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Peugeot RCZ R 2014 review: road test

EXPERT RATING
7
Joshua Dowling road tests and reviews the 2014 Peugeot RCZ R, with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.

When Peugeot unveiled the RCZ coupe four years ago it was initially dismissed by some as a French clone of the iconic Audi TT. But with its low slung shape and turbocharged engine it filled an important void in the company's line-up.

Peugeot has a long history in performance cars – it won the world's first motor race in 1894 – but its hot hatches at the time were underwhelming.

The Volkswagen Polo GTI, previous generation Renault Clio RS and the Ford Fiesta ST had all eaten the 208 GTI's lunch by out-performing and out-manouvring the little Peugeot.

So Peugeot needed to reclaim some credibility. Starting at $58,990 plus on-road costs the RCZ was out of price reach of most hot hatch buyers but at least it was a sign Peugeot was getting its mojo back and still knew how to make cars that were fun to drive. It was a fair first effort but enthusiasts were left wanting a little more.

Fast forward to 2014 and Peugeot has given its RCZ the go-fast treatment and a $10,000 price premium (to $68,990 plus on-roads), with an engine so powerful it outguns Ferraris and V8 Supercars when compared on a power-per-litre basis.

With a mind-boggling 199kW (I had to triple check the fact sheet) from a relatively small 1.6-litre turbo charged engine the RCZ R has (for the tech heads) 124kW per litre.

This compares to 94.5kW per litre for a Ferrari 458 and 97kW per litre for a V8 Supercar. Another interesting comparison: the little Peugeot has as much power as the bigger and heavier all-wheel-drive Volkswagen Golf R – which has a larger, 2.0-litre turbocharged engine.

For good measure, Peugeot slashed almost 100kg of bodyweight (to 1280kg) to make the RCZ R about as light as a Toyota Corolla. Peugeot replaced the metal roof skin with lightweight carbon-fibre, removed the fancy electric seats and replaced them with lighter, manually-adjustable sports seats, and fitted larger brakes which happened to weigh less because the hubs are made from aluminium rather than steel.

The result is a 0 to 100km/h time in a V8-like 5.9 seconds and, in an amazing double act, a fuel economy rating of 6.3L/100km, the same as a Toyota Yaris automatic.

BEHIND THE WHEEL

The Peugeot looks and feels great. The seats have the right mix of comfort and support and the rest of the interior has a lot of detailing that helps justify the premium pricing.

It's just a pity that some of the switchgear and the plastics don't quite live up to the perception. The dials and buttons don't have the same precise feel as, say, an Audi TT, and there is the odd squeak and groan as the cheap plastics rub together over bumps.

But two things make you forget these woes: the incredible sound system soon drowns out any odd noises, and the performance of the engine is breathtaking. The 1.6-litre turbo feels docile and perhaps even under-powered initially. But once the revs rise above 4000rpm all hell breaks loose. It's not quite the same turbo lag as the Mitsubishi Cordia days, but the power delivery is not as seamless as other modern turbo engines.

The reality is that for Peugeot to achieve its epic power at the top of the rev range it had to sacrifice some performance at the lower end of the scale, which is where most of us spend our time in the daily grind.

The brakes are profoundly good and the grip from the tyres will have you believe you may be able to defy the laws of physics. Incredibly, despite riding on 19-inch wheels and tyres, the comfort over bumps is more than acceptable for a performance car.

Downsides? The six-speed manual gearshift isn't as slick or as smooth as it could be and the slight delay in power delivery takes some getting used to. The other question that hung over my head as I handed the keys back is the price and the expected resale value: the two biggest costs of car ownership.

On the one hand it's a very expensive Peugeot, on the other it's a cheap ticket to car with a lot of styling pizzazz and genuine performance.

There is also still a question mark over reliability, which in turn can hurt resale value. Peugeot has made genuine improvements in recent years but it's fair to say the brand still ranks between the middle of the bottom in overseas quality surveys.

And the warranty only lasts three years or 100,000km. In Australia, Peugeot does not yet benefit from the six-year peace of mind of its sister brand Citroen. Which is a shame because I think that would certainly get more buyers to take a punt and sign on the dotted line.

Verdict

The RCZ R proves that Peugeot still knows how to make great cars. We just need some of this magic to flow into its more affordable hot hatch range. And introduce a longer warranty to prove Peugeot backs its claim of improved reliability.

Pricing guides

$27,500
Based on third party pricing data
Lowest Price
$21,560
Highest Price
$33,440

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
1.6T 1.6L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $21,560 – 27,280 2014 Peugeot Rcz 2014 1.6T Pricing and Specs
2.0 HDi 2.0L, Diesel, 6 SP MAN $21,560 – 27,280 2014 Peugeot Rcz 2014 2.0 HDi Pricing and Specs
R 1.6L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $27,720 – 33,440 2014 Peugeot Rcz 2014 R Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7
Pricing Guide

$29,863

Lowest price, based on 3 car listings in the last 6 months

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