If there’s one thing the French are known for, it’s flair.
Fashion. Cuisine. Art. Architecture. A lot of things about France have a certain flair about them, same goes with their cars too, and the Peugeot RCZ is certainly a fine example of this.
Unusually enough the RCZ is an interesting mix. It may be made by Peugeot, but the car itself was designed by a German. Not only that, it's manufactured at an Austrian facility. And it is certainly the only Peugeot passenger car that doesn’t have numbers in its nomenclature.
The unmistakeable double-bubble roof is inspired by design house Zagato to which the 'Z’ in its three-letter moniker is rumored to be based on. Designed by German Boris Reinmöller, the sports coupe made its first concept appearance as a 308 RC Z at the 2007 Frankfurt Motor Show; the car received raves and praised due to its design. The car was confirmed for production when it was displayed once again at the 2008 Geneva Motor Show. More particularly interesting is that the roof extends to a similarly shaped rear windscreen.
You may have spotted an RCZ review here before, but this is the facelifted version which features a restyled front to reflect the new design language of the French marque. It now features a front grill split into upper and lower parts with LED daytime running lights extending from the lower grill that double as driving lamps in lieu of the old halogen reflector lamps. The headlights meanwhile get more angular and modern.
Being based off a 308, the RCZ has a significantly long wheelbase compared to similar models like the Audi TT, MINI Coupe S and the VW Scirocco; models it is commonly pitted with. Being pinned longer, it also is larger and wider car but sits nearly as tall as the rest. While it does cast a similar demeanor to the TT, the RCZ features a more forward cockpit and a larger and more useful trunk.
As you make your way inside and settle into the driver’s seat, you’ll notice the neatly laid out controls and displays surrounding a flat bottom but otherwise bland-looking steering wheel. The dashboard is also based off a 308 with a centrally located analog clock giving it a race car feel coupled with the 'Zagato roof'. The electronically adjustable seats are low with nice bolsters to hold you on more spirited drives. Entertainment is via a JBL audio system which accepts CDs and digital players through the USB port, aux port, or Bluetooth. The rear seats are there merely for decoration; believe me, we tried. The air-conditioning does take a bit of getting used to and needs a brief moment to cool the cabin.
Under the hood is a 1.6-liter high-pressure turbo engine which has a very linear power band with virtually no boost lag. The engine is based on the Price Platform shared by PSA Peugeot-Citroen and BMW Group which has derived engines for several performance models like the 208 GTI, 308 GTI, Citroen DS3 Racing, MINI Cooper S, BMW 1-Series, BMW 3-Series and the BMW X3. It gets around the city with its smooth power delivery and packs enough power out on the open to road to keep you from getting bored. The 156 PS-rated engine is mated to a 6-speed automatic. Gear ratios seem to be well thought of and matched well with the engine. Shifts are smooth and precise in both automatic or manual mode.
Driving in metro streets, the RCZ does feel a bit bumpy due to the low center of gravity, sporty suspension and low profile tires on the 18-inch wheels. It's not too stiff, but as with most sports coupes, there is usually certain level of comfort sacrificed in the name of vanity. Out on the open highway, it moves nicely on nice smooth surfaces and helping you slice through traffic with ease. And finally, on the winding twists of mountain roads; it performed quite well and felt so balanced that you might actually forget it was a front-wheel drive.
For safety, it comes with anti-lock brakes with electronic brake force distribution and brake assist; while ESP and ASR helps keep you in control of the car. It comes with keyless entry, however we wish it came with a push start button instead of needing a key to fire up the car.
The Peugeot RCZ is a looker without a doubt. While it does look fast, it won’t give you a rush that would push you to your seat; but it's swift and agile enough to give you some driving thrills. French flair comes at a price and it is set at PhP2.85M, quite hefty considering this is not yet the 200 PS performance version.