2013 PEUGEOT RCZ REVIEW
What’s hot: Unique funky style, great sound, racecar handling.
What’s not: Auto model underpowered, harder ride (than previous model).
X-factor: Razor chassis dynamics and sharp new styling – careful, there’s a ‘bad boy’ in there.
Vehicle style: Small sports coupe
Price: $58,990 (plus on-roads)
- Engine/transmission petrol variants: 1.6 litre DOHC turbo/six-speed manual (or six-speed auto)
- Engine/transmission diesel variant: 2.0 litre turbo/six speed manual
- Power/torque petrol variants: 147kW turbo (115kW automatic)/275Nm (240Nm automatic)
- Power/torque diesel variant: 120kW/340Nm
- Fuel consumption listed: 6.9 l/100km (manual); 7.3 l/100km (auto); 5.3 l/100km (diesel manual)
There’s more to Peugeot’s tasty little RCZ coupe than a half-day run in the hills can reveal. But put it on a racetrack for the other half-day, and it will expose its Le Mans breeding and laser-cut sporting soul.
Its problem - well not really a problem - is that its baby-face-looks are a bit diverting. That dubble-bubble roof and shapely haunches obscure the brat within.
It’s harder-edged than its style-council lines might suggest.
That said, the new lines to the front work. The RCZ no longer looks like a dachshund trying to swallow a bathplug. It’s still a Peugeot-family face, but the wide-mouthed grimace has gone.
It looks neat to me, but, more importantly, it feels right at home bouncing off the rev-limiter before tucking into a set of corners.
At a new price of $58,990 for all three models in the range – 2.0 diesel turbo, 1.6 petrol turbo manual and 1.6 petrol turbo automatic – it’s still reasonable buying for a finely honed European sports car.
You can pick the new model by the matt black roof arches, new grille and 19-inch charcoal grey rims. We liked version one, the first RCZ, it was a little softer on-road, but we like version two even more.
Yeah, this is a smart interior. With hip-hugging leather seats, trimmed leather-look dash, chunky gearshift and sports wheel, piano-black centre-stack and big clear sports dials – it looks and feels the true racer.
There are some nice detail touches: the polished chrome highlights, black lacquer gearshift-surround ‘wristwatch-style’ clock and high quality materials throughout set a classy tone to the interior.
The electric driver’s seat has ample adjustment to get nicely square-on to the reach and rake adjustable multi-function steering wheel, and things ergonomically work very well. (Something which could rarely be claimed of Peugeot’s past.)
The standard sat-nav with raised screen is also a welcome feature.
Overall, it’s a comfortable sporting interior with a nice ‘tight’ feel at the wheel. Once you get set, you will feel like you want to drive the wheels off this thing.
It’s also pretty quiet when on the move, despite the big rubber on 19-inch rims down below. There’s a bit of wind flutter around the big mirrors, but the rounded throaty burble from the engine more than compensates.
While it’s a two seater, there are two jump-seats of sorts under the sloping roof. But these are for garden gnomes, two fox terriers and quite possibly one Hobbit – but don’t even think about putting an adult in there, let alone one of the smelly teenage lumps.
That said, those seats fold flat to open up quite a nice storage area. All up, with the rear seats laid flat, and a 384 litre boot, the RCZ offers a total of 760 litres of storage.
Standard features include the pop-up sat-nav, parking assistance (front and rear), remote headlight beam adjustment, rain-sensing wipers, xenon auto headlights, electrically-adjustable heated front seats (memory function on driver’s seat), Bluetooth, CD/MP3 sound system leather trim, 19" alloy wheels, twin sports exhaust, and speed-activated spoiler.
It’s also fully featured for safety with ABS, stability control, electronic brake force distribution (EBD), emergency brake assist (EBA), hill assist and a host of other acronyms to keep body and soul united.
ON THE ROAD
On road: RCZ 1.6 litre 115kW petrol automatic
We took the auto for a half day blatt into the Dandenong hills east of Melbourne.
It’s likely to be the best seller of the range, but for buyers looking for hot-hatch performance to match its racy lines, they’re going to be a bit disappointed.
It makes all the right noises, and can be paddled manually through the tiptronic-style box (no paddles at the wheel), but the 115kW under the bonnet of the auto doesn’t supply enough urge to qualify it as a sports drive.
It can certainly be whacked through a string of corners, it turns in and sticks like a greased ferret, but there’s just not enough underfoot to match its sportscar lines.
Nor does the six-speed auto change as intuitively or as quickly as some modern sports autos.
The auto version of the RCZ seems to me to be a bit at odds with itself. It’s got the same big wheels and the same hard suspension tune as the much quicker and sharper-performing manual version.
The downside is that it can feel pretty harsh and send some big shocks through the cabin if the road is broken or corrugated. The uncompromising sportscar suspension seems a mismatch with the more leisurely auto.
It would make more sense if the ‘softer’ engine and drivetrain combo were matched to a ‘softer’ suspension.
That said, on smooth urban tarmac it’s fine, and it’s fun: the ‘aural exciter’ – a diaphragm built into the exhaust manifold – pipes a very nice rorty burble into the cabin that will add some joy to the urban commute.
On track: RCZ 1.6 litre 147kW petrol manual
But things make much more sense at the wheel of the manual, and with the main straight at Sandown disappearing rapidly under the nose.
After handing over the keys to the auto, we put the manual petrol through its paces on the racetrack.
With a not-overwhelming 147kW and 275Nm to call on, it too is shy of the hotter hot-hatches, but the manual model is much more of a blade than the auto. It is a cracking, supremely balanced track-day drive.
You can bounce it off the rev limiter, it spins like a jewel, and really opens the throat beyond 4000rpm.
The six-speed manual box is a terrific unit, it can be whacked through the changes. The throw is just right, the stubby shift feels great under the hand, and the gate is precise and well-spaced (you would need a ham fist to miss the intended cog with this box).
Although it pulls eagerly from down low, it proved much quicker letting the engine spin its head off to top out in fifth down Sandown’s long main straight, rather than looking for sixth.
And thanks to the long flat torque curve, right through the ‘technical’ bottom end of Sandown – the curious dog leg that follows turn one – through there you can hold third and let the torque slingshot you into the back straight.
The RCZ sits so flat, and turns in so eagerly, that it can carry quite surprising speed (alarming even) deep into a corner.
On a trailing throttle, you can tuck the nose in with a light dab of the brake, and even with the traction control on, bring the back around sharply.
The strut front suspension set-up and ‘deformable’ cross member rear works very well with the rigid chassis and low centre of gravity.
And we had the brakes smoking, but those big rotors and callipers had no trouble hauling the RCZ down from well above the old ton time and again, lap after lap.
(We’ve left fuel consumption unrecorded: after a full throttle pounding on the track it was showing 29.1 l/100km.)
FIRST DRIVE VERDICT
In the RCZ coupe, there’s 100 years of Peugeot racing heritage wrapped up in its skin. It’s deceptively quick, a real surprise packet on the racetrack and huge fun when shown the whip.
But you couldn’t accuse the petrol models of being over-muscled (and there were no new diesels at launch).
And the auto is not really in the race.
But this car is less about hammering the nail, less to do with raw kilowatts, and more about precision, sporting balance and being at one with the car.
Though more expensive than the previous model, this new model is nicely featured, stylishly appointed and looks genuinely hot.
We find the RCZ a very easy car to like: open it up and you too will love this car.