A week with a Peugeot RCZ R

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Peugeot’s motorsport department has taken their TT rival and done things to it.

PugRCZR1Day one: Getting into the RCZ for the first time is odd. It’s low and if you’re a bit lanky you set your seat to the right place and then find the dash is too far away. It feels like a piece of furniture that’s been pushed up against the far wall. This sideboard effect is increased because what would have been the centre dash vent in lesser 308s is an oversized clock. It’s not a good start. The RCZ isn’t based on the new 308, which is quite pleasant, it’s based on the old model, which was cock. Despite this, on first impressions it feels quite good to drive.

Day two: Peugeot Sport has made many changes to this car compared to the standard RCZ. It gets a stronger block, bigger turbo, larger intercooler, racing pistons, tougher gearbox, stronger clutch, bigger brakes, wider tracks, stiffer springs, and a Torsen diff. Also, a slightly tacky R badge beside the handbrake. The net result of all these very racy changes is that it feels… normal. This is a compliment. You’d think extracting 266bhp from a 1.6-litre engine would make it stroppy and unpleasant to drive in town. It doesn’t. The ride isn’t terrible either.

PugRCZR2Day three: A work assignment in Oxfordshire and a chance to drive the RCZ on some proper roads. It’s pretty brisk, this car, and it goes round corners extremely well. There’s very little roll and very much grip. As you power through fast bends you get a sense of the car digging in and faithfully tracking where you want it to. Also, at low speed the steering is reassuringly heavy and without much self-centring, sort of like you get in a Porsche. I suspect both these things are down to the tricksy front diff.

Day four: Some more razzing around The Cotswolds. Sometimes under power on an uneven road the RCZ weaves about a bit and feels quite old skool torque steery. The downside of the fancy diff I suppose. It’s not a massive problem. Not compared to, say, being unable to push some of the dash buttons without leaning forward.

Day five: Give my mate Andy a lift in the RCZ. Andy isn’t very interested in cars. It takes 10 minutes before suddenly he says, ‘Hang on. Is this a Peugeot?’ It is. ‘If you’re the sort of person who buys a Peugeot,’ he continues. ‘What are you going to want with this?’ He’s got a point. Peugeot used to be quite dynamic. Now they’re mostly like stairlifts. Yes, they move. But not in an exciting way. The R, because it’s a bit lively, feels like it might be way off target audience. I mean, you don’t see many RCZs around as it is, do you?

Day six: A window cleaner comes round. ‘That your Peugeot?’ he asks. I tell him it is, sort of. He says some nice things about it and then dismisses it as a girl’s car so I’m not sure if he likes it. I’m sure he’d like running his squeegee over the rear window which is saucily curved in a quite a buttockular way. There are a few nice design touches on this car and it’s generally rather good looking. Only the nose spoils things. It seems to have about seven things going on, and none of them quite right.

PugRCZR3Day seven: There are, I’m sorry to say, several things wrong with the RCZ, starting with two specific faults on this press demonstrator. Firstly, something in the back of the interior rattles. Secondly, the brakes squeak. It’s intermittent but annoying to the extent that the other day in town I stopped braking just to make the noise go away and then realised I was about to drive into the back of a Toyota. There are some fundamental problems too. The cock-eyed driving position for one thing, and the way the windscreen vents reflect in the screen on sunny days. Oh, and the sat-nav that takes longer to programme than it does to get you there.

Goodbye: Farewell sporty Peugeot. As a car to drive the RCZ R is generally pretty good. It also suggests that Peugeot hasn’t forgotten how to build fun cars rather than grey mush for buffoons. As a car to own, however, it’s harder to endorse. It’s too flawed and too old, never mind that it costs 32 grand and you’d never see that back again. It’s a valiant but ultimately pointless effort.

The car talked about here is a Peugeot RCZ R. It has a turbocharged 1.6-litre petrol engine making 266 horsepower. Peugeot says it can go from 0-62 in 5.9 seconds and is limited to 155mph. It costs £31,995.


  1. May I be the first to contribute the venerable “Aldi TT” comment.

    Seriously though, 266BHP appears to be an awful lot to extract from a little 1.6. Isn’t there horrible amounts of turbo lag or something?

  2. Surprisingly, no. There’s not much turbo lag at all.

  3. It’s still a car for people who couldn’t afford a TT

  4. You could have a nearly new Boxter, which would be more fun surely?

  5. This appears to be the automotive equivilant of mooning out the rear window of a coach.

    I look forward to never seeing one on a road near me.

  6. Jumbo – surely at 32 grand it is a car for people who can easily afford a TT..?

  7. You get used to the driving position, first item on the list to upgrade to the new style (208, 308, 2008) if Mr Stavros hasn’t axed that too.

    I stil prefer the 156 diesel, in the real world it makes this car a continent-muncher.

  8. Hideous and fat-arsed.

    What they SHOULD do is stick that engine in the 208GTI.

    Or better still, the 108. That would be AWESOME. Even more awesome than the Lego Movie. And that’s awesome.

  9. I’ve owned the RCZ for a year now and driven 15k miles so far on an array of road types. there have been exciting times worrying times, of, will I manage to get has been returned to the Peugeot dealer seven times with complaints by me of suspension knocking noise, accelerator jerkiness, one new clutch with a possible further failure on the horizon making a noise like a jet engine when reversing, rattle coming from somewhere we cant find the source,wandering steering water getting through the door seals and all of this apart from this is, apparently, all in my imagination according to the dealer apart from the clutch which they to change. Yes folks I have the Friday afternoon car coupled with the number 13 in the plate.
    However all this said if you could put the body on the TT engineering only then would you have a working man’s sports car. Guys the lady’s do turn a head when it goes past(shame about the driver!) in short I wouldn’t have another one but i have had some fun in short bursts.

  10. I own an RCZ R, one of the first batch in the UK having sold my JDM Subaru Impreza and my RCZ 156GT for it.

    This car is totally fun, I had a trip from the North of England, through to North Wales and then down through towards Crickhowell, and I was using the performance of the little 1.6ltr and having a great time, of course I did stay over in North Wales for a night so it wasnt a full trip, I decided to fill up in Crickhowell though if I would have driven sedately I would have made it to Buckinghamshire on a full tank.

    Driving through the Welsh wilderness was fantastic, I stopped once for a toilet break and couldnt wait to get back on the road again, even after the 6ish hours driving I felt refreshed, the driving position is flawed but you can work around it, fuel economy is great for the power, 40+ mpg can be easily obtained without thinking about it, the handling and grip are sublime though the interior is dated for Peugeot and the satnav isn’t the best, but it is standard, unlike most competitors who want a good 1k+ off you.

    Do not dismiss this car easily for its not easily dismissed, if you want a car thats stylish and fun, handles like a dream and is quick and economical but not a diesel, this ticks all the boxes over its rivals, including the lesser powered mk3 Audi TT.

  11. I bought one and I still own a cayman and some really respected cars, the simple fact is this .. I have a choice but choose this car to drive each day ..Its the 2L diesel and its been flawless .

    Great car sadly built by Peugeot so a little fragile and needs looking after , I drove a TT , drive a cayman and own some nice VWs .. Still prefer this on a daily basis and would buy another.. Owners know best and that’s a fact

  12. The eggshell is cracking.

  13. Jumbo – surely at 32 grand it is a car for people who can easily afford a TT..?

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