Recent years have seen Peugeot step out of its design comfort zone by a considerable margin, what with cars like the 407 Coupé, 208 and 3008. It’s not been a path paved entirely with gold, however. For every hit there’s also been the occasional aesthetic miss. Still, for a company doing battle with the likes of the ultra-successful Volkswagen, the positives have outweighed the negatives.
Neither company has a stellar track record when it comes to genuine sportscars, though. Hot hatches yes, but finding success in the two-door coupé market hasn’t been easy. Volkswagen has its latest generation Scirocco, but for sheer ‘wow’ factor Peugeot’s RCZ easily trumps the German pretender. And in a classic case of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’, for the model’s scheduled refresh Peugeot bosses have resisted the temptation to mess with a winning formula.
In essence the RCZ retains its striking looks, with only the car’s grille getting the makeover treatment. Gone is the wide mouth stance of old, replaced by a toned-down treatment in line with current Peugeots. You only need to look to the 208 and, more recently, the 2008 crossover to see the positive effect of the new corporate nose treatment, and this more mature approach to exterior design that should ensure the RCZ’s looks remain contemporary for a good few years to come.
On a practical front the ‘new’ RCZ gains a handful of subtle interior trim updates plus some welcome updates to the equipment lists of the two-model Sport and GT line-up. Of note is the inclusion of a suitably sporty-looking smaller dimension steering wheel and shorter throw gear lever for the flagship GT variant, plus combination leather and Alcantara trim for the Sport model.
Thankfully, visually the RCZ remains unlike anything the company previously produced. Regardless from what direction you approach the RCZ, there’s only one word to describe it: bold.
Looks will only get you so far, though. Along with rediscovering its style mojo, Peugeot has pulled out all the stops in the driving department. Once famed for its hot hatches, recent Peugeots have displayed a more mature approach to ride and handling. However, with the RCZ Peugeot has made a big step back in the right direction.
With its accurate and weighty steering, good brakes and ride control, itself delivering an impressive balance between sporting firmness and urban-speed comfort, there’s much for the enthusiastic driver to like. In keeping with the car’s low-slung stance, the driving position offers a wealth of adjustment and the ability to sit low and relaxed inside the snug cabin.
Mechanically the revised RCZ hasn’t really changed, although Peugeot’s modest engine line-up still delivers a disproportionate level of fun and refinement.
The basic choice is between two petrol motors and a diesel. The entry-level car gets a 1.6-litre 156 horsepower turbo petrol motor plus there’s a 197 horsepower flagship unit. On the diesel front there’s a 163 horsepower, 2.0-litre HDi engine, which, and no points for guessing this, won’t be headed to our shores. All versions come with a six-speed manual gearbox plus the option of a six-speed auto on petrol variants.
While all models serve up a pleasing combination of refinement, economy and a brisk turn of speed, it’s abundantly clear from a drive in the high power petrol model that it offers a more racy experience akin to a hot hatch when you’re in the mood and a relaxed GT experience when you’re not. Thanks to the flagship petrol motor’s abundance of torque, there’s no need for a constant flurry of gear changes, and you can also take full advantage of the engine’s ample reserves for effortless overtaking or trickling along in city traffic.
The car is on the pricier side compared to its rivals, but includes a lengthy list of standard kit, running from alloy wheels, air-con, sports seats and a decent stereo in the Sport to bigger wheels, leather, parking sensors plus auto lights and wipers for the GT variant.
In a market dominated by conservatively styled German coupés, in refreshed form Peugeot’s RCZ continues to offer a more visually arresting alternative for buyers seeking an added value combination of refinement, looks and performance in one appealing package. Score.