"Stunning and a fantastic drive, the RCZ is Peugeot's best car by far."
With its supercar good looks and competitive price, the Peugeot RCZ is a real head-turner. But the most satisfying things about this Audi TT rival are that it's fun to drive, comfortable and relatively cheap to run. The front feels spacious and the boot is a reasonable size, so it's easy to live with day-to-day. It's a 2+2 coupe by name, but you can forget about using the back for anyone but small children as the seats are tiny. All three engines offer decent economy and performance, but the 53mpg diesel rivals superminis for fuel consumption.
The RCZ is the best driver's car that Peugeot has built for over 20 years. From behind the wheel, it feels special thanks to the excellent interior detailing – with rubberised stereo buttons and dashboard stitching. The RCZ's steering is accurate and the gearbox has a precise shift. Whichever engine you choose, the RCZ drives like a sports car should, with lots of grip and predictable, neutral cornering. All engines have pace, but deliver it in different ways: the diesel has loads of low-rev pulling power, whereas the two petrol engines respond to being revved hard - and are therefore sportier and more involving. The top of the range petrol model has upgraded front suspension for an even more sporting drive.
Sometimes car companies make the mistake of giving a sports car suspension that's so hard it rattles the occupants about. Not so Peugeot with the RCZ. It still feels firm over poor road surfaces, but it smoothes out most roads like a decent sporty family hatchback would. It can get slightly shaky on the motorway, and larger potholes will send a big thud through the cabin, but the RCZ balances sporty handling and comfort very well. The front seats are spacious, while engine, wind and tyre noise are low - even on cars with the larger 19-inch wheels. However, while there's plenty of adjustability for the seat and steering wheel, the pedals are positioned very high, which can be uncomfortable for some drivers.
The RCZ is based on the 308 hatchback, and many of the RCZ's parts, including the engines, have served in other Peugeot models. The RCZ is a flagship car for the company, so reliability should be okay. Safety features are good - the car comes equipped with all kinds of electronic driver safety aids and four airbags. It hasn’t been crash tested by Euro NCAP, but the 308 scored a full five stars when it was tested in 2009.
The RCZ's boot is actually quite big, and it maximises its space because the rear hatch opening and floor area are massive, making it easy to drop bulky items inside. The rear bench folds down easily to create an even bigger load area. The rear seats are almost unusable, however, as they lack any head and legroom. So, ultimately, the RCZ can’t touch the hatchback VW Scirocco for practicality, but that's the price you pay for the Peugeot's style.
Value for money
Compared to the upmarket Audi TT, the RCZ is great value, as it undercuts it on price and comes with more equipment as standard. Cars in Sport specification get alloy wheels, dual-zone air-conditioning and rear parking sensors, but 80 per cent of buyers opt for the top-of-the-range GT, which adds electric heated leather seats, front parking sensors and bigger wheels. All models now get an acoustic windscreen, which improves interior quietness at speed and automatic headlights.
If you’re after small hatchback running costs, choose the smooth and economical HDi diesel, which returns 53.2mpg and 139g/km for annual road tax of £120. Both petrol units are relatively economical, and there's not much difference between the 42.1mpg 156bhp petrol engine and the more powerful 200bhp version, with 40.9mpg, but the latter is a sharper drive.