When the original RCZ 2+2 ‘double bubble’ roof Sports Coupe was shown initially as a design concept in 2007, motoring pundits described it as the car Peugeot could NOT afford NOT to build and put into production to raise their image and brand profile.
It duly appeared as a production car in September 2009 reaching the UK in the latter half of 2010.
In the UK sales of the RCZ were 2,076 in 2010 increasing to 3,205 in 2011,followed by 2,404 in 2012 and so far this year 1,086 have been sold.
The RCZ is the flagship of the Peugeot line-up and it has recently had a mid-life refresh in terms of styling, improved specification, a wider choice of options with new colour and trim combinations although there have been no mechanical changes. But at the end of this year we will see the RCZ R variant with a new 1.6-litre THP 260bhp turbocharged petrol engine introduced. This will be the most powerful production model in Peugeot’s history.
For now the 2013 revised RCZ continues with Sport and GT levels of equipment with the choice of the 1.6 THP 156bhp petrol manual/auto, 1.6 THP 200bhp petrol manual and 2.0-litre HDI 163bhp turbodiesel power and drivetrain choices. A limited edition Magnetic level of specification has just been added with the choice of all three engines but only with manual gearboxes.
The top selling version will remain the GT 1.6 THP 156bhp manual. The GT spec takes 85% of UK sales with the THP petrol 156bhp unit being the most popular taking 45% of registrations. This version is priced at £24,000. Prices for the range start at £21,600 and go up to £27,735.
The standard Sport specification continues with 18-inch alloy wheels and a host of familiar features including dual-zone air conditioning, rear parking aid, USB and Bluetooth. For 2013 this is enhanced by the addition of automatic lighting, including ‘Approach’ and ‘Follow-me-home’ features. New options on RCZ Sport include half leather and leather/ Alcantara trim treatments.
At the best selling GT level, the latest RCZ is fitted with 19-inch alloys wheels as standard and front and rear parking sensors. While in the cabin there is more sports kit with a smaller steering wheel, a short-throw gearlever, leather upholstery, electrically adjustable and heated front seats and sports pedals.
The limited edition Magnetic version gains over the GT level Peugeot’s Connect navigation system with Connect SOS and Assistance, different 19-inch alloys and unique leather colours in black or red to compliment the Pearl White or Nera Black exterior paintwork.
The 2013 exterior changes are mainly at the front with a smaller and more refined grille, sharply styled new headlights and new signature daytime LED running lights. The RCZ bodyshape continues with its low and wide curvy shape with the passenger cabin and it ‘double-bubble’ roof positioned midway in the overall length of the Coupe. There is still the rear spoiler positioned below the rear window which deploys automatically or manually.
There are no technical changes to the engines, drivetrain or suspension settings. This is a pity when it comes to the unforgiving suspension as it has been a common theme of complaint to date and Peugeot seem not to have taken any steps to address the problem. The RCZ has never given the best of ‘rides’ over poorer road surfaces. The firm settings and 19-inch wheels do not cushion the impacts from potholes and the ride is jittery as the wheels patter over rippled surfaces. On smoother surfaces the ride becomes more comfortable. The stiff suspension does keep bodyroll to a minimum though and cornering grip is in keeping with the Coupe’s sporty image. The steering weight is generally on the heavy side of neutral but I liked that because it overcame the lack of feedback from the electronic system and gave some preciseness during fast cornering.
The 1.6-litre, four cylinder high pressure turbocharged petrol engine produces 156bhp but more importantly 177lb ft of torque from just 1,400rpm. This high-ish torque output at low rpm makes this engine very responsive in the low to mid range speeds so there is no over-use of the six-speed gearbox. Top end performance doesn’t lose out either with a top speed of 133mph and zero to 62mph taking 8.3 seconds. Special mention for the gearchange with its short-throw gearlever which was a joy to use and very smooth and precise.
The real-life fuel economy was good as well with 40.2mpg recorded on my week long test drive covering all types of roads and traffic conditions. Officially the figure is 44.1mpg so my test car came close. With CO2 emissions of 149g/km the VED road tax £140 a year and company car drivers will pay 21% in Benefit-in-Kind tax. Insurance is rated at group 28E.
Inside the latest RCZ is plush and well put together, it looks and feels of high quality and I like its easy to live with design. The smaller steering wheel does mask the corners of the sports instruments but generally it was a nice place to be. The same cannot be said about getting in and out of the Coupe body. Whilst it has this ‘double-bubble’ roof for good headroom, for anybody approaching six feet in height getting through the low front door frames is difficult and more than once I hit my head – hard. Being a 2+2 Coupe means seating in the rear is always going to be limited, very much so with the RCZ, you should really treat it as a two seater. That said there is a largish boot of 384-litres which grows to 760-litres with the two rear seats folded making it an ideal stylish, long-legged, fuel frugal Coupe for longer journeys where luggage has to be carried, just so long as there is only the driver and front seat passenger on board.
The Peugeot RCZ is never going to trouble the Audi TT Coupe or the Volkswagen Scirocco for sales in the UK, but I like its looks and the rarity ownership value, plus the sensible performance. It only really comes up short in its appeal because of the less than easy access if you are a six-footer and legroom if you need to carry rear passengers.
MILESTONES: 2013 Peugeot RCZ 2-Door 2+2 Coupe, GT THP 156. Price: 24,000. Engine/transmission: 1.6-litre, four cylinder, turbocharged petrol, 156bhp, 177lb ft of torque from 1,400rpm, 6-speed manual. Performance: 133mph, 0-62mph 8.3 seconds, 44.1mpg (40.2mpg on test), CO2 149g/km, VED road tax £140, BIK company car tax 21%. Insurance group: 28E. Dimensions/capacities: L 4,290mm, W 2,107mm, H 1,352mm, boot/load space 384-760-litres. Warranty: 3-years/unlimited mileage. For: Stand-out styling, frugal but fun engine performance, spacious boot, good specification, high quality interior. Against: Firm and jittery ride, poor rear/rear quarter visibility, headroom through the door frames, very limited rear seat legroom. Miles Better News Agency