A Peugeot built for Bat-people

PAUL OWEN
Last updated 06:00 15/12/2013
Peugeot RCZ
Fairfax NZ

PEUGEOT RCZ: Despite having been around for a few years now, the car still looks adventurous and futuristic.

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Holy cow! Will you look at this thing! The wild exterior design of the Peugeot RCZ made my ears point to the ceiling and had me reaching for the phone to ring the nearest cosmetic surgeon to order in some pectoral implants.

PEUGEOT RCZ
Drivetrain: Transverse, front-mounted front-wheel-drive with six-speed manual transmission.
Output: 1598cc DOHC direct-injection turbopetrol inline four producing 147kW at 5800rpm, 275Nm at 1400rpm.
Performance: Maximum speed 231kmh, 0-100kmh 7.6 seconds, 6.9L/100km, 163g CO2/km.
Chassis: Front MacPherson struts, rear torsion beam. Electro-mechanical power steering. Vented front disc brakes front and solid rear discs. 18-inch alloy rims with 235/45 tyres.
Dimensions: L 4287mm, H 1359mm, W 1845mm, W/base 2612mm, Fuel 55L, Weight 1372kg.
Pricing: $49,990.
When I first drove the Pug home, I felt tempted to search for a cave to park it in. For there are few vehicles that have a dual-domed roof like the RCZ - the only other one I can think of is the unwanted 1959 Ford Futura concept car that the Blue Oval brand once donated to Hollywood to star as the original Batmobile.

If the intention of the RCZ was to merely turn heads, its mission has been accomplished and then some. Despite first reaching these shores late in 2010, the car's design still looks adventurous and futuristic three years on, thanks to the new nose and front bumper worn by the latest model.

This means that if the RCZ suddenly sprouted wings and took to the air, I imagine few would be surprised. It would finally be the ''flying car'' that Popular Mechanics promised us back in the 1950s, alongside stories about how to build a bunker in your backyard capable of withstanding a nuclear attack. All it needs to fit right into that sci-fi-mad era are some tailfins. Of which Batman would probably approve, as they'd match his ears.

The looks of the RCZ promise sportiness, a commodity that the French car industry only seems capable of providing in front-drive hot hatchback guise. Which is basically what the RCZ is once you look beneath the Marvel Comic cloak. Not that there is anything wrong with this approach as Audi has been successfully turning warmed-up hatchbacks into sporty coupes for some years now. At $49,990, the most arresting-looking Peugeot in the showroom costs some $40,000 less than the most accessible Audi TT. It is arguably the prettier of the two cars and is just as enjoyable to boot.

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The comparison so emphatically demonstrates the value of the RCZ that maybe I should cease with the cheap Batmobile jokes ... for now.

You must notice the price difference between the German and French cars when you step inside the Pug, despite a bit of a spruce-up having been given to the interior of the 2013 RCZ. In comes a shiny new dash and some centre console inserts - finished more to meet the expectations of premium car buyers - along with new leather-enhanced trimmings for the doors.

However, the RCZ's handbrake is still located a little close to the gear lever in right-hand-drive versions; the orange graphics of the info screen look a little dated; and the Bluetooth interface for my phone proved so well hidden that I eventually determined it probably didn't possess one. A call to the Peugeot distributor later confirmed the existence of Bluetooth in the car's cabin, but the point is that I'd never have had to ask had I been driving the TT.

Peugeot RCZNone of the immediately above matters when you drive the RCZ in the manner that its looks most encourage. The car quickly puts its hand up when anyone asks: ‘What's the most enjoyable-to-drive Peugeot on the market today?'

The swoopy roof might possess a couple of headroom-enhancing bubbles but it seems to link the corners of the car together with increased rigidity, helped by the body's possession of just two apertures for cabin access. I don't recall any of Peugeot's GTi-badged hatchbacks imparting the same impression of robustness, nor them possessing quite the same solid foundations for their steering and suspension systems.

The RCZ carves up corners with the same speed and ease as Zorro slashes the last letter of the Peugeot's model name into the midriff of Sergeant Garcia's uniform. Although the ride of the car is relatively firm, the payoff is that there's more immunity to body roll during hard cornering and less weight transfer to unsettle the tyres. When it comes to the generation of lateral-G in the bends, the RCZ wrestles with Renault's $53,990 Megane RS265 Cup for the title of the most grip-endowed Gallic car on the market.

There are two versions of the RCZ but everyone should buy the manual, despite the automatic also enjoying six forward ratios. The triple-pedal, full-power version knocks the other for six when it comes to both performance and economy, with a 0-100 kmh interval of 7.6 seconds versus 8.5, and average thirst of 6.9 litres/100km instead of 7.3.

The 1.6 direct-injection turbopetrol four also sounds more inspiring, thanks to the sound ‘symposer' Peugeot added to the cabin for 2013 (whatever that is).

So now the RCZ has a Hollywood soundtrack to match those sci-fi movie star looks. What more could any self-respecting Bat-person want?

Peugeot RCZ

- Sunday Star Times

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