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Peugeot RCZ Sport 1.6 HDi

Click to view picture gallery“It may be something of a cliché,
  but first impressions really do
  count... a lot. For proof, run your
  eye over Peugeot’s striking new
  sports coupe, the RCZ
...”


IF YOU CAN LIVE WITH BEING THE CENTRE OF ATTENTION then the RCZ's looks alone would make it the ideal car. However, that other cliché the one about beauty only being skin deep doesn't apply because under the RCZ's handsome part-aluminium bodywork you'll find an assured, can-do sports coupe.

The undoubted highlight of the RCZ's design is the stand-out, Le Mans-inspired double-bubble roof and dark-tinted rear windscreen, enhanced by the almost theatrical arc of the glasshouse's elegant aluminium side bars. But the roof is not just for looks — it works to smooth the airflow over the car, channelling 'dirty' air away over the muscular-looking tail.

The excellent aerodynamics are confirmed by the fact that you can drive the RCZ with the windows down without being blasted and buffeted — try that on most cars and you'll be forced to shut them long before you hit 40mph.

For those interested in making a statement, the roof panel can be specified in carbon-fibre (or, alternatively, in satin black or brilliant black) while the dramatic arched roof pillars can be finished in a choice of aluminium shades.

Glance over your
shoulder and you might
be rather surprised
to spot a pair of rear
seats in such a
sporty-looking machine
even though the RCZ
is billed as a 2+2
...”
Swing open a door and drop into one of the voluptuous sports seats (the RCZ is as undeniably as low-slung as it is sexy) and you'll find a smart, although not quite as attention-grabbing as the outside, interior notable for its high level of quality.

Glance over your shoulder and you might be rather surprised to spot a pair of rear seats in such a sporty-looking machine even though the RCZ is billed as a '2+2'.

Frameless doors and a tilt-and-slide mechanism on both front chairs aids access to the 'occasional' rear seats. For many owners these will rarely be used and, if they are, then only for shopping or storage. We did fit in a tallish adult, and he was quite happy — but it was only for a twenty-minute trip. Parents will be glad of the three-point Isofix fixtures in the two rear seats to accommodate child seats.

Out of sight — and even more unexpected than rear seating — is a generous 384-litre boot. Pull the lever in the boot to fold the backrest and this doubles to an almost flat load bay with a 760-litre capacity. Minimised or maximised, it's a big advantage over its competitors and makes the RCZ perfectly suited for long-distance touring holidays à deux. For the record, the RCZ's official extra-urban fuel consumption is 62.7mpg. Now there's something to look forward to if you're motoring down to Spain for the summer. Advantage RCZ!

A final word about the boot — as is fast becoming the norm, there's no spare wheel or space-saver to steal valuable luggage room; just a puncture repair kit. Oh, and there's a hidden 30-litre multi-compartment storage tray under the boot floor for odds and ends.

Front seat passengers enjoy decent head, shoulder, leg and foot room — the RCZ proving more spacious on the inside than expected. The powered, leather-covered seats (nicely bolstered and with integral head-restraints, 3-stage heating and adjustable lumbar support plus, on the driver's side, 2 memory settings) are supportive and very comfortable. A centre armrest offers variable height settings without cramping the handbrake, and tops off a handy storage box.

Drivers will be more than satisfied with the low-set, sporty driving position especially as, despite the visually low 'greenhouse', visibility out to the front and sides is very good indeed and placing the RCZ on the road is easy.

The large rear screen and rear quarter lights also make for relatively straightforward parking; if you prefer a little help when reversing, a graphic appears on the driver's display at the top of the fascia, plus there are also audible rear sensors.

The steering wheel
is flat-bottomed, leather
wrapped and has
great-to-touch perforated
work areas and
chrome-covered
thumb
cut-outs.
..
The steering wheel is flat-bottomed, leather wrapped and has great-to-touch perforated work areas and chrome-covered thumb cut-outs. It also has generous height and reach adjustment. Like the well-chosen mix of trim materials, the cabin ergonomics are well-considered; the switchgear is well sited and the instruments crystal clear.

The hi-fi and climate controls, as well as a smart analogue clock, are housed in the centre stack that sweeps down from the dash to the base of the centre tunnel and the nicely-to-hand gear lever. A compact swan-neck handbrake saves on clutter and works perfectly. All dials are enhanced by chrome bezels and overall the cabin atmosphere is one of quality and attention to detail.

Neat touches that make the RCZ easy to live with day in and day out include the abundance of storage spaces around the cabin, from a cooled glovebox to large door pockets, and the opposed action wipers that sweep outwards from the centre to keep more of the windscreen clear in bad weather. And showing dedicated attention to detail, evidently somebody at Peugeot even spent time checking how the folding door mirrors would look when parked; they look great, and that's not just down to chance.

Despite the keen pricing, the Sport model is kitted out with Sport front seats, automatic dual-zone climate control, cruise control, speed limiter, rear parking aid, power mirrors and windows, drive-off auto central locking, auto wipers, heated power-fold mirrors (on demand and automatically on locking), decent MP3-compatible 6-speaker audio/CD system that comes bundled with hands-free Bluetooth, folding rear bench seat, front and side airbags for both front occupants and an electronic stability and traction control system with ABS and electronic brake force distribution and emergency brake assist. Hill Assist is also part of the package. Externally, the Sport model comes with 18-inch alloys, black roof panel, sports exhaust and an active rear spoiler.

But when your car looks this good you'll be in a hurry to drive it. Fire up the engine — in our case the 163bhp turbodiesel although 156 and 200bhp petrol versions are also available — and you won't need much road to find out that the diesel version offers smart off-the-mark acceleration with 0-62mph done and dusted in 8.7 seconds. Maximum speed is 134mph. It's as willing as it is flexible and zips along with no hint that it's a diesel; pick-up, even in top gear on the motorway, is good.

As you would hope
from such a seductive
body, the RCZ serves up
an entertaining and
involving driving
experience thanks to
high levels of grip and
taut body control
...”
Enhancing stability at higher speeds is an automatic (with manual override) active rear spoiler that deploys in one of two positions to benefit fuel consumption and road holding: the first position (19 degrees) opens at more than 53mph (and folds away below 34mph); the second position (34 degrees) is activated at speeds in excess of 96mph, not returning to the 19-degree position until speed drops back to 90mph.

As you would hope from such a seductive body, the RCZ serves up an entertaining and involving driving experience thanks to high levels of grip and taut body control. Enhanced, of course, by the willing low-down grunt from the 240lb ft of torque on tap between 2-3,000rpm. And when you need to rein her in, the RCZ's strong brakes are always there for you.

Even riding on 18-inch rims, the pleasingly firm ride never becomes harsh or uncomfortable and offers a sensible compromise that accommodates both everyday and press-on driving — and we predict RCZ owners will be doing quite a lot of the latter.

Talking of pressing on... You'll praise the six-speed manual 'box's fast, crisp and accurate gear change action along with the quick, speed-sensitive steering; a good match for the RCZ's overall balance and agility. Through both tricky and sweeping bends the RCZ holds its line, riding flat without any drama. Certainly it can hold its head up high alongside rivals such as the Audi TT and VW Scirocco.

With its head-turning styling and value-for-money pricing, the RCZ is a sure thing — quite frankly, who gives a damn whose badge is on the bootlid of a car this tasty. And if your head rules your heart, consider this: the RCZ is forecast to have the next best residual values to the class-leader, the Audi TT. And this too: 41.4mpg overall driven hard. — MotorBar

Peugeot RCZ Sport 1.6 HDi
| £22,250
Maximum speed: 134mph | 0-62mph: 8.7 seconds | Overall test MPG: 41.4mpg
Power: 163bhp | Torque: 240lb ft | CO2 139g/km