Peugeot RCZ not just a pretty face

Peugeot RCZ is a stunning, head-turning coupe that looks much more expensive than it really is.

Peugeot RCZ is a stunning, head-turning coupe that looks much more expensive than it really is. - Credit: Peugeot

With a bit of lottery luck motoring editor Andy Russell is happy to help his son's girlfriend live her Peugeot RCZ dream.

I promised my elder son's girlfriend that if I won the lottery I would buy the car of her dreams.

So when my numbers came up I had no hesitation in going into a local Peugeot dealer and buying a brand new RCZ sports coupe as a special birthday present for her.

And having driven the latest RCZ I totally agree with her choice and feel it was money well spent.

Peugeot has just given the RCZ a refresh which includes a completely new face, making it look even more stunning – this is one of the most visually-exciting cars for the money, one that turns heads wherever you go, with its wide muscular stance, sensuous flowing curves, double-bubble roof and rear screen and athletic haunches.

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And it's not a case of all style and no substance for the RCZ drives as good as it looks.

The three turbo charged engines have been carried over so that means 156 and 200bhp 1.6-litre petrol – the former with six-speed manual or automatic transmission – and a 163bhp 2.0-litre diesel. Later this year there will be a 260bhp 1.6-litre turbo petrol RCZ R – the most powerful production Peugeot ever – with uprated chassis.

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The RCZ R will be the ultimate for bragging rights but the 200bhp version is more than enough for most people. It has an extremely flexible power delivery and the mid-range muscle means you don't have to work it hard to make decent progress which also helps economy with 35 to 43mpg overall in everyday driving. Unleash all 200 horses and the performance is scintillating with the engine spinning eagerly to peak revs, without ever feeling stressed, and the noise is acoustically enhanced on manual petrol models with a diaphragm amplifying the engine's characteristic sound at high revs. It's glorious yet remains quiet enough for long-distance cruising.

It's just a shame that the manual gearbox needs a deft touch for smooth shifts and can't be hurried at low revs. That said, my test car was very new and the gear change might improve with use.

The RCZ has been designed as a driver's car and it lives up to the promise with its wide stance, low centre of gravity and fat, grippy tyres keeply it firmly planted, hugging the road bend after bend. Front suspension on 200bhp models has been uprated with a special lower bracing bar to make it even more agile and aid cornering stability.

The downside is a rock-hard ride and lots of tyre noise on poor surfaces. And it's made worse at low speed by suspension noise over bumps and lumps which gets irksome. Fortunately the ride improves on the open road – the RCZ is a car with a need for speed.

The fascia looks fabulous with sports dials, lots of gloss black and alloy trim, top-notch materials on the dashboard with twin stitching highlights and, sitting between the two central round air vents, a clock the same size which is a real focal point.

As coupes go the RCZ makes for practical, everyday transport – provided there are only two of you. It's a 2+2 so if you want to carry anyone other than small children in the back forget it – just getting in is difficult for anyone bigger and the seat backs are very upright.

But this coupe has a good 384-litre boot – shallow but with a big square floor and some underfloor storage – so will hold a decent amount of luggage especially if you use large soft holdalls. Rear seat backs drop to for extra practicality, doubling carrying capacity.

Available in Sport and GT, the entry model includes 18in alloy wheels, dual-zone air conditioning, rear parking aid, USB box with Bluetooth and automatic lighting. GT costs £2,400 more, but is chosen by more than 80pc of customers, gets 19in alloys, interior sports kit with sports steering wheel and gear lever and leather seats and trim. And the RCZ now also boasts a host of personalising options including bodywork stripes, aluminium, sand or new matt black roof arch colours, black front grille bars, matt or satin carbon roof finishes and 10 alloy wheel designs in different colours.

Harriet was pleased with her birthday surprise but had expected a real RCZ after my lottery win rather than a small model. But, as I told, I'd only won a tenner.

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