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Peugeot RCZ GT THP 200 2+2 Coupe

Click to view picture galleryThe ingredients are all there in the
  stunning-to-look-at Peugeot RCZ
 
2+2 Coupe: the looks, the latest —
  and brilliant
200bhp 1.6-litre
  turbocharged powerplant plus a
  great crafted interior. But is all of
  that enough?”


TO GET THE HEAD-TURNING LOOKS you don't have to pay top dollar 25,595 for the new 200bhp manual-only RCZ: there's a less powerful 1.6 petrol engined version with 156bhp and a choice of either a manual or auto transmission; or a 2.0 HDi turbodiesel with 163bhp hitched up to a manual 'box.

Whichever RCZ you choose, it will look superb: that unique double-bubble roof; distinctive aluminium roof arches; and the active rear spoiler. Most will want the latest 200bhp direct injection petrol turbo engine. Just added to the RCZ line-up, it provides fantastic low down torque (202lb ft from just 1,700rpm), a top speed of 147mph and 0-62mph time of 7.5 seconds. What isn't there to like about this car?

Just added to the RCZ
line-up is the latest
200bhp direct injection
turbocharged engine that
provides fantastic low
down torque, a 147mph
top speed and zero to
62mph in 7.5 seconds.
..
Well, apart from the limited headroom and getting through the doorframe for us six-footers, it's called a 2+2 — but the rear legroom is so minimal and the headroom limited for adults that the space is better suited for luggage. My real gripe with this car, however, is that it doesn't truly fulfil its 'joy of ownership' potential — not even with this latest 'hot' engine.

The RCZ's main competitor is the Audi TT so it should be only right that Peugeot would do more with their brilliantly styled coupe in the way of thrilling handling and a compliant ride. Once the gloss has faded from owning such a good-looking car, day-to-day living with a 'skateboard on cobblestones' soon gives the driver a dose of reality.

With adjoining styling centres in Paris, PSA Peugeot-Citroen can produce exciting and fulfilling models such as the Peugeot 3008 crossover (my car of the year in 2009) and the Citroen DS3, their sporting hatch and my car of the year for 2010. But I'm not convinced the RCZ delivers the rewarding ownership potential it should.

Not that there seems to be any shortage of would-be owners; Peugeot has full order books and there's a healthy demand for good used RCZs. Over 2,000 units have been sold in 2010 — more than the original expectation — and there is currently a three-month waiting list for a new RCZ.

Added allure to the line-up comes in the guise of the hotly-anticipated THP 200 version, fitted with a six-speed manual gearbox. The front suspension has larger brakes and hubs with a strengthened lower bracing bar to enhance the handling and sure-footed ride. THP 200 models are also equipped with the Sports Kit as standard; this includes a small diameter steering wheel and a short, quick-throw gear lever.

Specification is high even for the standard Sport version: 18-inch alloy wheels, sports front seats, folding rear bench seat, automatic dual-zone air conditioning, rear parking aids, alarm, central locking, electronic stability programme and traction control, power front windows and door mirrors, active rear spoiler and twin exhaust pipes are just some of the items.

The six-speed close-
ratio gearbox, with its
short throw lever,
is a delight to use and
enhances the sporting
drive experience.
..”
GT versions gain leather upholstery, electrically-adjustable and heated front seats, front parking sensors, automatic lights and wipers and 19-inch alloys — which could be part of the problem with the ride.

The interior is of the highest quality with a classic sports car layout although the numerous switches and controls do take some getting used to. The control stalks are hidden behind the chunky steering wheel and that again is a disappointing oversight in a coupe of this potential.

The superb 1,598cc turbocharged petrol engine comes from the PSA-BMW partnership. In this state of tune its power output is 200bhp but it's the high torque of 202lb ft from 1,700rpm that gives this particular RCZ its lion's heart.

It's very responsive; progressive but with a real rush of power when needed. The torque is the key to this: the powerplant is quiet, flexible and refined at low speeds but springs instantly into life when the throttle is pushed harder. Top speed is an impressive 147mph, zero to 62mph takes 7.5 seconds — more impressive when you remember that it's only a 1.6-litre unit.

Fuel economy is officially 31mpg urban, 50.4 extra-urban and 40.9mpg in the combined cycle — and a commendable 38.1mpg during my week's testing. The CO2 emissions are a relatively-low 159g/km, which means a road tax bill of 155 (company car drivers will pay a low-ish 20 per cent in Benefit-in-Kind tax). The six-speed, close-ratio gearbox, with its short throw lever, is a delight to use and enhances the sporting drive experience.

Straight line handling and cornering grip are acceptable and harmonize with the engine's performance. However, the RCZ lacks real pace and composure because of its non-compliant, uprated suspension's inability to cope with our poor road surfaces. Combined with the GT version's larger wheels, the suspension fails to absorb jolts from potholes and does not have the capability to smooth out road surface ripples and cambers to give a balanced and controlled ride.

Stunning visual appeal,
great engine and
transmission and high
build quality — I just
wish the RCZ
was as good overall
as it looks
...”
Driven even at reasonable speed on non-motorways or dual carriageways, the car launches itself from one bump or pothole to another in a pinball machine manner that's both tiring and tiresome. Its main rivals, the Audi TT and the VW Scirocco, are much better at coping with our shoddy roads and for me are more rewarding to own.

While it handles well, the 200bhp RCZ really disappoints with its inability to provide a compliant level of ride comfort and composure. Limited rear seat legroom and headroom and hidden control stalks are also demerits.

That said, on the plus side you do get stunning visual appeal, a great engine and transmission and high build quality. It's also cost effective to run and provides decent (384-760 litres) boot space. But I just wish this RCZ was as good overall as it looks. — David Miles

Peugeot RCZ GT THP 200 2+2 Coupe | 25,595
Maximum speed: 147mph | 0-62mph: 7.5 seconds | Overall Test MPG: 38.1mpg
Power: 200bhp | Torque: 202lb ft | CO2 159g/km