Peugeot RCZ

Representing a real return to form, Peugeot’s conspicuous RCZ combines striking aesthetics with a rewarding drive and respectable economy - all under a double-bubble roof. 

It didn’t take long for the RCZ to migrate from its stand at the 2009 Frankfurt Motor Show to showroom forecourts – almost entirely unchanged too. It wasn’t hard to see whom Peugeot were targeting with their all-new coupé either: the likes of Audi’s prodigiously successful TT and, ambitiously, the Porsche Boxster. And what the RCZ lacks in perceived brand value against its aforementioned peers, it makes up for in its charismatic design, both inside and out.  

Endowed with a cab-forward stance, the RCZ is an example of Peugeot’s design characteristics all distilled into one car, although it is entirely unique as well. Seamless aluminium arches that form the roofline gently climb from the RCZ’s rear haunches before falling at steeper angle. The arches help the windscreen, roof and rear-windscreen panels, all made from glass, appear as one, and set the tone for this coherent coupé.

Between these bold arches sits the RCZ’s party piece – a double-bubble roof. Featured in part for practicality (providing some much needed head room for occupants of the back seats), but mainly the result of vanity, it looks fantastic. Even more so on a car that costs £23,560 new, as this Amber Red example does. The double-bubble also contributes to the car’s impressive aerodynamic qualities – at speed, and in the wet, you can actually see perfectly symmetrical streams of rainwater arching around the rear windscreen as they flow off the roof.

Chief designer, Boris Reinmöller, has made it clear that he and his design team wanted a car that was a step away from the traditional coupé form. This was neatly achieved by positioning the cabin further forward that convention dictates and allowing the rear to extend back. Reinmöller has also compared the RCZ with a lion leaping in mid-air, muscles taut across its body. This sounds a little far-fetched, but looking at the RCZ from the front three-quarter, it’s also hard to deny, particularly considering the car’s pronounced rear haunches.

It’s the front graphic that dominates the RCZ’s design, and whilst it’s certainly arresting, one job for the facelift would be to possibly make the front graphic less gaping.

Inside, the RCZ isn’t what you might expect considering that it effectively uses the same dashboard as the 308. Compromises have to be made to produce a car this unique at such a competitive price. This GT-spec car, however, is plush enough, with leather extending across the entire dashboard. Details such as the stitched arches over the analogue clock and central air-vents add a little occasion to the interior too.

What makes the RCZ such an unparalleled success for Peugeot is that it’s not a case of style over substance, as so often it is with French manufacturers. This model, a THP 156, emits just 149g/km CO2 and we managed an average of just under 40mpg on a test route representative of everyday driving.

Even riding on these gargantuan 19” “Solitice” alloy wheels, the ride is firm but not uncomfortable and the RCZ possesses enough sporting appeal to justify it’s aggressive aesthetics. The 6-speed manual gearbox has a slightly longer throw than normal, but measured, concerted shifts suit the car better than lightning fast changes. The steering wheel is too big, that’s undeniable, but it also forgoes the plethora of buttons found on many modern cars. It’s refreshing and, overall, it’s a very well rounded package.

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