What is it?
The new-for-2013, updated Peugeot RCZ coupe. Three years on from the RCZ's introduction, the Audi TT-rival has had a nip and tuck and an update to its trim, colour and equipment lists. The sportiest version – for now – is this THP 200, which costs from £23,980 in base Sport trim or £26,380 in the GT spec tested here, which 80 per cent of customers go for.
The facelift is just a cosmetic one, with no mechanical changes. It means the wide-jawed, big-headlight look that somewhat blunted the swoopy curves of the outgoing RCZ is replaced with something less gawky but also, to these eyes, too fussy. The overall look is still bold and beguiling, though; age hasn’t diminished the RCZ’s presence.
Under the skin is a 197bhp version of the 1.6-litre turbo petrol engine you’ll find in other Peugeots, Citroens and hot Minis, driving the front wheels through a six-speed manual gearbox. The front suspension is MacPherson type at the front, torsion beam at the rear, with wider track widths (44mm front, 63mm rear) than the chassis setup on its 308 hatchback relative. This top-rung RCZ also benefits from a lower bracing bar on the front suspension, designed to ramp up its agility.
What’s it like to drive?
With tough competition from the Audi TT and VW Scirocco, the RCZ has never quite topped the coupe class – but that doesn’t stop it from being a good car to drive.
The end product is actually more than the sum of its parts; the ride is firm and particularly fiddly through town, the electric power steering vague, and while the gearbox has a slick, satisfying shift, its six ratios feel too tall. Once in its flow, though, the RCZ is very capable and enjoyable. There is masses of grip, it’s well balanced, and away from rutted urban roads, the taut ride results in keen responses and impressively flat cornering. The remaining bugbear is that steering: with so little feel, it’s hard to tell when front-end grip is finally waning. The brakes, on the other hand, are impressively strong.
The engine, like in all its other applications, shines brightly. It’s as punchy as all good modern petrol turbos, but is keener to rev than most, and you’re rewarded for hanging on until the 6000rpm red line with a rorty (if slightly artificial) soundtrack and the full 197bhp.
How does it compare?
We’ve compared the RCZ to its two most natural foes – the 207bhp/£25,915 VW Scirocco GT 2.0 TSI and 208bhp/£27,425 Audi TT 2.0 TFSI Sport – in a previous group test. Both pipped it dynamically, but the RCZ is undeniably more interesting to look at. If you’re seeking the ultimate front-drive experience, though, the less curvy (but 261bhp) Renaultsport Megane 265 Cup costs from £25,245.
Anything else I need to know?
It might be a 2+2, but the rear seats are unusable for adults, while there’s a boot at the rear rather than the more practical hatchback of some rivals. Oh, and by the end of 2013 the range-topping RCZ won’t be this THP 200, but a 250bhp-plus Peugeot RCZ R…