A very hard ride and not as enjoyable as some rivals
Plush cabin but a few fiddly dash switches. Limited adjustment
Stability control and four airbags are standard in case you enjoy yourself too much
Feels like a top-quality vehicle that could help Peugeot finally shake off its rather shabby reliability reputation
Great for two with a generous boot. Rear seats are only good for (very small) kids, though
All versions get an MP3-compatible stereo and rear parking sensors
The 161bhp 2.0-litre diesel and 154bhp 1.6 turbo petrol will appeal to pragmatists, but enthusiasts will head straight for the 197bhp 1.6 turbo. It isn't exactly blistering off the mark but it's strong at mid-range revs and responds keenly when you rev it some more. The 154bhp 1.6 can be specified with an optional six-speed automatic gearbox. The petrol-engined RCZs steer neatly, corner tightly and don't roll much even when the tyres start to protest, but you have to put up with a very hard ride. By contrast, the diesel versions feel a touch less sporty and seem to have more in common with a good-driving family hatchback than a sports coupé. Most of the controls in the RCZ are nicely weighted and the car is pretty civilized in terms of wind- and road noise. The petrol engines are far from quiet, however, and you'll either love or hate the raspy exhaust note.
The dashboard materials have a premium look and feel, and most of the controls work with slick precision. There's two-way steering wheel adjustment, but the seat height adjustment is limited. Many of the cabin features are lifted from the highly praised 308 hatchback; the most noticeable differences are a prominent circular clock and a large button just behind the handbrake which allows you to elevate the active rear spoiler. The RCZ has four seats but the rear two are next to useless for adults; head- and legroom are tight and the seat backs are fixed bolt upright. The seat backs can be folded to expand the boot, which is a decent size on its own. Entry-level Sport models include dual-zone air-conditioning, alloy wheels and rear parking sensors; GT cars add bigger alloys, leather upholstery, electrically adjustable and heated seats, front parking sensors and automatic lights and wipers.
The RCZ's interior quality is impressive, but mechanical reliability is an area where Peugeot has come in for criticism in the past. That said, it finished 15th out of 36 manufacturers in the latest What Car? reliability survey. The RCZ is fitted with electronic stability control to help prevent accidents, and four airbags should the worst happen. An immobiliser, an alarm and deadlocks help to discourage thieves.
The RCZ is priced between the Audi TT and the Volkwsagen Scirocco. Its striking looks give it a certain cachet of its own, and resale values are strong, particularly for a Peugeot. What's more, running costs are closer to those of a family hatchback than an exotic coupé, so you can choose the RCZ with your head as well as your heart. As a car to drive, though, the RCZ doesn't match up to either one of these talented rivals.