Test drive: Peugeot RCZ

Max power: 200 (bhp)
Torque: 206 (lb/ft)
Acceleration: 7.6 (secs)
Max speed: 146 (mph)
Transmission: FWD, 6 gears

Let me start by saying that I am not a Peugeot fan. In fact, there aren’t a great many French cars I like at all. I think they are all pretty boring and non de script. Of course I have not lived with any or driven many, so I might not be in a good position to judge. One things for sure though – I don’t identify with Peugeot as a brand.

That is, until the RCZ appeared. Now this is one striking, good looking car. I needed to find out how it was overall and so I went along to drive the top spec’d 200bhp model.

First thoughts

This car is even more alluring in the flesh than in the pictures. It’s a very aggressive looking car in many ways. This is odd considering Peugeot have such a reputation for more female orientated cars, especially the CC cars that they sell. It feels butch and beautiful at the same time, and has some fantastic angles. The full front on shot isn’t inspiring but the rear three quarter is lovely. Huge bulging arches and 19″ wheels look the business.

Climbing in, the interior is nice and well put together. This car also carries the leather dash which adds a touch of opulence to proceedings, although it;s not as nice to touch as it looks. There’s dual climate control, heated seats, cruise control, speed limiter, auto lights, auto wipers and all the other general shenanigans you find these days.

Performance

Peugeot RCZ wheel

Matt black wheels looked good (only on black car)

With only 200 bhp and about the same amount of torque, I wasn’t holding out much hope. Especially compared to something like the torque monster that is the Focus ST. What happened though was altogether surprising. This car is slower by a most of a second to some of its rivals, yet is more engaging to drive than by quick sprint in a Golf GTI. It has its peak torque very low (sub 2000rpm) and its peak BHP right near the top of the rev range (sub 6000 rpm). What this gives you is a lump at the start and a lump at the end. Sounds bad, but it’s actually quite entertaining, and it flys through the middle with ease too. It makes you want to keep getting up towards the limiter and hearing that (slightly timid) turbocharged whine.

So it’s quite engaging to drive. It isn’t fast though. You never have a sense or pull or general charging that you get with others like the ST’s torque or the Type R’s VTEC. It feels very comfortable progress, but it’s not quite grin inducing. Smiles? Sure. Grins? Not quite. Which is a real shame. If they want this to be a TT contender, it needs to be faster, full stop. Or at least have a faster model.

Handling

This is where I felt quite disappointed. Looking at the wheels, the low centre of gravity, the wide track, it all looks promising. I’m sure there’s also a great amount of grip due to this. The problem was, I couldn’t feel it. Its very disconnected and neutral feeling most of the time from centre to the where it snatches. It snatches a bit when you find the limit or where you’re purposefully overstepping it, and the problem is the deadness before that point. It didn’t feel progressive, in fact, it had little feeling at all.

This was a big down point on the car for me. I could of settled for less than optimum feel, or just a slight feeling of disconnectedness, but not this. It’s so far away from what this car needs to feel truly greater I think.

Interior, Comfort, Practicality

Peugeot RCZ seats

Nice leather heated numbers

The driving position is great. Nice and adjustable, plus the steering wheel height and rake can be adjusted which is useful. My only slight niggle is my optimum steering position did obscure some of the secondary dials. When I moved it to see all the dials though it was still very comfortable.

The seats are supportive and very comfortable, and I like the Peugeot logo embossment – made the seats have that edge of refinement. Also as they were heated, that certainly helps. All the mod cons are here to make your journey very pleasant, plus the dash a switch gear all felt good and easy to use overall.

The rear seats are barely seats, but they are there and if you had to transport people for a short distance, they would suffice. Better used as a rear bench for shopping, coats and bags. The boot is deceptively large. It won’t take much in the way of height but it certainly has good depth.

The 19″ wheels didn’t feel crashy or hard to live with on the road as can be a problem for big wheels, which is nice. At 19″ though I can’t imagine tyres are cheap.

Final thoughts

This is an amazing step forwards for Peugeot in my books. I really enjoyed my time in this car – it’s entertaining, honest and connective with you. The steering does lack feel and the engine lacks true grunt, but overall it’s a very balanced package. At only a smidge under 22k as well, this fully loaded top engine example was great value. The key to this car comes when you get out, or when you come back. It squishes any other thoughts with its looks and charm. It’s a car that you genuinely take a second glance at as you walk away, and you’re happy to walk back towards. Well done Peugeot.

About Rob

I'm an average petrolhead - I love cars and get as much driving experiences as I can out in the world from test drives to track days.