Sunday, 30 August 2015

REVIEW - Peugeot RCZ R

I have become a huge fan of Peugeot in recent years. With the 208 GTi they have a car that echoes the fun of the iconic 205 GTi. The 308 is a serious rival for the VW Golf, and the 508 is a great executive saloon. Then you get to Peugeot Sport, which seems to have been given the green light to breathe some extra life into a few of the models. The one I was most looking forward to driving was the RCZ R; a car which takes the sleek and stylish lines of the RCZ and gives it some serious beefing up.

Looks – 10/10

The Peugeot RCZ has been well received by consumers. It got a minor facelift back in 2012 and I think it still looks fresh today. The RCZ R takes that curvaceous body and makes it more appealing to the red-blooded amongst us. The rear spoiler is now fixed, and sits nicely above twin exhaust pipes. There are some gorgeous two-tone 19-inch alloys and the roof bars are matte black. You can add black door mirrors for £60, and these will then match the gloss black roof. At the front there are some lovely tinted headlights which feature xenon bulbs, some familiar daytime running lights and a red ‘Peugeot’ badge on the grille. My test car was Moroccan Red (£520) and this is by far the best colour on offer.

Inside the RCZ R there are lots of sporty features to remind you this is a special car. The most noticeable are the seats; they have a tough, chiselled look and are superbly finished in leather and alcantara with red stitching. There’s an updated gear knob, and a chunkier steering wheel. The dials themselves are classy and understated, and with the entire cabin being clad in leather it looks straight out of the top drawer. There’s a little Peugeot Sport ‘R’ badge next to the handbrake, and the centre console is finished in piano black. I still like the flip-up media screen, although I think it could be time for the single-colour information displays to be replaced now.

Handling/Performance – 10/10

If there’s one thing I know about Peugeot Sport- and there most probably is- it’s that they know what they’re doing when it comes to extracting power from 1.6-litre turbocharged engines. Having proved with the 208 R5 that significant power can be achieved reliably, it only seemed logical to put it in a road car. The RCZ R develops 270PS and 330Nm of torque. That’s incredible for a 1.6-litre, and what’s more impressive is the lack of turbo lag. I would have expected lots of it, but it just seems to pull in any gear. Get it on song though and it absolutely flies. 0-62mph is achieved in 5.9 seconds and the top speed is limited to 155mph, which makes the RCZ R a very serious car indeed. There’s a ‘sound system’ too, which routes the induction and exhaust lines as close to the cabin as possible, to give the occupants a lovely noise to accompany the forward surge.

I will confess to being sceptical on hearing the RCZ R was to be front wheel drive. I think 270PS is a lot of power to send to the wheels that do the steering, considering that World Rally Cars don’t have much more power but get 4WD to cope. However my scepticism was completely unnecessary. The RCZ is a great car to drive. I’ll get the negative out of the way; the clutch pedal is still too high and this compromises the driving position slightly. That being said everything else is sublime. Turn in is sharp, the suspension is firm and allows the car to corner flat, and the seats offer plenty of lateral support. There’s a Torsen differential, which helps reduce understeer and keeps the front end tight through the corners. The brakes are worthy of a mention too, because when you press the middle peddle your face falls off. The front discs are 380mm and fitted with four-piston calipers, and that gives your great confidence behind the wheel. When you’re not driving like your hair is on fire, it’s comfortable. The suspension is noticeably firm, but the seats compensate for this nicely.

Economy – 10/10

By making the engine a 1.6-litre unit, Peugeot have positioned the RCZ R as an example to other sports coupés that performance and economy can co-exist. On a combined cycle the RCZ R offers up 44.8mpg. And I will vouch for this figure, because on a run from Colne to Glasgow I set the cruise control to 72mph and averaged 47.0mpg which is rather impressive. As well as costing you less at the pumps, you’ll pay less to the Treasury too. CO2 emissions of 145g/km put the RCZ R in VED band F, with annual road tax costing £145. It’s the same in the first year too. And there’s no need for start/stop technology to keep the emissions down; this is just proper performance engineering.

Practicality – 8/10

First of all, I want you to forget about the rear seats. This is, in essence, a two-seater sports car. You can get small children in the back but once you get past the age of 7 or 8, forget it. The lack of rear legroom is compensated by a rather large boot space. And if you want a bit more space you can simply fold the rear seats down. The front passengers get plenty of room, and despite the deeply-bucketed seats is easy to get in and out of. The list of standard equipment is rather comprehensive, and includes satellite navigation, Bluetooth, cruise control with speed limiter, dual-zone climate control, and rear parking sensors. That makes the RCZ R a nice car to live with. I still think it should get keyless entry and a power start button though. And it should have a big red ‘R’ on it.

Fun – 10/10

From the day the RCZ arrived at my house to the day it left I had a smile on my face. I noticed a lot of people craning their necks to get a second look as I drove past, and there were definitely a few surprised looks from other motorists as the Peugeot just disappeared into the distance. The acceleration in this car is addictive, and unlike other people I never once found the engine note tiresome. I loved it. For the keen driver, you can take this car on your favourite road and it will not disappoint in any way. For the technically minded, understanding how Peugeot Sport have transformed this car will be rewarding. But most importantly, for the passengers, it’s an exhilarating experience.
Concluding Remarks

So that’s my week with the Peugeot RCZ R. It’s been tastefully styled, improving what was already a handsome car. It packs a punch too, boasting performance to match its looks. Whilst Peugeot are selling it as a 2+2 sports car, I’d think of it as a two-seater. But it’s a very good two-seater indeed. Thanks to a front differential the front wheel drive system works well, and the small engine saves you money on running costs. There’s also an air of exclusivity about the R, and that could be a serious consideration before heading straight to the Audi dealership for a TT. Prices for the RCZ R start at £32,250. For more information visit your local dealer or log on to the Peugeot website. The RCZ R; Peugeot Sport at its very best.

Total Score – 48/50

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