Updated Peugeot RCZ Review

When Peugeot first showed off the RCZ in concept for over six years ago, the sheer boldness of the design got people talking. The production RCZ has been with us for around 3 years now and was due a midlife cycle refresh – in this particular case refresh is not strong enough a word. The latest RCZ is a huge improvement on a car that was already a strong proposition in the stylish sports coupe segment.

There are a couple of cars available on the market which I (perhaps rather meanly) refer to as “handbag cars”. These are cars that I imagine are bought as an accessory – a leather lined item of style and beauty that you can drive around in. However, the RCZ’s dynamism is more than a match for its striking good looks. I like the way it drives very much. This is a problem for me, because I don’t normally carry a handbag.

2013 Peugeot RCZ – The looks

My test unit arrived in a white that seemed whiter than white. OMO would be proud. With just enough silver and blackened touches here and there, the latest RCZ certainly turns heads. The face has been redesigned to fall in step with the softer lines of the rest of the Peugeot family, and is all the better for it. This is an exceptionally pretty car.

The rear retains those bold, wide haunches, which give the car a muscular stance. There really is nothing like it on the road, even 3 years after it debuted. It makes BMW Z4s look tame, and makes what I think is its main rival, the Audi TT, look very plain indeed.

Updated Peugeot RCZ – Interior and features

Where the RCZ trumps most of its rivals is in the feel and quality of the cabin. The entire dashboard is leather lined, with elegant stitching joining up all the visual spaces, from doors to windscreen. The seats are beautifully sculpted, tall one piece bucket seats – not as snug as those found in say an Audi S car, but certainly very comfortable indeed. It all combined to make the cabin feel like a very special place to be. Again, absolutely spot on for a car of this nature.

The new infotainment system is a huge leap forward from the one it replaces. A full colour screen fold out of the centre of the dash, which in a low slung car like this is quite far away from you. But it’s a decent size to do its job. The connectivity is now bang up to date, but the SatNav I found to be too difficult to use. Many cars just don’t make it easy enough to enter addresses – it’s a bit of a bugbear of mine – but it felt particularly difficult in the RCZ. It is a standard feature but I found myself using my iPad to navigate the long and complicated roads of Jozi.

Peugeot is to be commended on boot space though – it is massive in there. The front wheel drive layout means the boot can be deeper, and they’ve used this cleverly. If you really want to drive a sports coupe, but need to lug around a lot of things, the RCZ is an attractive option.

There are two rear seats, and you can actually fit a full sized person back there for very short journeys. I wouldn’t say it was terribly safe as the person will have to sit sideways. I don’t think Peugeot want people back there as the seats don’t slide forward automatically when you pull the backrest release. The rear is much more useful as a parcel shelf.

Build quality is excellent though – at least judging by sound. I didn’t hear a single rattle or squeak.

New Peugeot RCZ – Engine, Power and Performance

The latest model is offered with two variations of the 1.6 litre turbo petrol found in a host of cars. This engine has been an incredible success, with Peugeot-Citroen teaming up with BMW to create a very versatile, efficient little powerplant. It sees duty in the Mini, the Citroen DS3 and the BMW 116i. Having driven all those cars, I would say this is one of the best implementations of the powerplant, although the 116i with its rear wheel drive is very good indeed.

Unfortunately with the RCZ you can’t mix and match engines and transmissions. If you want an auto’box, you have to settle for the downtuned version, with 115kW and 240Nm. The manual transmission version gets a fair bit more kick, with 147kW and 275Nm. I’d love to sample the automatic as soon as possible to compare, but the manual gearbox version is a very decent compromise between sporting, point to point sports car, and comfortable gran tourer.

Turbo lag is only ever felt in a high gear at low speeds, peak torque is available from 1700rpm, so the car never feels sluggish. It’s a super engine this, it feels like a healthy amount of torque is always available. Acceleration of 0 – 100km/h is claimed at 7.5 seconds – but this is one of those cars that feels faster than it is. The RCZ feels excellent at highway speeds, feeling like it always has lots in reserve, while the 6th gear is perhaps just a little short for cruising.

Latest Peugeot RCZ – Ride and Handling

Looking at the RCZ, you would hope it was rear wheel drive. I certainly do. But with the front wheel drive layout, it is still an exciting drive. There is more than enough power to keep you interested and the noise has been beefed up a bit – acceleration is now accompanied by a muted but pleasantly deep growl.

In the wet and at higher speeds in the dry, you do have to be gentle on the throttle mid-corner – the nose will wash wide. But as an everyday drive, as long as you’re not overly enthusiastic, the RCZ is a very satisfying mild sports car. The car is setup firmer than I expected. It’s excellent in the corners and very smooth when the road is smooth, but when the road surface is poor you do bounce around inside the cabin a bit.

This is reflected with the feeling of each gearchange, its quite short and just notchy enough to make you feel involved, but not tire you out after a long day in the traffic.

New Peugeot RCZ – Safety rating and features

The RCZ carries a 5-Star EuroNCAP rating, featuring front and side airbags, a rigid passenger cell and energy absorbing crumple zones. EBD, EBA (Emergency Brake Assist – brakes harder than you think you have to), and DSC make up the active safety systems, help keep the car in line when you’ve run out of talent. The anti-skid regulation cuts in quite gently and feels like it has been carefully measured to keep you out of the trees, without completely cutting out the fun.

Summary – Latest Peugeot RCZ

While the RCZ may not be as involving or as quick as its rivals, the whole package feels very special indeed, and successfully makes you feel quite special when you’re behind the wheel. It has enough of a performance edge to put a smile on your face, and if you’re after some attention out on the road, it’s a very attractive, unique car that will garner you lots of attention. It is pricey but it does feels like a premium, luxury product.

2013 Peugeot RCZ – Pricing

RCZ 1.6 THP Automatic  R423 500 RCZ 1.6 THP Manual        R434 900

The pricing includes a three-year/100 000 km warranty, as well a Peugeot’s Premium Plan, a full maintenance plan valid for five years/100 000 km. Services are at 20 000 km intervals.

2013 Peugeot RCZ – Quick Specs

Engine: 1.6 litre turbocharged petrol Power: 147kW between 5500 and 6800rpm Torque: 275Nm between 1700 and 4500rpm Fuel consumption: 6.7 litres/100km (combined cycle, claimed) Fuel capacity: 55 litres CO2 Emissions: 155 g/km Acceleration: 0 – 100km/h in 7.5 seconds Top Speed: 240 km/h

Rivals – Have a look at…

The Audi TT 1.8 litre turbocharged petrol R408,000