Peugeot RCZ lets loose a sporting growl

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The Peugeot RCZ captivates with its design panache. Photos supplied by Peugeot.

It's easy to see why the Peugeot RCZ captivates. Compare the street version with the original show-circuit design study and ... well, they're virtual twins.

That all the major styling features have made it from stage to showroom is quite something. Retaining the aluminium side arches was one thing, but producing the "double-bubble'' roof in glass (the show car's was plastic) quite another.

Presumably the complexity of the car's design is why it is built by Austria's Magna Steyr at a factory specialising in exclusive vehicles built in small volumes.

Other reasons why it's special? Apart from being the first Peugeot not to use the traditional numbering system, RCZ also kicks off a brand bid to reaffirm sporty credentials and add exclusiveness.

Given Peugeot's association with diesel, it's surprising the Europe market flagship, a 2.0-litre HDi, is excluded for now. Rather, all bets are on a turbo-charged 1598cc petrol, in two states of tune.

The more potent engine, by 32kW and 35Nm, is reserved for the six-speed manual. This is my favourite since it doesn't cost any more than an alternative automatic with the same gear count, yet delivers superior dash for your dollar. A claimed 0-100kmh time of 6.9 seconds and top speed
of 240kmh makes it 2.1s quicker and 27kmh faster.

Just to rub in the difference, the auto lacks the paddle-shifters that are usually a given at this level, while the manual sounds rortier, at least from inside, due to taking out a diaphragm resonator in the exhaust.

Kit-wise, they're dead ringers. Upping the sports credentials are fat 19-inch rims with low-profile rubber and an active rear spoiler, popping out of the tail, to enhance stability. It auto-activates part-way at 85kmh, and fully above - ahem - 155kmh.

Also on board are leather, heated memory seats, Bluetooth, iPod-compatible stereo, auto wipers and lights, dual-zone air, parking sensors and all the usual safety equipment.

Sharing 308/3008 underpinnings explains why it has quite a long wheelbase for a small coupe. The front suspension incorporates more bracing and it has stiffer springs, widened track and is lower.

The steering is quite sharp, the body control good and the driving position provides a suitably sporty feel. Design panache takes utter precedence over any practicality, so even kids are unlikely to enjoy those rear seats. It'd be better to ditch them and extend the 321-litre boot.

Peugeot RCZ lets loose a sporting growl
At a Glance

PEUGEOT RCZ

Price: $64,990.

Engine: 1598cc four-cylinder turbocharged petrol, max power manual/auto 147/115kW@6000rpm, max torque 275/240Nm@1400rpm.

Transmissions: Six-speed manual, six-speed automatic, front-wheel drive.

Brakes and stability systems: Anti-lock brakes, with traction and stability control.

Wheels, tyres: Alloy rims and 235/40 R19.

Fuel and economy: 6.9/7.3 litres per 100km (on European combined cycle), capacity 60 litres.

Length: 4287mm, width 1845mm, height 1362mm.