Peugeot RCZ coupe (2009-2015)
“The Peugeot RCZ is a coupe with the styling of a concept car, which was on sale from 2009 to 2015. The French Audi TT rival is fun to drive and fairly cheap to run”
- Big boot
- Concept-car looks
- Punchy, economical engines
- Dated interior
- Firm suspension
- Cramped rear seats
It’s hard to believe the Peugeot RCZ hasn’t been in production since 2015, because it still looks futuristic today. With a completely unique design, it would almost certainly have found customers even if it was boring to drive, but luckily it was great fun despite its hatchback origins.
The bulk were sold with either a 1.6-litre petrol engine with 156 and 200bhp, or a 2.0-litre diesel with 163bhp. Towards the end of its life, the RCZ R gave enthusiasts something to remember, with 266bhp and enough mechanical upgrades to ensure we reviewed the Audi TTS rival separately.
With its standard engines, the RCZ is brisk without being sports-car fast. The dash from 0-62mph takes 8.3 seconds with the entry-level petrol, which feels responsive, but can still return a reasonable 44mpg and costs £145 in annual road tax. Its main rival, the Audi TT, was slightly more economical but also cost more to buy. With 200bhp, the coupe takes 7.6 seconds to go from 0-62mph, while economy suffers by a couple of miles per gallon and road tax goes up to £185 a year.
When the RCZ launched, there might still have been some negative connotations about putting a diesel engine in a sports coupe, but the 2.0-litre HDi works well in the car, despite its 8.7-second 0-62mph time making it look the slowest on spec sheets. Once up to speed, the diesel feels powerful and makes the RCZ a relaxing cruiser, capable of 54mpg and costing £110 in annual road tax.
Only the entry-level petrol was available with an automatic gearbox and with most customers opting for the six-speed manual, the automatic is quite rare in the UK. While Peugeot mainly sold sensible hatchbacks alongside the RCZ, it actually handles very well, with hardly any body lean through corners, lots of grip and plenty of information fed from the road to the steering wheel. With front-wheel drive, it’s not quite as involving as the rear-wheel-drive Toyota GT86 or BMW 2 Series, but it’s certainly one of the most enjoyable cars Peugeot has sold.
We’ve mentioned how the RCZ’s exterior design has aged well, but the same can’t be said for the interior, which is pleasant enough but features materials and technology that were already starting to look dated before the advanced new Audi TT and BMW 2 Series were launched. Even Peugeot’s own 208 GTi has a better interior, as it’s a newer design.
Peugeot wasn’t stingy with equipment, though: even the entry-level Sport models have larger 18-inch alloy wheels, air-conditioning, cruise control, parking sensors and Bluetooth to connect your phone. The popular GT trim added front parking sensors and even bigger wheels, along with heated leather seats. The 200bhp petrol benefitted from its own GT Line trim, with sat nav and xenon headlights.
Depending on how you approach the RCZ, it can be considered practical for such a low-slung car, with a reasonable 384-litre boot. Similarly, there’s plenty of space for the driver and passenger – as long as you don’t mind being low down – but the chances of most adults being able to sit in the back seats are almost non-existent. They’re really only suitable for small children or soft bags.
Impressively, despite no longer being on sale, the Peugeot RCZ continues to perform well in our Driver Power owner satisfaction survey, coming 65th in 2016 – an improvement on 74th place in 2015. Unfortunately, the RCZ was never crash-tested by Euro NCAP, but we have to trust it would have done well, as Peugeot has a good track record for building safe cars.