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Peugeot RCZ 163HDi driven

2010-06-09 06:58
Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer Peugeot
Model RCZ
Engine 1 997cm3
Power 122kW @ 4 000r/min
Torque 320Nm @ 2 000r/min
Zero To Hundred 8.7 seconds
Top Speed 216 km/h
Fuel Consumption 5.3 l/100 km

JD van Zyl

It has been quite a number of years since any Peugeot model has had us sitting bolt upright. The RCZ Sports Coupé has changed all that.

This is undoubtedly one of the finest looking Peugeots ever created, and one of the most attractive cars of 2010. First shown as a concept at the 2007 Frankfurt Motor Show, the RCZ has stayed impressively faithful to the original concept (Peugeot has even included the double-bubble roof and rear windscreen which must have presented its designers with more than just a few headaches).

And in real life it looks even better than on these pictures. Sportively low-slung, aggressively wide-stanced and accented by two beautifully curved aluminium roof arches, the RCZ really is pretty in a head-snapping kind of way.

Pity then that its biggest asset should also be its undoing. But I am getting ahead of myself.

Okay, so it’s a looker. How does it drive?

In the UK, where we managed to get our grubby paws on the sporty new Peugeot, buyers can currently pick between a 116kW 1.6-litre petrol engine and the 122kW 2.0-litre diesel unit which we drove. Peugeot will be adding a new 149kW/275Nm 1.6-litre powertrain to the RCZ engine line-up later this year, and there are also plans to launch a hybrid (based on the diesel HDi 163 engine) in 2011.

For now most buyers are likely to pick the oil burner, and understandably so – it is refined, torquey and with a combined fuel consumption of 5.9 litres/100km it won’t burn a hole in your wallet at the forecourt. It is also keen about its business, though “quick” better describes its performance than “fast”.

Are saying it is a touch sluggish?

For a car that looks as racy as this, yes. The RCZ sprints to 100km/h in a somewhat lazy 8.7 seconds – which is 1.2 seconds slower than its most obvious competition, the 2.0 TDI Audi TT Coupe’s 7.5 seconds, and closer to the 2.0 TDI Scirocco’s 8.1 seconds. But what the RCZ lacks in straight-line acceleration, it compensates for with its driveability.

On the twisty roads of the Millbrook proving grounds where we put it through its paces, the RCZ impressed us with its sure-footedness and predictable handling. And with 320Nm of grunty torque under your right foot, hustling it through the bends is a cinch. The steering is also well-weighted and gives you a pretty good idea of what is happening at the front feels.

A “pretty good” idea? You are not convincing me here...

Well we are not quite convinced either, which brings us back to our earlier point. You see, it is impossible not to expect a car as sporty looking as the RCZ to set the tarmac alight. And if you expect the RCZ to perform as well as it looks, then you are headed for disappointed. For a truly rewarding drive the RCZ’s engine lacks the required firepower, its clutch and steering falls short in the communication department and the overall drive lacks the engagement and excitement one would ultimately expect.

But while this may seem like a bad thing to those of us keen on rorty performance, many buyers don’t want or need anything more than a strikingly good looking car that drives and handles well. And next to each of those three points the RCZ gets a check. The fact that it slips in at a price significantly lower than the Audi TT (in the UK the entry-level RCZ’s price is over £6,000 – R67,000 – lower than the cheapest TT Coupe) only adds to its appeal.

And don’t forget that 149kW model which is on its way. Posting a 0-100km/h dash of 6.5 seconds it not only promises to be significantly quicker than the HDi 163 model, but Peugeot is also fitting it with a lower bracing bar which will give the car a livelier and more agile road holding. Until that model is launched, we’ll reserve our final judgement.

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