Our long-term Peugeot RCZ R has been with us for a couple of months now, so I decided to take the keys over Christmas and new year to get to grips with the new Peugeot Sport-fettled machine.
Over my two weeks with the car, I racked up over 800 miles, and in that time I grew to love the rowdy French coupe. I’d not been too fussed about getting behind the wheel, perhaps because it’s been a while since Peugeot made a truly great driver’s car, but my lack of interest was short lived.
As much as I love our other long-termer, the Suzuki Swift Sport, when it came to swapping cars again I was gutted having to hand over the RCZ R keys to CT CEO Adnan.
The R is far from perfect though, so here’s a roundup of what I loved and hated during my time with the car:
The design is one of the most controversial aspects of this car, and is the reason why I was quite ambivalent towards driving this thing. I’ve grown to love it; there really is nothing like it on the road, and while its weird proportions make it look odd from the side, the front and rear look great. Particularly with the more aggressive R addendum in place, walking back to the car always made me smile.
If there’s one thing manufacturers always struggle with, it’s entertainment systems. The unit in this coupe is pretty awful; menus aren’t intuitive to navigate, and entering a destination into the satellite navigation system is a laborious process.
Connecting a phone to Bluetooth is so clumsy that even after I’d figured out how to get my phone connected it took me ages to figure it out again when my friend wanted to connect her phone. That being said, the speakers are brilliant.
I’m all about a low-slung driving position, and it’s in this area that the RCZ R excels. The steering wheel has a lot of adjustability, which allowed me to put the seat right back to accommodate my lanky legs, while pulling the wheel towards me. The bucket seats are big, comfortable and hold you in place through corners.
On Christmas Eve I drove the RCZ R to meet some friends at my local pub. As it was my first day with the car I was more than happy to avoid alcohol and instead play taxi. None of my friends are into cars, and during the course of the night I was asked what car I was driving at the moment. As soon as I said ‘Peugeot’, I could see the disappointment in their face…
The conversation then moved away from cars very quickly, and it wasn’t until we all left and they saw the car that they got excited. As much as I would never let a badge dictate my own purchase, it did get me thinking. I was sitting there trying to explain why it’s actually really good, and no one cared. Some people might find that hard to swallow if they’ve just chucked £32k on a funky fast sports coupe.
Peugeot proudly says that this is the most powerful 1.6-litre engine in the world, and it really is a joy to use. The turbocharger ensures there’s oomph all the way around the rev range, making swift progress on the road a breeze. After spending many hours driving the Suzuki Swift Sport, which is free-revving, if slightly asthmatic lower down, the care-free punch in the Peugeot was a delight.
The engine is such fun that foot-to-the-floor tomfoolery at all times is pretty much a necessity. The R can get fairly decent economy when you’re not going crazy, but you’ll find yourself spending a lot of time at the fuel pump - during my two weeks with the car I made four trips to the forecourt. Which brings me onto another frustration…
The fuel tank filler is located on top of the rear bootlid/rear fender section. At first I thought this was awesome, because it made you feel like you were refilling a Nascar racer. This was almost immediately replaced by frustration, because you have to hold the pump in an awkward position.
The problem with front-wheel drive is that you’ve got the front wheels responsible for both turning and putting power down. Traditionally this has meant that, as the tyres scrabble for grip, the wheel is tugged this way and that, leaving you to wrestle the steering wheel just to keep going straight. In corners, physics dictates that something has to give, typically leading to understeer.
Many modern FWD cars, such as the Seat Leon Cupra 280, have trick differentials that divvy up the power in a way that makes the car enjoyable at the limit - the RCZ R is no different. The Torsen differential might be clumpy at low speeds, but the way it lets you get on the power through a corner is uncanny. Plant your foot in a straight line (in the dry), and there’s enough torque steer to make things a bit fun without being frustrating.
You can be quite violent with it, and it just sticks. The low centre-of-gravity helps, as do the sticky tyres. It’s so confidence-inspiring I probably drove it harder than I’ve driven any car I can think of.
They are seriously pointless. We all know that 2+2 coupes tend to have useless rear seats, but the RCZ R takes this to the next level. Not only is there zero leg room, the super-sloping roof means that head room is at a minimum, too.
I gave a couple of friends a lift home one night, and the only way my tiny mate could squeeze in to the back was to either put her legs behind the seat on the other side, or have the passenger pull their seat so far forward their legs were in the glovebox. The driver’s side rear seat is literally only of use to young children. (Check out our new RCZ R video to get an idea of how claustrophobic the back seats can be).
Most cars these days have super light pedals and steering to make inner-city traffic nightmares just that little bit more bearable, and while it’s pleasant in town it has no place in performance cars. When you’re on it, having resistance makes it easier to make millimetric changes in throttle input or steering angle. The RCZ R’s pedals are weighty and firm, while the barely-contained torque steer puts up just enough fight to keep you alert.