Peugeot’s lion roars again

Peugeot's RCZ
Peugeot's RCZ
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By Nick Jones

Audi’s TT is an iconic sports car that gets better, smoother and more recognisable with each iteration.

For quite some time there has been nothing to compete with it.

But out of the blue French car maker Peugeot launched the RCZ and from the design of this great looking car it has the German benchmark well and truly in its sights.

Back in the 90s, Peugeot were known for their hot hatches, the 205GTi being among the very best.

And for a while there was a belief that with their superb chassis design it didn’t matter what model you bought if it had the Peugeot badge on it then it would handle like a sports car – even the big estates.

But can the RCZ win back the cult status of the 205GTi?

I first saw the RCZ at the Motorshow, in London, and as Peugeot hadn’t really announced any new sports cars for about a decade I thought it would be just another concept doomed never to get into production – but I was wrong.

Aesthetically, is there a better looking car for just over £20,000?

No, there isn’t, certainly not at the price.

Peugeot has used the underpinnings of the 308 to keep costs down. But they have bolted on a body to die for – like the lovechild of Cameron Diaz and Daniel Craig – curves and muscles in all the right places and likely to appeal to everyone regardless of sexual orientation.

The nose is very Peugeot, with its bulging headlights and air intakes and familiar bonnet contours that neatly disappear towards the A-pillar.

The roof is somewhat domed and looks very similar to that of the TT. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

But the rest of the exquisite body sets benchmarks of its own, with its bulging wheel arches and wide stance – it looks like something Lady Penelope might drive on chauffeur Parker’s day off or if the pink limo was in the garage.

It’s gorgeous and when parked on your drive you can’t help but keep going out to look at it.

It’s not just a pretty either – it has the two rear seats, as does the Audi, with more headroom than one might imagine and a decent boot too, upwards of 400 litres and more than 100 litres more than the TT. And that can be increased with the rear seats folded down.

Special sporty seats are fitted as standard, with integrated headrests and a whole raft of standard kit is available, dependent upon which trim level you choose.

I’m not going to list everything it has as standard, but the plushest version gets electric leather seats, leather trim, bigger wheels and tyres (19in) plus auto tilting door mirrors, auto windscreen wipers and much, much more. The list goes on but the basic point is that it’s a very well specified car anyway.

Under the bonnet my test car had the HDi 163bhp diesel engine fitted, good enough for 134mph to to romp past 60mph in 8.7 seconds from standstill. With superb torque from well down in the rev rangem this is a relaxing car to drive, believe me.

The performance doesn’t hurt economy either. Sipping diesel this beauty will return 53mpg easily which gives it an annual road tax bill at today’s prices of just £110 and emissions of 139g/km.

It has very good visibility too, despite being very low.

I do like automatic diesels but this manual six-speeder really suits the car and it would be my request at the dealer.

The TT is a tough nut to crack, but with the RCZ Peugeot’s lion is roaring again and I think TT finally has competition.