Test Drive: Peugeot RCZ

Apart from its people carrier Expert Tepee van, Peugeot’s sports coupe RCZ is the only one not named with a number. And for this, the RCZ, during the weekend that it was in this writer’s keep, spelled “F-U-N”. The RCZ is, without a doubt, the French carmaker’s most uniquely styled specimen in its cabriolet and sports coupe roster. It’s a hands-down head turner. But the question is, can this also be your everyday drive?

Design: 5/5

Peugeot’s designers must have been given the go signal to let their imaginations run wild with this one. The front is reminiscent of a Porsche, the roof arch has hints of a VW Beetle, while the rear, well, it’s a Peugeot original, and an itty-bitty rear spoiler juts out at the push of a button. There is also the impression that the front could very well be the rear, and vice versa. The trademark “double bubble” roof radiates a bit of the feminine sexiness in this uber-aggressive styled coupe.

Inside, the interior amenities are much simpler, more straightforward. There is leather aplenty, with not only front and rear seats wrapped in them, but also virtually the entire dashboard panel, with double-top white stitching all around. The drive, infotainment, and climate controls, as well as the instrument panels need no getting used to. Just get in, start the engine, and enjoy. Style–wise, the focal point could be the analog clock right at the very center of the front panel, between the two central AC vents, a poignant link, perhaps to the olden days when driving didn’t involve too many bells and whistles, just pure mechanical muscle.

Hardware: 4/5

Admittedly, I was a bit disappointed when the engine sounded “tame,” quiet and submissive, the moment I started the engine. True, the RCZ that I got carries a humble 1.6-liter engine with 4 cylinders, mated to a 6-speed manual transmission. But it’s turbocharged, mind you, which enables the pilot to squeeze out a respectable 156 horsepower @ 5800 rpm and 240 Nm of torque starting from as low as 1400 rpm. On sedentary rides out in the country, and if you’re not pushing it hard, the RCZ’s fuel mileage can go as high as 18 km/liter. And yes, that satisfying roar of the THP (Turbo High Pressure) can certainly be heard at higher RPMs.

The RCZ comes complete with safety features such as four airbags, an anti-lock brake system and traction/stability control. It also comes with parking sensors.

User Experience: 4/5

As I have been used to driving conventional sedans and vans all these years, my week-old relationship with the RCZ surely awakened the daring driver in me. There’s really nothing like taking the reins of a turbocharged beast. In this case, however, the RCZ could be considered a semi-tamed animal. It’ll allow itself to be petted and caressed, and it’ll gently nudge you forward, but when you step on its toes, you better hold on to your seats for a bit.

Can this be an everyday car? If you’re anywhere between 20 and 60 years old, and can still bend without cringing from back pain, then you can make this your daily drive. The small engine and 6-speed MT allows for fuel frugality, and when you’re running late, you’ve got the turbocharger at your beck and call.

I feel, however, that the RCZ was really designed as a 2-seater—the extra two seats at the back seem more like an afterthought, an attempt, maybe, to expand the viable target demographic of this sport coupe. In truth, no average-sized Asian adult will ever fit comfortably in those rear spaces. So I do conclude that those seats are reserved for kids. Peugeot must want to familiarize its future buyers while they’re still very young, like 7.

And yes, any would-be driver or occupant of the RCZ better get used to being stared at. You
wanted a head-turner, the French have designed a coupe that’ll make everyone’s heads turn a la
“The Exorcist.”

Value: 4/5

The first time I saw the RCZ, I estimated it to be priced at around PHP 4 to PHP 5 million. But the brochure states that the AT variant of the RCZ goes for only PHP 2.850 million. For this price, the RCZ offers a great bargain for its concept car looks, styling, and brand heritage, and a fair deal when it comes to performance, interior amenities, and handling.

What’s Hot:

– Concept car design
– Mix of fuel efficiency, turbo power
– JBL HiFi 6-speaker audio system

What’s Not:

– Cramped rear passenger space
– Difficult-to-reach front seatbelts

Bottomline:

The RCZ is your first step to supercar-dom. For a fraction of the price of the certified Italian sports cars, you get the same admiring looks, and a taste here and there of exhilarating power under the hood.

 

Also published in GADGETS MAGAZINE May 2016 issue

Words and Photos by Aries Espinosa

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