Peugeot RCZ - bold and beautiful

Peugeot's new RCZ Coupe is as good to drive as it is to look at, says ANDY RUSSELL.A 200th birthday is something special and Peugeot is celebrating in style with its head-turning 'halo' model - the new RCZ Coupe.

Peugeot's new RCZ Coupe is as good to drive as it is to look at, says ANDY RUSSELL.

A 200th birthday is something special and Peugeot is celebrating in style with its head-turning 'halo' model - the new RCZ Coupe.

The Lion goes from strength to strength and it certainly has with the stunningly desirable RCZ, an exclusive niche model that raises Peugeot's profile and shows the French marque's flair.


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I can't remember the last time a car attracted so much attention, with people stopping to stare as it passed by or admiring it in car parks, hardly able to believe it was really a Peugeot.

Unveiled as a concept three years ago, it caused an instant stir.

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Peugeot pulled out all the stops to bring it to reality, remaining faithful to the original's flowing lines and determined to keep the eye-catching 'double-bubble' roof and rear screen and aluminium roof arches.

Targeting the likes of the Volkswagen Scirocco and more expensive Audi TT Coupe, the RCZ is as bold as it is beautiful and driving it lives up to the promise.

Three engines are available - 156bhp and 200bhp 1.6-litre turbo petrol, the former with six-speed manual and optional six-speed automatic gearbox, and a 163bhp 2.0-litre turbo diesel. In the future expect a hybrid four-wheel drive version with the turbo diesel up front and a 37bhp electric motor at the back, giving 76mpg and emitting 95g/km of carbon dioxide.

I drove the turbo diesel but, while loving the way the strong torque gives effortless low-down acceleration and flexibility and 50 to 60mpg in mixed driving, I suspect the turbo petrol models will be even more fun to drive and have a more engaging engine note - something very important in a sports coupe - and should return 40mpg driven sensibly.

Regardless of which engine you go for, the RCZ is a car with superb handling that just sticks to the road, flowing through corners with good feel and feedback from the well-weighted steering. Taking the Peugeot 308 platform as a starting point, the RCZ has a lower ride height and low centre of gravity, is wider and sits on 18 or 19in wheels. The result is a flat, taut stance through corners - in fact it's so good to drive that I found myself taking the longer way home via twisty country roads rather than going by A roads in the usual procession of traffic.

The trade-off is that the low-speed ride is firm - it feels quite unsettled over poor surfaces and bumpy over old roadwork scars and raised manhole covers, but things smooth out with speed, when the RCZ feels far more composed.

In fact, the RCZ is a very good long-distance cruiser with a huge boot for luggage - not something you can say about a lot of coupes - even though it is really only a two-seater. Up front there is plenty of space to stretch out but legroom and headroom limits the two rear seats to small children - you could squeeze an adult in crossways for a short journey but turn the audio system up to drown out the moaning and be prepared to help wriggle them out again!

Lift the boot lid and the amount of space comes as a surprise. It goes back a long way and is deep enough to take a large supermarket shop or enough cases and bags for a touring holiday for two without having to fold the rear seat back flat.

The fascia is inspired by that of the 308 which means straightforward, conventional dials and gauges and logical, easy-to-use controls, but it's been given a lift with classy piano black trim inlays on the centre console, metallic surrounds to the circular air-vents and on the steering wheel and a large circular clock in the centre of the dashboard. The low driving position has good adjustment for the steering wheel and seat, while useful storage spaces will swallow sunglasses, CDs and other odds and ends.Reversing into tight spaces is a doddle with that large, low-edged rear screen giving excellent rear visibility but the biggest problem, with the RCZ being wide and the doors long, is you need a big parking space to get out of the car.

What disappointed me though was a couple of minor niggles about the build of my test car - the 12-volt power socket between the front seats had pulled loose and broken and the metallic inlay on the driver's door grab handle did not fit properly - easily rectified but not what you expect of a car starting at just over 20 grand.

Two versions are available - Sport and GT. The former includes 18in wheels, dual-zone climate control, rear parking aid, front and side airbags, stability and traction control and anti-lock brakes, while the extra �2,300 for the GT adds leather seats, electric and heated front sport seats, front parking aid, automatic lights and wipers and 19in alloys.

The RCZ is as good to drive as it is to look at. Accept it is really a two-seater and it makes for practical, everyday transport with a definite fun factor.

PEUGEOT RCZ GT 2.0 HDi 163

Price: �24,550 (range starts from �20,450)

Engine: 1,997cc, 163bhp, four-cylinder turbo diesel

Performance: 0-62mph 8.7 seconds; top speed 134mph

MPG: Urban 41.5; extra urban 62.7; combined 53.2

Emissions: 139g/km

Benefit-in-kind tax rate: 19pc

Insurance group: 30E (out of 50)

Warranty: Three years/60,000 miles

Will it fit in the garage? Length 4,290mm; width (including door mirrors) 2,107mm; height 1,352mm

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