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Let me begin by saying I like French cars. They offer the quirk, where the Japanese bring practical reliability, and the Germans strategically serve up Teutonic precision. The ‘quirky’ concept can be blanketed across all three French manufactures: Peugeot, its sister company Citroën and revel Renault.
The RCZ is a quirky sports car, but at first glance is much more than that, it is beautiful. The RCZ has collected numerous accolades from around the globe since its 2010 debut. Among the most prominent are the ‘Most Beautiful Car of the Year’ (awarded in 2009 at the 25th International Automobile Festival in France), the ‘2010 Top Gear Coupé of the Year’ award and the ‘2010 Auto Express Special Design Award’.
With these medals around its neck, it’s no wonder it has a swollen roof. Or as Peugeot refers to it, the trademarked ‘double bubble’ glass roof. This along with the rear screen, the clearly delineated roof arches, the deeply sculpted flanks and the muscular wheel arches, make it proudly attractive. Having recently undergone a fashionable refresh to the frontend, which now expresses the latest contemporary Peugeot design language, first seen on the 208 model launched earlier this year. At the core of the redesign is a stronger and more succinct grille, framed on either side by redesigned headlights and accompanied by a reshaped bonnet and a new front bumper.
The changes are subtle but distinguishable. Its streamline looks may resemble the Audi TT, but to be honest having owned two TT’s myself, I can confidently say that the RCZ is far more risqué and futuristic in its final look, and could easily be the most striking coupe in its class.
The interior is less Sci-fi and rather high-class pedigree, with beautiful fine Nappa leather, which has been precisely wrapped around the sloping dash, door panels and over its sculptural seats. The cabin is a highlight of the RCZ. There are some problems though. There is limited visibility (especially through the front windscreen). The popup infotainment system restricts frontward visibility but luckily there is a button that allows for the option of closing it and increasing your view of the road. The sloping dashboard though very attractive, is like a flirtatious lady of the night of Amsterdam. Close enough to look at but rather difficult to touch, but not impossible to reach the appropriate buttons. It would be ideal if you had shorter legs and longer arms. Boot space is great for a car this size and you will easily be able to collect an overseas guest and their bigger luggage. This big boot means small rear seating, which is best suited for young kids and quick drop-offs.
Driving the RCZ is great fun. It features a free revving 1.6 turbo engine which has plenty of shove low down the rev band, and is happy for you to let the rev needle spin into the red area. The 6-speed manual gearbox is precise, quick and very easy to manoeuvre. The chassis is taut and can be a tad on the firm side on dimpled road surfaces. On the plus side the firm ride makes for fantastic handling with almost no body roll.
Magnificently designed, eye-catching vehicle
Beautiful quality within the interior
Poor frontward visibility due to the cars bold arch pillars
Average seating position means you need to stretch to reach certain buttons
Niche car means niche customer appeal and as a result average to low resale values
The extra stuff
The RCZ comes standard with a 5 year/100 000km maintenance plan.
Its price and looks make this car hard to beat. An Audi TT may have the more desirable badge but this French bird is better looking and cheaper (it is not often in life you get that combination). The TT’s 2.0 engine is bigger and as a result means you don’t have to ‘work-it’ as much. The RCZ is a sports car after all so the whole point is to rev it. The Scirocco, being a VW is beautifully built and has the same 2.0 engine (though slightly de-tuned offering solid performance). Unlike the RCZ and the TT, it has back seats that are not just ‘benches’ but actual seats, good for average sized adults and kids. It’s my least favourite of the three cars even though it has a good price.
My money would be on the RCZ, though when the new TT is launched next year I fear my attention would swop back to the new TT.
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