Peugeot’s only used the RC moniker for one other car — the RC Cup — and it has revived the racing-inspired denomination for its sports coupe, the RCZ. Is this car going to be a winner, though? Car and SUV takes Peugeot’s bold cab-forward two-door sports car for a thrash to the coffee shop.
The RCZ looks a lot more expensive than it is. Enormous wheels wrapped in sensibly low profile tyres fill the wheel arches like a cake in a tin; the proportions allow you to see Audi TT and Porsche Cayman, but then when you’re on the inside it’s lacking some of the refinements you’d expect (satellite navigation, for example) because you’re under the illusion you’ve paid $20,000 more than you actually have.
Like most other Peugeots, it requires a bit of faffing around to find a comfortable driving position. The steering wheel is too big when it feels like it’s at the best angle, but the seat’s electric motors will eventually find an adequate position. Having said that, I still felt good driving it. You wouldn’t buy a car like this if you didn’t want to achieve a certain amount of ‘look at me’ while driving through Ponsonby, and that makes up for any minor ergonomic issues.
Let’s talk about practicalities, though: the RCZ’s boot space is at least twice what I expected. Anticipating only being able to take the piss, I was amazed that it was possible to take at least enough luggage for a week’s camping. Space is helped by Peugeot’s inclusion of an electronic ‘emergency spare’ which is basically a small air compressor that pumps sealant into the tyre in the event of a puncture. This also frees up some hidden compartments under the boot floor in which you could leave valuables, or store a first aid kit and jumper cables long term if you’re more practical.
As far as the interior goes, there are nice touches. The stitched leather seats and dashboard, analogue clock on the dash and a general quality feel about the cabin are only let down in a couple of places by poor plastics choice — nothing major. The rear seats are for small kids only, though.
Headroom is very good up to about 6’3″ and there are plenty of safety features like a gaggle of airbags and a very good crash test rating. You also get a JBL speaker system which is capable of filling the cabin with crisp audio, straight from an iPod if you want to plug yours in.
On the outside I like the low, broad stance. I really like the ‘double bubble’ canopy, and the Audi TT-style spoiler that raises and lowers at my whim. I like looking in the wing mirrors and seeing its haunches like you do in a Porsche Cayman. I probably would have put one exhaust either side at the back rather than them both on the same side, but that’s a minor niggle.
Driving the Peugeot is fuss-free, and 99.9% of purchasers are going to be grateful for this. Even though they’ve bought a car that looks like it’ll carve up any alpine pass, they won’t want to do this. 115kW is never going to make your hairs stand on end, but the car is sprightly nonetheless.
This is a cruising car. It’s a car that’s a fashion accessory to be parked outside coffee shops and in the corporate parking spaces of successful female executives and guys that use moisturiser. It’s saying that you prefer a bit of ambiance franÃ§aise as opposed to Deutsch Feinwerktechnik.
The RCZ sits in a little niche of its own price-wise. It’s sitting smack in the middle of two dynamically phenomenal cars: the $55,000 Mazda MX-5, and the $74,000 Nissan 370Z which, in my mind, are its competitors. The RCZ is very competent, but not quite in the same league for handling and performance. You do get two extra seats, though, and the fuel economy is far superior than the Nissan. You could argue that the Volkswagen Eos and the four-seater VW Scirocco are competitors – it’s around $8000 cheaper than the Scirocco, and the rear seats are more useful — but the Scirocco is not a head-turner like the Pug, and the Eos is exceptionally boring in comparison.
The RCZ is a car that makes bold statements: it says I like to feel good driving a car, and I like you to notice me feeling good about driving this car and hopefully you feel a little envious. I like that. Fortunately, in New Zealand, Peugeot won’t be selling thousands of these cars, so you’ll remain in a fairly exclusive club if you have one in your garage.
Price: $64990 (auto or manual)
What we like:
- Usable amount of power, but without compromising economy
- Handling is very neutral and feels firmly planted on the road
- Surprisingly large boot for this type of car
- Price is sensible
What we don’t like:
- Steering wheel should be an inch or two smaller to enhance the sportiness
- Glovebox — what glovebox?
- Rear seats are token
Words and photos: Darren Cottingham