Sunday, 18 May 2014

REVIEW - Peugeot RCZ THP 200 GT

Peugeot has never really done a 2-door sports coupe. Yes there has been a few CC models over the years, but these aren’t the same. And then along came the RCZ. Seemingly out of nowhere, there was suddenly this rather handsome-looking sports car on the market. That was back in 2010, and so it was only fitting it would be due a facelift. And this year it’s had one, giving it a freshening up. And so I thought I’d definitely have to give one a try. Thankfully the chaps over at Peugeot are always most obliging, and so before long I had a rather jazzy RCZ parked on the driveway. Time to put it to the test…

Looks – 9/10

Peugeot has done a remarkable job with the styling on the RCZ. I’ve heard people compare it to the Audi TT, and even the Audi R8. Whilst I think that may be exaggerating somewhat, I kind of get the point. I like the silver contrast on the large sweeping A-pillar and the contoured rear glass. The new front end incorporates some daytime running lights, and gives the RCZ a face more fitting with the current Peugeot family. There are some nice 19-inch alloys too, with low-profile rubber on them. At the back there’s a twin tail-pipe and more curvaceous bodywork. A spoiler sits well hidden until you press a button on the centre console, at which point it rises up in rather cool fashion. The RCZ also gets frameless doors; any car which has them is automatically cool. The only bit I don’t really get is on the door. Where it rises up to create a higher line going into the rear quarter just looks a bit odd. Other than that I really love the exterior lines on the RCZ. Great job, Peugeot.

The inside is nice too. As you would expect from a sports car, there’s lots of leather and it really makes the cabin a nice place to be. The seats are a wonderful piece of design as well; perfectly sculpted to look as well as they perform. It’s a shame about the dashboard really. All the dials, the radio control and the steering wheel are from the older Peugeot line up. Think of the previous generation 308 and you’ll see the similarities. And really I’d have liked to see this updated to fit with the current line up, which are truly stunning. A little steering wheel and touch screen media system like you get in the new 308 would work well here, and prevent the cabin from feeling a little bit dated. That being said, the motorised sat-nav screen isn’t exactly terrible; it’s rather James Bond actually. And the piano black trim with touches of aluminium give the interior a premium appearance on the whole.

Handling/Performance – 7/10

There are a few engines to choose from in the RCZ. I opted for the 1.6-litre, turbocharged THP200 petrol engine. This generates- you guessed it- 200PS and 275Nm, which is enough to haul the RCZ from 0-62mph in 7.6 seconds and on to a respectable top speed of 146mph. The power is fed to the front wheels through a 6-speed manual gearbox, which has a short throw lever. One of my favourite aspects of this engine is the induction noise given to the RCZ, which definitely adds to the sports car package. The THP is very driveable indeed, and picks up well wherever you are in the rev range. And if you’re really on it and keep well on the turbo, the reaction to the loud pedal is rather addictive indeed. I would prefer a rasp from the exhaust as well though, as I really think this would complete the package.

The handling is rather good in the RCZ, thanks to being so low and wide. Grip levels are good, and there is next to no body roll at all. Part of this is down to there being painted-on tyres to the 19-inch alloys, which also do not allow for many bumps when you hit the less smooth A-roads. And the steering wheel is too big. It’s like you’re at the helm of a cruise liner and if you were receiving pace notes from a passenger, they’d most likely shout “hard-a-starboard!”. This is made more annoying because the turn in is actually good, but for this lump of a steering wheel. And the biggest killer is the driving position. The pedals are set in three stages, with the accelerator being on the floor, the brake a little higher, and the clutch nearly in your face. The result is that in order to be comfortable on the accelerator, you are sat in such a way that means you bang your knee on the steering wheel whenever you change gear. And I’m only 5ft7. However, the RCZ cruises well on the motorway, and this does save it somewhat.

Economy – 8/10

The benefit of the 1.6-litre engine is that when tootling around town it’s rather economical. You can expect 42.2mpg on a combined cycle, which is good as far as sports coupe’s go. CO2 emissions are 155g/km which put the RCZ THP in VED band G. Road tax will cost £175 a year (and the same in the first year, too). That’s not too bad at all. However, I would hope for lower CO2 emissions, and I know this is partly down to those large 19-inch alloys. Whilst they may look good, they do come at the cost of comfort and economy, and I think I’d rather improve the latter two and have some 18’s to sit on instead.

Practicality – 7/10

Now you may think at this point the RCZ looks vastly impractical as a 2-door sports coupe. To a certain extent you would have a point. The poor driving position becomes irritating when you want to give it the beans down your favourite road. The vast A-pillar does somewhat limit visibility on the inside which means you can’t see kerbs on roundabouts. Not a major issue, but noticeable nonetheless. The rear seats look small, but are actually perfectly useable for children, and- so I’m told- comfortable too. The bubble rear window is large and gives great visibility, and the RCZ is surprisingly easy to park. There’s cruise control which helps you on a longer drive, and I was impressed with the boot. It’s very generous and has a large loading area too, so no complaints there.

Fun – 9/10

Now one of the main reasons you’d go out and buy a RCZ is to have a whole lot of fun. And you wouldn’t be disappointed. The Peugeot has a wonderful trait of being able to impress people. I know of people who were ready to hate it, until they’d driven it; within a few miles they were sold on it. For its few niggles it more than makes up for it with the power, noise and looks of a sports car. People still do a double take as you drive past, because this is an unmistakeably handsome car, and I like that. And it’s also the little things that count. Frameless doors and the switch for the spoiler might not seem like big things, but they make a big impression on you. Especially the button to raise the spoiler; you never get bored of that. Ever.

Concluding Remarks

I’m really glad I got to put the RCZ to the test. I like the THP200 engine, but I’d go for a more stand-out colour if I were putting my money on the line. And this is where the problem lies. The THP 200 GT starts at £26,895 but add a couple of extras onto that (satellite navigation, premium audio system, metallic paint etc.) and you’ll be looking at £28,570 which is what my test car would cost you. For that I think you could spend your money more wisely. But it would appear Peugeot have thought of that too. Because for £31,995 you can have an RCZ-R. That’s a 270PS monster that really is a big-boy’s toy. And I’m doing my best to get one on test; watch this space. For more information on the RCZ pop into your local dealership or visit the Peugeot website. So how to sum up the Peugeot RCZ THP 200? It has the ability to win you over in an instant.

Total Score – 40/50

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