It has become clear to me that the age of quirky individual cars is slowly receding into automotive history. What has prompted this rather bleak view of our driving future is the week I have spent with the hugely under-rated Peugeot RCZ-R.
This car is to be deleted at some point in the near future from the brand’s portfolio presumably because it doesn’t sell well enough. Peugeot’s guv’nor Maxime Picat has said that the regular RCZ – and the hot RCZ-R tested here – is to be cancelled along with several other ‘niche’ models to ‘rationalise’ their model range. Picat said, “I love the RCZ, but I want us to focus on making the best of our core models, from the 108 upwards, and to exploit what we then have to the best of our abilities. For each of those cars we can choose attributes and be the best. Chasing niches is for premium brands; for us it has been a distraction.”I’m not so sure I agree. I know there are niche manufacturers but I don’t see a problem with mainstream car makers also offering something a little different amongst all the hatches and ubiquitous SUV’s and, indeed, a few of them do. I guess though that profit is king and this is the shape of things to come.
Anyway, the good news is that the Peugeot RCZ (which I drove last year here) and the RCZ-R are still available to buy at the moment and should be on your short list for a quality sports coupé. The car featured costs £32,250 OTR which, in this case, includes extra for the optional Moroccan Red metallic paint and the black door mirrors. It is powered, amazingly, by a 1.6L four cylinder turbo-charged engine banging out a stonking 270bhp that whisks the car to 62mph in a frisky 5.9 seconds. Emissions aren’t bad, considering, at 145g/km and the best economy figure was a reasonable 33.1mpg despite some spirited motoring.Last year I was driven around Silverstone in a RCZ-R by a professional racing driver who was obviously as mad as a box of gout-afflicted frogs. He admirably demonstrated Peugeot’s claim that the sports car is indeed a race-bred road car. This was borne out as they prised my fingers from the grab handle later.
It is fitted with a Torsen diff, uprated and lowered suspension, big brakes and a set of bespoke 19” wheels. I can confirm that out on the road the handling and road-holding are brilliant. The car stays flat through corners and both occupants are held in place by seats that could have come out of an Italian supercar. All the while though the ride remains firm but comfortable. I drove it to Milton Keynes and back (an horrendous trip) but inside the roomy interior all was sweetness and light.
The Peugeot RCZ-R is a sports car that is based on the old 308 (but don’t let that put you off) and drives through the front wheels so torque steer is a small issue if you give it the full beans, but it just serves to keep you on your toes. No slacking off. Torque steer’s a given to a greater or lesser extent though with any powerful front-wheel driver. The six-speed gear shift with its fancy knob is properly notchy and old-school meaning that gear changes were crisp and accurate with no fumbling.Although such things don’t really exercise me that much some aspects of the interior are a bit of a disappointment. The cascading piano-black dashboard is dated now with some fiddly buttons and there are no controls on the steering wheels which means some poking about to set things up. Streaming music via the Bluetooth is easy enough but I couldn’t get the sound quality to where I would have liked. There’s Peugeot Connect navigation, CD, USB and 12v so all devices are covered as you would expect.
As mentioned, the leather/Alcantara front seats are superb but, as is always the case in these little coupés, the rear seats are pointless. A baby seat, sure, (Isofix as standard) but that’s it. You can however drop the seat-back down and increase the boot size even more which may not be necessary very often, given that the boot is a bit of a highlight. Brainlessly, I omitted to photograph it so you’ll have to take me on my word.Beneath that ‘double-bubble’ rear window and roof is a trunk that would give a hatchback a run for its money. There’s even a cargo net. There’s room for a week’s luggage for two in there. Great design. Xenon directional lights, automatic wipers and all the safety features you would expect are on board giving the car a high specification along with real day to day practicality. I can’t see the business community rushing out to buy this car (unless it’s for that special personal assistant, if you get my drift) but should it appeal then BIK is 22% at the time of writing.
So it seems like I have driven the RCZ-R for the last time. Peugeot has birthed a little classic car in the making and then, after a scant five years, casts it off like an unwanted pet. I love the unique and quirky styling. I love the way the accelerator requires commitment. I love the engine and the seats and the way the car attacks a corner and I hate the badge snobbery that leaves a little gem like this out in the cold because folk want a posher – and more expensive – emblem on the bonnet. It’s daft. For this money, despite the minor flaws, this car is bargain. Get it while the going’s good. Geoff Maxted