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Words: Simon Taylor
Featured in the April 2011 issue

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There’s no better way for a car manufacturer to launch a refreshed brand image than by introducing a new class of model, one perhaps it has not offered in the past. A good example of this practice is the Peugeot RCZ coupé that hit UK showrooms last summer.

I found, when I conducted a test, that it really is a head-turner. Mind you, I was expecting something special from Peugeot was going to turn up after its successful racing activities in the world-wide Le Mans Series. Be assured, this is no cosmetic exercise based on a main stream model. There is a lot of the excellent drive pedigree in this vehicle and it should prove a real sales winner for Peugeot.

This RCZ is a stand alone special car that has plenty of spice, plenty of zest yet a certain coolness about its presence. Visually, it projects a performance image that is realised by the ‘punch above its weight’ 1.6-litre engine, developed in conjunction with BMW. It is good for 156 bhp in petrol injected form. Add a turbocharger and the output bumps up to 200 bhp. This vehicle could never be accused of being a sheep in wolf’s clothing.

This car will have vast appeal, not only to the young gun, but also to the trendy career lady, the ‘grey panthers’ sans grandchildren, and all sorts of others who could be bowled over with enthusiasm for this latest creation from the French manufacturer.

This is a true coupé, though the slightly dished crease of the central roof panel suggests a folding top might add more fun. However it might confuse the issue with the admirable 207 and 307 Coupé Cabrio models. As has been the case with compact coupés in the past, rear seat accommodation is a token offering, suitable for the school run to a kindergarten, or better still to augment the boot capacity which is actually more generous than looks suggest.

Accessing the front seats is a slide-in operation. Seat comfort, enhanced by a heated system on the test car, is a ‘fit like a glove’ experience. It’s supportive in all the right places to ensure that the performance can be enjoyed. Both driver and front seat passenger are well secured to cope with the acceleration and cornering forces that could be experienced under really challenging driving.

The engine is a gem, smooth, and potent with a satisfying engine note. There is plenty of rapid pick-up and notable urge under acceleration. Peugeot claim a top speed of 133 mph with 62 mph (100 kph) reached from rest in a creditable 8.3 seconds. A combined fuel consumption figure of 42.1 mpg suggests to me a good score on the index of performance rating.

This car is made for driving, though the excellence of the power delivery also makes for an easy life under cruising conditions. Lifestyle is to a high standard, including things like leather upholstery; efficient air conditioning; optional easy-use satellite navigation; and alloy wheels on low profile tyres with a puncture repair kit.

I am not surprised that Peugeot has come up with this iconic product because the company has recently been successfully demonstrating a range of attractive yet individualistic products. I suspect the RCZ is just the kick-start of an exciting new era for Peugeot.

Price from: £23,245.

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