Speed and oh so chic looks combine to produce a little French magic called the RCZ. Kate Ginn is won over by the Gallic charm
They say: “Get used to turning heads.” We say: “Oui, Oui!”
Ooh là là (does anyone in France actually say that?). There’s nothing quite like putting your foot down on a car accelerator to feel an unrestrained pulsating burst of speed that quite literally takes your breath away.
Have you heard the expression “it goes like a rocket?” Yes, well the Peugeot RCZ compact sports coupe does just that. Off we shot down the highway in a blur of shiny blue and grey, showing the tread on our rear wheels to fat, slow 4x4s behind us, not to mention the puff of smoke from our twin-chrome exhaust. “See you later, alligator!”
Funny to think, then, that the RCZ wasn’t originally created as an actual road car. Initially announced as a simple concept vehicle at the Frankfurt Auto Show in 2007, it was so well received that Peugeot’s messieurs in suits took a leap of faith and began production.
The first one rolled off the factory line in April 2010. On February 14, 2013, the 50,000th RCZ was built and painted a vibrant red, rather appropriate considering the date.
I’m so glad that the French car manufacturer capitulated to public opinion. It’s a wonderful car: great fun to drive, incredibly striking to the eye and immensely satisfying to be in charge of.
The RCZ is a front engine, front-wheel drive coupe with all the attributes you could want in a sports car of its class. With its distinctive “double bubble” roof, high quality interior and powerful engines, it scores high on kerb appeal and has the “inspire envy” factor.
When I parked my test drive RCZ outside the office, it had colleagues scurrying out in the heat to take a look and find out who owned it. Sadly, I had to confess to having it only on loan but still, it did my reputation no end of good.
Exterior-wise, there is nothing quite like it with that unique black panel roof that flows into the curves of the rear wings. From behind, with its flared arches, it does have the look of an Audi TT, but the RCZ is very much its own car.
Inside, the “double bubble” design of the roof allows light to flood into the car and gives a nice sense of space and the outside coming in. Shame it wasn’t the sliding, folding roof-top version, which gives that “wind in the hair” moment. There’s also a full convertible model available.
With or without these features, the ride is exhilarating. A lowered ride height makes for a dynamic road experience. But it doesn’t make for an elegant look when you’re getting in or out of the car. At least, not when you’re my height (5ft 11 inches in bare feet). My long legs weren’t conducive to a model exit and entry and I had to settle for a rather graceless appearance.
To be honest, it was worth it. Once happily settled into the driver’s seat, which I had to slide back to accommodate by elongated pins, I looked more fitting for such a sophisticated beast. The front end has been redesigned and the grip improved, borne out by its superb cornering even at speed.
I loved the retro instrument panel and clock, while the audio system, complete with CD and MP4 connectivity, really packed a punch in the sound department.
There are curves in all the right places. It’s clear how much attention has been paid to detail, with the soft-touch leather and race-style gear knob.
While there are rear seats, only a small child would really be comfortable there. It’s a useful place to put shopping or bags, though. The boot space isn’t bad for a sports car. Don’t expect to be cramming in all manner of items, but a suitcase and other assorted odds and ends could fit easily.
But then, let’s be honest, an RCZ is not the sort of car that you’d want to take on a camping trip. This little French number should be treated with the respect and adoration that it deserves. J’adore.