Peugeot catches the eye with the body beautiful
Vive la difference – the new RCZ from Peugeot Carmel Stewart reports from its launch in northern Spain.
THE RCZ is a car which heralds the start of something new for Peugeot.
It is the first of three or four bespoke vehicles due to be launched in the next few years which break away from the traditional high volume family cars to present a different side of Peugeot to 21st-century buyers – the flair and fun side.
It is also a car which inadvertently highlights the difference between the male and female mind. Aesthetically striking, its attracts many admiring glances, none more than for the rear windscreen which is gently creased along its length in what Peugeot delicately refers to as a double bubble and which – and here comes the gender divide – I saw as a neat looking bottom and which my male colleagues referred to as a cleavage – take your pick.
Either which way, it is an interesting design feature and one which posed many a problem to its French manufacturers.
The really clever trick was to achieve the required design feature without distorting the rear view.
But it was the equally eyecatching aluminium roof arches which caused the major engineering headache. These are a complex construction, with an irregular shaped curve. A two-piece product was doable with difficulty: a single structure was impossible, yet, thanks to their UK manufacturers, there they are, sitting atop a 2+2 sports coupé which looks unlike anything else on the roads today.
VW and Audi may well point to the Scirocco and the TT which have big pluses in both design and performance, but the RCZ is the new ‘deuce coupé’ on the block.
It is clearly a vehicle which had been lurking in the back of the Peugeot psyche for some time. It was originally inspired by the Le Mans 908 which took to the track in 2005. Once the production designer got the green light, it took just six months from computer screen to presentation as the 308 RCZ Concept at the Frankfurt Show in 2007.
Two years later, it was on show at Geneva as a production model.
Its smooth and finely balanced exterior is such that, if you ignore the wing mirrors, it would be possible to image driving off from either end – a mechanical push-me-pull-you a la Dr Dolittle – a shape which aids the aerodynamics.
The fine aesthetic balance is matched by the driving experience for all but the most demanding of drivers. Built on the wide-track
Aesthetically striking, its attracts many admiring glances.
version of the Peugeot’s midsized platform as used for the 308, it is flexible without being frisky. Poised and confident it stays rock solid through every sweep of the road, ignoring all efforts to unsettle its composure. The set-up is such that all but the most challenging of road surfaces are absorbed with ease.
Just two engines will be available from launch – a 1.6litre turbocharged 156bhp petrol and a 2.0litre 163bhp diesel, both linked to a sixspeed manual gear box as standard. Both have more than enough power at their disposal to cope with the national speed limits and then some.
The petrol was not available to test but the diesel tops the pops when it comes to clean green economy offering 53.2mpg and 139g/km as opposed to the petrol’s 42.1mpg and 155g/km.
Worth a wait and the additional cost will be the new high-performance, turbocharged 200bhp petrol which brings with it a reworked chassis, shortthrow gearing, a reconfigured smaller steering wheel, larger disc brakes and a perfectly pitched exhaust note.
Top speed clocks up at 146mph but any of the three engines will enable the ultimate eye-catcher to swing into action. At speeds of more than 53mph, the rear spoiler pops up. Top 96mpg and it rises to a more prominent setting.
Activated in transit, it creates a downforce for increased stability and improved efficiency but poseurs can press the manual activation in stationary traffic to check their perfect profile in shop windows.
Both petrol units were developed in partnership with BMW, so the 200bhp version is also strutting its stuff under the bonnet of the John Cooper Works MINI.
Prices start at £20,450 for the entry level Sport with the 1.6litre 156bhp petrol unit, rising to £25,050 for the fullykitted GT 200bhp, 1.6-litre petrol manual with leather interior, 19-inch alloy,s plus automatic/electric everything – and all while emitting CO2 at the rate of just 156g/km. Not as clean as the 139g/km of the diesel unit but pretty good for a performance model.
The interior is as sleek and smooth as the exterior with soft touch materials, metal pedals, sporty fascia, flatbottomed steering wheel and back-lit instrumentation. Access to the rear +2 bench should only be attempted by those with their own hips or with little legs and Velcro fastening shoes which light up with every step.
More impressive space is offered in the boot which at 384 litres will easily accommodate luggage for two. Drop the rear seat backs and that capacity ups to 760 litres.Up front, occupants are treated to comfortable, hip-hugging low-slung seats.
On the Continent, this car will be sold with just one trim level and everything else as an add-on. Here, where we are overburdened with company car rivalry, we have the choice of two – the entrylevel Sport and the GT. Optional extras will hike up the final tally considerably should the index finger get stuck on the tick box, but ESP, hill assist and traction control are fitted as standard.
Peugeot is confident that the RCZ will sell well but not so well that its exclusivity is compromised.
The RCZ is not intended as a volume seller – between 2,000 and 4,500 in Britain is the broad estimate. We have been allocated 23 per cent of production.
STUNNING: Peugeot RCZ.