enough to make it feel like a slightly lower 308.

The engine is a 156hp iteration of Peugeot's fine four-cylinder 'THP' turbo petrol, although a 200hp version is also on offer. This 1.6 is heavily worked on to become the 270hp unit in the RCZ R, but if none of these float your boat, a 2.0 HDi with 163hp can be bought. Only the 156 THP can be had with an automatic gearbox, but the manual is so light of throw and nice to use that we wouldn't really advocate the self-shifter.

Another surprise comes in the form of a boot that is huge by class standards. But don't expect the same trick of the rear seats, as they're a joke. Even calling the RCZ a 2+2 is stretching things, as we've not seen much smaller rear seats on any car. However, this is a minor failing - if anyone is buying the RCZ for practicality first and foremost, they've got their purchasing priorities all wrong.

So, after previously feeling a little lukewarm about the Peugeot coupé, we now find ourselves cooing over the facelifted RCZ and eagerly looking forward to the future. Except... there's a final twist in the tale. The RCZ is going to be canned. Peugeot's boss, Maxime Picat, recently said that while he loves the RCZ, it is not selling in anything like the numbers required to turn a profit. Thus, as part of the marque's big model cull that will see the current line-up of 26 vehicles slashed to just the 13 most lucrative by 2022, the RCZ will be quietly killed off. Indeed, once the UK stock of 156 THP and 2.0 HDi models have gone, and all the current Sport and GT models lingering in Peugeot dealerships have been shifted, the RCZ will soldier on as a two-car line-up of the 200hp in GT Line format and the range-topping RCZ R. And even the R won't be replaced.

We find this news kind of depressing. Here is a stylish and affordable coupé from a company historically renowned for making interesting cars, and it has no future because the numbers don't add up. On the one hand, it angers us that badge snobbery is undoubtedly to blame here, as most will just opt for an Audi TT or Volkswagen Scirocco instead, without even considering the Peugeot. But then Peugeot itself is partly to blame on that score, having turned out a series of clunkers since the 306 that have all eroded the marque's enviable heritage. And of course we don't expect Peugeot to make a loss just to satisfy the odd grumbling petrolhead, but if the core models are making money for the Lion, perhaps they can support just one niche car that offers a halo effect for the whole range? And surely that car would be the RCZ?

There is one silver lining to all this, we suppose, which is that the RCZ might just be a classic in the making. A concept car made real, showcasing a company doing something daring and trying to take on the establishment. That the RCZ didn't quite succeed on that last score won't matter in years to come; all that will are its stunning looks, relative rarity and peppy engines. All the more reason to get out and buy one now while you still can, don't you think?

Alternatives:

Audi TT: sharper looks than ever, stunning interior with the 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit and something the Peugeot has never enjoyed - a truly dedicated purchaser fan base.

Toyota GT86: similarly lightweight and affordable, the Toyota's USP is its rear-wheel drive chassis. And, by all accounts, another car the UK buying public isn't snapping up at anything like the rate it deserves.

Volkswagen Scirocco: this is just a Golf three-door in a fancy frock. Strong engine line-up and Volkswagen's brand image ensures it sells well, despite being fairly humdrum to drive.


Matt Robinson - 13 Jul 2015









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2015 Peugeot RCZ R. Image by Peugeot.2015 Peugeot RCZ R. Image by Peugeot.2015 Peugeot RCZ R. Image by Peugeot.2015 Peugeot RCZ R. Image by Peugeot.2015 Peugeot RCZ R. Image by Peugeot.

2015 Peugeot RCZ R. Image by Peugeot.2015 Peugeot RCZ R. Image by Peugeot.2015 Peugeot RCZ R. Image by Peugeot.2015 Peugeot RCZ R. Image by Peugeot.


2015 Peugeot RCZ R. Image by Peugeot.
 

2015 Peugeot RCZ R. Image by Peugeot.
 

2015 Peugeot RCZ R. Image by Peugeot.
 

2015 Peugeot RCZ R. Image by Peugeot.
 

2015 Peugeot RCZ R. Image by Peugeot.
 

2015 Peugeot RCZ R. Image by Peugeot.
 






 

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