Nice arse, shame about the face. If I were trying to be succinct, and maybe a little cruel, that’s the summary I’d offer of the last Peugeot RCZ’s appearance.
When I last spent a week with the curvy RCZ I was smitten by its looks from every angle except the front. The oversized headlights and gaping grille seemed to distract from the sleek profile, the beautiful curves of the double bubble roof and the wide hips over the rear wheels. It’s like admiring Kate Beckinsale from behind, only for her to turn around and present you with the face that won her the 2012 World Gurning Championship*.
So for the 2013 model Peugeot have given the RCZ a bit of dental work. That oversized grille has been replaced by a pair of smaller vents separated by a strip of gloss black plastic, similar to the design on the 208. New strips of LED lighting are built into the re-modelled bumper and sit beneath a pair of slightly smaller headlights. The big-eyed, Cheshire cat grin has gone and is replaced by a dainty smile.
That’s largely it though. The rest of the exterior is untouched with the same pert rear and sleek side profile. It’s the same story on the inside, with this GT-spec RCZ featuring the same leather-lined cabin (including the upper dash) that you’d have found in the previous model. In this case the leather is two-tone, combining black with a shade of brown that I’m struggling to find a good name for. Peugeot call it Cohiba, others were more blunt in their description.
The brown theme continues on the outside, although it took a good burst of sunshine for me to realise. When the RCZ first pulled up on my drive I thought it looked quite good in metallic black. Then the sun came out to reveal a dark bronze colour called Bistre. With bronze being a bit of a trendy colour at the moment it’s a good choice if you want to hedge your bets, just in case the market turns against it in a couple of years.
Of course, looks aren’t everything and the previous RCZ GT proved to be plenty of fun with its lively 200THP engine. This time I’ve opted for the diesel and it’s proof that the character of a car can be completely changed by switching from petrol to DERV.
The 2.0-litre HDi is certainly no slouch. 163bhp is backed up by 320Nm of torque, gifting the RCZ with a 0-62mph time of 8.7 seconds. That’s some way behind the 200THP but it’s the way the power is delivered that makes them seem poles apart.
In the case of the HDi everything is quieter and more relaxed. Even the typical clatter of the diesel engine is kept to a muted rumble in the background. Once you’ve realised there’s no point in chasing the red line on the rev counter you can use the plentiful mid-range urge to push on in fourth and fifth gear and still keep up big speeds.
It’s the same story on the motorway where the torque turns the RCZ into a very refined and relaxing cruiser. It’s easy to find yourself travelling much more quickly than you thought thanks to the subdued hum from the engine. The HDi unit makes the RCZ a better mile muncher than the louder 200THP, especially when you factor in the difference in economy – 53mpg versus 42mpg.
If the engine makes the RCZ seem more laid back, the ride will quickly dispel the illusion of it being a softer car. The diesel GT gets the same setup as the petrol, so we’re talking stiff ride, responsive but numb steering and very flat cornering. For me the stiffer chassis doesn’t suit the laid back character of the diesel engine. A slightly softer setup would suit the engine better but without sacrificing too much of the RCZ’s sporty handling.
The minor issues that afflicted the old RCZ still haven’t been addressed. The rear seats are still only suitable for Ewoks, although the furry little critters will enjoy a good view of the sky through the steeply raked rear screen. Not that this really matters – you don’t buy an RCZ as a practical family runabout.
The dashboard is still not the greatest example in ergonomics, with the controls at the top a good stretch away for the driver, and I’d still appreciate a little more lumbar support from the seats. The orange on black displays are a bit 90s and some of the switch gear seems to let down the otherwise premium feel of the leather lined cabin.
On the plus side the GT specification has everything you need. Xenon lights, climate, cruise control, speed limiter, automatic lights and wipers, front and rear parking sensors, electric and heated front seats and a set of gorgeous 19-inch wheels.
The Peugeot Connect pop-up sat-nav screen is a £735 option but provides a decent display. Oh, and the RCZ has one of the most stylish analogue clocks you’ll find in a car. Fact.
The Final Verdict
You don’t buy a car like the Peugeot RCZ because it’s got five seats and a big boot. You buy it because it looks good and in that respect the lightly revised RCZ is even more of a winner than before. It fixes the only thing that was wrong by tidying up the nose and making it as pretty as the rest of the car. The old model was good at turning heads, the new one is even better and continues to make most rivals look dowdy in comparison
The HDi engine is an interesting alternative to the lively THP petrol engines but is probably a choice you’ll make with your head, not your heart. It’s certainly effective, is great for motorway cruising, will save you money at the pumps and a few quid on your tax disc. But it’s missing the rev-happy character and throaty exhaust note of the petrol engine.
The RCZ GT HDi is a good car but for me it becomes a great car when it’s packing the effervescent 200THP. I’ll take mine in Pearl White please with the black leather interior. No more gurning, just gorgeous curves and bags of energy. Which reminds me, it must be time to dust off the Kate Beckinsale DVD collection again.
Peugeot RCZ GT HDi Scores
|PERFORMANCE||Smooth diesel makes RCZ seem more laid back||7|
|HANDLING||Lively ride, taut chassis, numb steering||7|
|AFFORDABILITY||Priced well against rivals, good level of kit||8|
|DESIRABILITY||Still turns heads, even more so in refreshed form||9|
|DRIVING SPIRIT||It’s good, but the 200THP is still our favourite||7|
Peugeot RCZ GT HDi Specifications
|Engine:||1,997cc 4-cylinder turbocharged diesel|
|Torque:||320 Nm (240 lb/ft)|
|0-62 mph:||8.7 seconds|
|Top Speed:||134 mph|
|CO2 Emissions:||139 g/km (Band E)|
|Official Economy:||53.2 mpg|
|Price (As Tested):||£28,265|
Prices taken from Peugeot website, July 2013
* This isn’t actually true. She was disqualified for using vinegar to help pull a face.**
** OK, not really. Seriously, do you think Miss Beckinsale’s delicate features would be any good for gurning?