Peugeot RCZ II 2013: Road Test

words - Adam Davis
Stylish coupe re-vamped with extra equipment and cost… But no increase in performance

Peugeot RCZ II 2013
Road Test

Price Guide (recommended price before statutory & delivery charges): $58,990
Options fitted to test car (not included in above price): Metallic Paint $800
Crash rating: N/A
Fuel: 95 RON PULP
Claimed fuel economy (L/100km): 6.9
CO2 emissions (g/km): 159
Also consider: Audi TT (from $65,450); Nissan 370Z (from $69,500); BMW 125i Coupe (from $56,200); Volkswagen Scirocco R (from $47,990) 

 

At the local launch of the 2013 Peugeot RCZ update, Peugeot Automobiles Australia General Manager Bill Gillespie referred to the stylish coupe as Peugeot’s “halo car”, an aspirational purchase aimed at bringing teeth back to the French lion. After a week driving a mix of suburban and country roads, we can confirm that the latest version loses none of the original’s footpath appeal. On the back of Sebastien Loeb dominating Pikes Peak in his incredible Peugeot 208 T16, it does seem as if Peugeot has re-discovered its sporting mojo.

At $58,990, the latest RCZ adds around $4000 to its predecessor’s list price. In what must be the simplest pricing structure available in Australia, each of the three variants – turbo petrol manual, turbo petrol auto and special-order turbo diesel manual – cost exactly the same. Generously equipped as standard, there are no options either.

For the extra outlay, new RCZ adds different front-end styling with its roof arches altered from silver to a matte-finish black. Xenon headlights and a six-LED ‘light signature’ add further visual clout to the upgraded “Technical Grey” road wheels, which are now 19-inches in diameter (up from 18- inches) and wear sticky 235/40/R19 Continental tyres.

Inside, there is more leather trim and a pop-up satellite navigation screen… And not much else over its predecessor... That’s no bad thing, for the RCZ was generously equipped to begin with, its heated, electrically-adjustable leather seats being a particular highlight.

Finalising the update is the introduction of Peugeot’s capped price servicing plan for RCZ. This provides purchasers with three years or 60,000km of service. With service intervals set at one year or 20,000km, unless you’re piling on the kilometres only three visits to the service department will be required, at a cost of $370 each.

Slipping into those heated leather pews was particularly welcome in the blustery Melbourne winter weather encountered during the test. The interior certainly felt (and smelled) premium, the stitched, soft leather dash and elegantly finished dash dials a step above the swathe of (admittedly far cheaper) premium hot hatches that give the RCZ such a fright on price lists.

The Peugeot’s ‘double bubble’ roof was reminiscent of famed Italian coachbuilders Zagato, and provided ample head-room, even for my 185cm frame.

On start-up the new satellite navigation screen appeared from the centre dash-top, but felt far away from the driver, a feeling extended when reaching for the climate control vents. Indeed, ergonomically there were as many misses as there were hits – reaching for the seat belt was a chore, the extra stalks behind the wheel for audio/cruise control would have been far easier to access if they were on the wheel itself, and the seat bases were too short for decent thigh support. I also found the pedals well offset towards the centre of the car.

Contrasting these niggles were standouts – the upper seat bolstering was sculptured and comfortable, the pedals were at correct height for heel/toe downshifts in this petrol manual model, and the gear lever and steering wheel provided pure tactile pleasure.

The turbocharged, 1.6-litre turbocharged ‘four’ produces the same 147kW/275Nm outputs as in the previous version – when mated to the six-speed manual gearbox. Autos receive a weedy 115kW/240Nm tune, while the manual-only 2.0-litre 120kW/340Nm turbo diesel continues at tiny volumes.

On the road the powerplant (which recently won the International Engine of the Year award in the 1.4-1.8-litre category for the seventh year running), was a willing companion, somehow combining old-school Weber carburettor induction noise with smooth and responsive acceleration throughout the rev-range. In fact, so abundant was the low-rev response that it could trigger traction control when accelerating out of tight junctions.

The great thing about the engine, though, was that it kicked on through to 6500rpm and felt stronger than its quoted 147kW in the process, even if it was off the pace of the aforementioned hot hatches, like Renault’s Megane RS 265 or Volkswagen’s Scirocco R.

Combined with the rorty, responsive engine was a manual gearshift which is among the best I’ve experienced, with a superb blend of tactility, shift length and accuracy.

While the driveline inspired confidence, the tautly-controlled body was initially a little uncomfortable on bumpy urban roads, the road wheels grabbing at road cambers with some torque-steer evident under acceleration.

Shifting to smoother, twistier roads revealed the RCZ as a slow-burner, the firm suspension revealing total mastery of body-roll, grip levels notably improving with some heat in the Continentals. Even the jarring ride made more sense in this scenario, keeping pace with the road’s imperfections to allow maximum enjoyment of that lovely engine/driveline combination.

Braking was strong throughout, while the electric steering was quick just off-lock before settling into more linear response as steering angle increased. While accurate, it offered little in the way of feedback. This was particularly noticeable on wet roads – with little information coming through the tiller it was difficult to place the car with confidence.

Despite being a decent drive, it is impossible to ignore the RCZ’s list price. Sure, it is $6460 less than the 118kW/250Nm 1.8-litre Audi TT—it’s most direct stylistic rival —but the 160kW/270Nm BMW 125i is almost $3000 cheaper.

When you throw the equally individual, 188kW/330Nm Volkswagen Scirocco ($47,990) into the mix, RCZ’s value equation makes little sense. In isolation, it provided enjoyable motoring, but extend the net and you can find equal pleasure for less outlay.

 

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Published : Wednesday, 10 July 2013
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