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.

Yorkshire Post - Motoring - - FEATURES -

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.

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