|Photos by Ulysses Ang|
Seeing it in the flesh, the Peugeot RCZ clearly has style in abundance. This is one of a tiny handful of cars that cost P 2,850,000 but have the visual impact of something four or five times the price. And of that handful, none runs the RCZ close. Even if it sits in your garage, you’re forced to double and triple-take this car as you absorb the unlikely curves, supercar stance and balance. It still oozes with the improbable, even impossible, like the double-bubble roof that runs seamlessly into a curved rear window. And yet here it is, in the metal and glass. The front end gains the Peugeot family face with the two satin chrome bars and central air intake. The lower air intake extends slightly outward, meeting the signature LED daytime running lights, aligning itself quite nicely with the triangular headlight cluster. Together with the 235/40R19 alloys, the RCZ is one car you actually desire to drive.
Inside, the RCZ’s interior is far less dramatic than what its exterior suggests. Nonetheless, it’s pretty straightforward and nice to be in. With all the light that comes in because of the huge rear glass, the RCZ is particularly inviting despite the all-black color motif. Opening the hefty doors, a meaty, flat-bottomed steering wheel greets you front and center as you settle into the one-piece sport bucket seats. The dashboard is covered in what looks to be leather (with contrasting white stitching). The gauges feature carbon fiber inlays and white dials, emulating high-end watches while housed in four separate binnacles with a large multi-function display sandwiched in-between. With the exception of the analog clock, the center console is the least interesting bit of the RCZ. However, at least it’s far easier to understand than some other Peugeot models thanks to controls which are actually clustered by function. There are still some stragglers here and there that make life confusing (the stalk-based audio controls in particular), but overall, the RCZ delivers on the promise of being a driver’s car.
With style taking precedence over everything else, several compromises have been made to the RCZ that can reduce its everyday livability. The most obvious is its ergonomics. Despite having a full range of adjustments in the steering column and seats, getting the right driving position is difficult. Even after almost a week with the RCZ, the best compromise I could find is with the feet too close to the pedal and the arms a bit outstretched. Combine this with the lack of bum support from the single-piece bucket seats; it can make long drives quite tiring. Even after just three hours behind the wheel, you will need to take a break and stretch before driving on. The next compromise has to do with visibility. Because of the curvaceous shape, there are several blind spots on the RCZ, particularly at the front and rear three-quarters. Finally, there’s the space or the lack of it. Despite being classified as a 2+2 and looking big on the outside, there’s almost no space for rear occupants. The popular notion would think that having the double bubble roof would have translated to more headroom; unfortunately this isn’t so because of the sharply raked angle of the rear glass. The same goes for the luggage space which is adequate, but not large.
The RCZ is powered by a turbocharged 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine with 156 horsepower and 240 Nm of torque. These figures don’t sound like much, and they certainly aren’t. Twist the key and the RCZ awakens with an absolute lack of drama. It’s quiet—sounding like any other car with none of the rumbling exhaust or deep engine note you think comes with the RCZ’s shape. However, once you re-adjust your expectations to match the muted performance, it’s actually quite good. You’ll be surprised at how lithe the RCZ is, especially in the city. Peak torque comes at a low 1,400 rpm making it feel quick from a standstill. The 6-speed automatic is fairly quick and smooth to engage, making the engine keep within the optimal power band. However, as the roads open up, the RCZ reaches its limits quite early. Reaching highway speeds is actually no problem, but it can feel underpowered when attempting an overtaking maneuver. Still, treat the RCZ as a gentle Sunday cruiser, it performs beautifully. The added benefit of having a small engine is the RCZ’s good fuel economy: 11.49 km/L combined (8.47 km/L city, 17.85 km/L highway).
On the move, the RCZ’s chassis echoes its engine. It’s not downright sporty, rather it tiptoes the balance between sportiness and comfort. Despite having a torsion beam rear suspension, it’s actually composed with a chassis that’s involving and confident. It manages to absorb all sorts of road imperfections even with the low-profile tires. The steering is also linear with good accuracy and response. The RCZ features a pop-up rear spoiler that automatically pops up at two speeds to improve stability. It opens when the car reaches 85 km/h and pops up completely when it tops 100 km/h. At night, the active directional HID headlights are an added bonus. Working with the direction of the steering wheel, it lights up the roads effectively especially when taking a curve. The brakes perform well with good bite and pedal feel. Plus, it comes with a host of safety features including Electronic Stability Program or ESP to help out when things get hairy.
Despite its shortcomings, the Peugeot RCZ is certainly a bold step in the right direction for the French company. More than any of their other product offerings, it’s a showcase of the company’s willingness to take risks in achieving something daring. In fact, by listening to their buyers to produce the RCZ from concept car to production car, they have successfully injected the brand with sex appeal, inoculating it from blandness. The RCZ certainly puts style above everything else and though this may not be the car for everyone, it’s undeniably a work of art you can both appreciate and drive. That alone makes it worthy of consideration.
2014 Peugeot RCZ
|Ownership||2014 Peugeot RCZ|
|Year Introduced||2012 (Facelifted: 2013)|
|Vehicle Classification||Sports Car|
|Body Type||2-door coupe|
|Engine / Drive||F/F|
|Under the Hood|
|Layout / # of Cylinders||I4|
|BHP @ rpm||156 @ 5,800|
|Nm @ rpm||240 @ 1,400|
|Fuel / Min. Octane||Gasoline / 95~|
|Dimensions and Weights|
|Curb Weight (kg)||1,424|
|Suspension and Tires|
|Front Suspension||Independent, MacPherson Strut|
|Rear Suspension||Torsion Beam|
|Front Brakes||Vented Disc|
|Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS)||Yes|
|Traction / Stability Control||Yes|
|Fog Lamps||Yes, Front and Rear|
|Steering Wheel Adjustment||Tilt/Telescopic|
|Steering Wheel Material||Leather|
|Folding Rear Seat||No|
|Power Door Locks||Yes|
|Power Mirrors||Yes, with Fold|
|Climate Control||Yes, Dual|
|No. of Speakers||6|
|Steering Wheel Controls||Yes|