Just over two hundred years ago, two brothers, Jean-Pierre and Jean-Frederic Peugeot, took a brave decision. They would set up a company in their father's corn mill that would first sell saws and tools and go on later to sell bicycles, motorbikes and cars. More than 55 million vehicle sales and two centuries later, the lion emblem originally adopted to illustrate the strength of the teeth of the brothers' handsaws adorned the most exciting machine the French company had ever created.
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One designed very much to sharpen its sportscar credentials. The exclusive, yet affordable RCZ. Back in the early Nineties when Peugeot used to dominate the classic Le Mans 24 hour race, it also used to dominate the market for affordable sporting cars, the GTi the must-have shopping rocket of its day.
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It died in , along with Peugeot's involvement on the track and the Gallic brand was never quite the same. Until the launch of this RCZ coupe in It was based on the humble underpinnings of the company's first generation family hatch and appeared just after this famous French marque had at last once again triumphed in Le Mans, overtaking Audi, whose TT sportscar this RCZ was designed to see off in the showrooms.
Here, we were told, was the new face of a very different company, its first passenger car badged by name, not by number, and, we were promised, the first in nearly twenty years to rekindle the bite of the Peugeot brand. In the years following, we saw some of that potential fulfilled but enthusiasts were still left wanting more.
To try and satisfy them, Peugeot facelifted the RCZ in to create the version we're going to look at here. A year later in , they added a flagship RCZ R variant to the range, powered by a more potent bhp version of the 1. The RCZ was finally phased out early in At this car's original launch back in , it was prettier than anything else you could get for the price.
Who would argue that it still is?
Used (14) Peugeot RCZ HDi GT 2dr in Perth | Arnold Clark
This is one of those rare things: This is a shape simply dripping with beautiful detail, most notably with the deliciously voluptuous rear window where two perfect curves of glass merge seamlessly with the twin humps of the roof, this car's so-called 'double-bubble' styling signature. It looks sensational, offering a handcrafted feel with enough wow factor to make a pricier Audi TT seem very ordinary indeed. As for the aesthetic changes made to this post facelifted version, well, we're not sure they were needed, but at least they were done very subtly by original stylist Boris Reinmoller.
There are bonnet lines intended to create a more compact feel, emphasising an updated satin-finished marque emblem. Also satin-finished are two added chrome front grille bars, shaped like 'Samurai sword blades' according to the designers. They certainly enliven a central air intake extended on each side by daytime running lights, each created from six LEDs and subtly sculpted in the form of claws. Move inside through the large doors and you'll find an interior Peugeot was rightly proud of.
The driving position's low-set and sporting but on base models, the lovely prominent circular clock and assorted metallic accents aren't quite enough to completely divert your attention from some of the hard plastics - on the glovebox lid for instance - that are a legacy of a derived dash. Still, the leather seats included on higher spec models lifted the ambiance and many original owners wisely fitted the extra-cost integral leather pack that extends hide to the upper part of the dashboard, making it all feel properly premium.
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And practicality? Rather improbably on a car of this kind, it is something of an RCZ virtue, despite the fact that unlike its immediate rivals, this Gallic sportscar has a boot rather than a rear hatch. On this evidence, it is perhaps a better way to go, for before you start folding seats, this RCZ's litre luggage capacity is significantly greater, than that of an Audi TT and on a par with the apparently larger VW Scirocco.
There's another litres of space under the floor too. Fold the rear seats and the total luggage capacity figure rises to litres. You might be tempted to keep them folded too as, unlike the VW, this isn't a place you could reasonably seat two adults - not unless you had something against them anyway. What To Look For. We came across quite a few reliability and quality issues in our RCZ ownership survey, so you'll need to shop carefully on the used market. We came across reports of squeaky brakes, rattly exhausts, internal rattles, a grinding sound on brake application and a knocking sound on the front suspension.
On one car, the hill start brake kept sticking on and the overheating warning light kept illuminating. On another, the owner experienced oil leaks, water leaks, had to fit two new clutches and experienced faults with the sat nav and the stereo. One car had its thermostat sensor fail, had an oil leak from the gearbox and had to have sections of its exterior chromework replaced. On another, the cylinder head had to be replaced, along with the coms module, the boot release, the sat nav screen and the temperature sensor.
Though the emotive looks aren't quite as racy once you take a seat inside, it's still hard not to approach a drive in this car without a sense of anticipation. What exactly will a coupe that looks like this really feel like to drive? If you've done your homework before slipping behind the wheel, your expectations might be tempered a little by the reality of the fact that the RCZ's underpinnings aren't those of a hardcore sports car.
But so what? That's the case in just about any affordable performance machine and it's certainly true of this model's most obvious rivals, Audi's TT and Volkswagen's Scirocco. You might though, still be forgiven for expecting that such a futuristic shape would clothe something a little more hi-tech than the kind of front driven, torsen beam-suspended set-up found on any ordinary family hatch, in this case borrowed from Peugeot's Focus-sized MK1 model But as other brands have proved over the years, the ingredients available matter a lot less than the way that they're used.
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