The French brand's all-out assault on a turnaround is spearheaded by the 2+2 coupe, which will challenge the seasoned sportscar heavyweights from Germany and Japan.
Peugeot Australia general manager and director, Ken Thomas, who has just returned from Paris after driving the RCZ, describes it as a much-needed halo car. It paves the way for a new Peugeot, he says.
"We desperately need a GTi-type car," Thomas says. "I think it will attract existing Peugeot owners and take some conquest sales from other brands." Thomas admitted that the RCZ opener will be under the luxury tax threshold of $57,123.
It will also cost about $6000 less than an Audi TT 1.8 and $10,000 less than a Nissan 370Z. Thomas is confident he can sell between 35 and 40 a month with supply guaranteed from Europe.
However, although he can get more cars if demand warrants it, Thomas is wary about flooding the market. "Yes, we can get cars but it is being built by Magna Steyr in Graz, Austria, and they are allowing customers to customise the car as much as they like," Thomas says.
Peugeot is following the same path as BMW has done with the Mini and Fiat has taken with the diminutive 500. "Things like carbon fibre roofs to Brembo brakes are available and customers can opt for 15 different sets of alloys," Thomas says.
"I think many local buyers here will also go down that path, in which case they will be prepared to wait for an individualised car rather than one straight out of the showroom." The RCZ shares its platform underpinnings with the 308, including engines, but the coupe's trump card is its TT-esque styling.
Peugeot is also studying the possibility of go-fast Cup version and a Hybrid4 drivetrain for the car, which will be shared with the 3008. For Australia three engines will be available, including a 120kW/340Nm 2.0-litre turbo-diesel appearing in the just-launched 3008 wagon.
The HDi is no slow coach. It will hit 100km/h in 8.2 seconds and has a top speed of 220km/h while returning a fuel economy figure of 5.5 l/100km.
Thomas says he was reluctant to include the HDi engine in such a sporty car but Audi's experience with the TT swayed him. The two petrol engines are 1.6-litre capacity but have different states of tune.
The entry turbocharged petrol engine delivers 115kW/240Nm while a more powerful twin-turbo unit has 147kW/275Nm. The twin-turbo car hits 100km/h in 7.5 seconds and has a top speed of 237km/h. The engine line-up will be available with six-speed manual and six-speed sequential automatics built by Aisin.