Car reviews - Peugeot - RCZ - 1.6 147kW coupe
Overall fit and finish, balanced dynamics, smooth engine, styling
Room for improvement
Rear seat room, pedal placement, thick A-pillars
2 Sep 2010
By PHILIP LORD
IF NOTHING else, the Peugeot RCZ is a masterpiece of design, swivelling heads like few cars.
Sure, styling is a personal thing, and if you think a LandCruiser 70 Series is pure art, you won’t think the RCZ looks anything special. For the rest of us though, it does.
The cabin too, is special. Stitched material adorns the dashboard and door panels, and this, together with the simple chrome instrument highlights, give an overall impression of class.
Looking at the interior presentation, you could be forgiven for thinking the RCZ has a six-figure price, but pay attention to the detail and you’ll realise that the RCZ has humble origins.
Items such as the all too familiar Peugeot switchgear – some of which is becoming pretty dated – gives the game away and the precise fit and finish does not extend to the wobbly gearshift knob. Yep, despite the $100k styling, don’t expect $100k substance at half the price.
The driving position is low to the ground, as you’d expect, and the seat is supportive and comfortable, albeit thinly padded. If you spend long hours behind the wheel, try before you buy.
This also applies to the pedal arrangement – for reasons that remain a mystery, French car manufacturers appear to like fitting the pedals in manual cars too close together, and have done so without interruption for years.
The Citroen AX GT, Peugeot 206 and others we have forgotten have been designed for drivers whose job description must include prancing around to classical music in silk shoes and tights. For anyone who is broad of foot, the RCZ’s pedal placement requires some familiarisation.
The gearshift too has the familiar Peugeot rubberyness to it, yet positive, quick shifts do not appear to be compromised.
The thick A-pillars impede the view out a little and the wide bonnet – unseen by the driver –takes a little more guesswork to place than many cars, but the view to the sides and rear are exceptional in the modern age of reverse sensing rather than reverse seeing.
It’s that look over the shoulder that attracts attention the small rear seating area. If you have folded some friends in there, best make it a short trip if you want them to remain so.
It is tight, even for sub-teenage children. Yet with all such designs, it is a compromise that can be forgiven for the fact that at least you have the option of using the RCZ as an occasional four-seater.
The boot area is long, wide but quite shallow in any case, there is little to criticise here in a segment where the boot is often either an after-thought or never entered the designer’s mind at all. Yet the lack of a spare wheel – an inflation kit is supplied – won’t give owners heading out bush much confidence.
The smooth 1.6-litre turbo petrol engine revs out willingly to the 6500rpm cut-out, yet doesn’t feel as fast as the RCZ shape urges it to be. While the numb off-idle response takes a while to get familiarised with, the RCZ’s performance is otherwise responsive and smooth.
Fuel consumption over mostly urban terrain averaged 10.4L/100km.
Like the interior detail, the chassis detail is more prosaic than the exterior metal would suggest. There is no tubular chassis with all-independent suspension underpinning the RCZ instead it is a version of the 308 platform with MacPherson strut front suspension and a torsion bar rear set up.
Despite the (optional) 19-inch wheels and accompanying tissue-thin tyres, the RCZ rides well. It thumps rather than crashes through big bumps, and while it is clearly a firmly sprung car, it doesn’t feel like you’ll need to get out the kidney belt for a drive down to the shops.
Steering is quick and the Michelin Pilots stick the RCZ down well, but the torsion bar suspension will only go so far co-operating with fast, lumpy corners.
The RCZ is a beautiful car that won’t worry the true thoroughbreds in the coupe class, but it does pose a risk to any manufacturer who thinks that style cannot win over substance in the mind of the coupe buyer.
The RCZ has lashings of the former and a dollop of the latter, which is perhaps all this segment really wants anyway.
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