It’s probably worth re-iterating my personal position for those that don’t know me too well. I’m a preverbial ludite. I like my rock classic, my beer cold and my cars with less processing power than my toothbrush. It’s not that i fear Sky-net is actually around the corner but you can never be too trusting of technology which creates lazy people. The last thing i want from a car is for it to make my job of driving easier, all i want is for it to help me push the sensory envelope. I would much rather spend an hour in a car learning about my own limits than testing out the laws of physics. I also have a spiced up 205 tucked in the garage. Acid tests don’t come much harsher.
You may remember i tested out the McLaren 650s a while ago and made some comments about the ever present hairdryers and their effect on the overall experience. The TT team have not been quick to let that one go but what the heck do they know, eh? Either way, i’m no fan of turbos. So what to make of the new Peugeot with a tiny little 1.6L engine and induction not so much forced as ground to a pulp?
You can’t get away from it, the RCZ does bare a passing resemblance to it’s German counterpart. That’s not to say it’s a bad thing as sales volumes clearly show. It’s still quirky and there are touches which raise the game, to these eyes, quite nicely indeed. The length of the car suits the proportions well. Wheels pushed out to each corner and the “mass” of the car biased to the front half. The 19″ R alloy wheels are a natty design and the double bubble roof reminds of a large dog’s shoulders from behind. It means business. The ducktail spoiler present on the R again helping to balance out the profile even if it doesn’t produce much down-force or even turbulence. The interior is a nice place to sit, the missus suitably impressed with the body coloured stitching and the grip offered by the folding “bucket” seats.
“The most powerful production car Peugeot have ever made” the spec sheet informs me. Quite the feat considering we are talking about an engine the same capacity as the original 205 GTi. Power maxes out at 6,000 rpm with 270bhp and 247 lb/ft peak torque available at just 1,600 rpm. It’ll pull to 155mph and pootling around off boost you’ll manage an impressive 55mpg. On paper, you have to admit, it looks quite appealing. In reality…
Well in reality, it’s pretty damn marvelous. The Peugeot boffins have succeeded in making a very over turbo’d engine feel anything but. The power delivery doesn’t have that “old school” rising boost feeling where each gear is an ever frantic scramble to the red line. The RCZ R engine feels very different indeed. It’s linear in it’s approach. When you are on boost you know exactly what’s coming over the next 3/4k revs in each of the well spaced 6 gears and that’s super important mid corner. It allows a level of adjustability not normally found in such set ups. It feels like a supercharger. Bravo Peugeot.
The exhaust does drone a little at 70mph in 6th gear and the turbo kills the engine note but then that is the norm these days. At town speeds you do hear the engine emitting a happy little thrum not a million miles away from a GTi-6. A touching and very welcome nod to the past.
“Pseudo McPherson struts” on the front and “Deformable U shaped cross member located by two arms and hollow anti-roll bar” at the rear. A modern take on a well established classic. The RCZ R feels squat. It’s undeniably front engined in it’s mass but that is countered well by having the rear wheels set so far back and out as wide as possible. The understeer that plagued Peugeot’s dark ages is a lesson well learned and seemingly now located in a file marked “Don’ts”. Hurtling down what is fast becoming my favourite local B road, i found myself bursting out laughing with the sheer pace i was covering between and through bends. The steering is nice and weighty and the rack quick enough to let you play with your entry and exit angles. In a straight line, attempting a 0-60 dash, you will notice some torque steer. Apply the same tactics pre-corner and the combination of manageable torque and well tuned suspension pull you round in a junior rally car manner. It’s impressive.
Words were had with myself at this point to make sure i wasn’t “that idiot” who had to make a very sorry call to the manufacturer. The fact that this was even a possibility is praise enough.
As we touched on, the interior is a nice place to sit. The materials are of a quality you come to expect in this char grilled hatch sector. Bluetooth works easily with your mobile and the stereo itself sounds clear and crisp. The dials are laid out in an easy to read manner and the sat nav works well. The steering wheel is just the correct size too, an attribute which can ruin a car’s feedback if ignored. There’s enough space in the rear for kids that have legs which go down as well as out and the boot is big enough to stash whichever of them complains too much.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my week with the little RCZ R. Trundling to work and back along the M8 or chucking myself around on a dusk hoon, there’s a feeling that something special has been re-ignited in the Peugeot factory. I seriously hope this can be passed on to the GTi range.
I’m still as much of a stick in the mud when it comes to the relentless march of “progress” but as a way of working around this, Peugeot have created a car with potential for the future. If we could simply replace turbos with “as efficient” superchargers we’d get the full package.
Go on Peugeot, stick this running gear into the 208 GTi and take the fight back to b road. We’re waiting.
PRICE: From £32,250
ENGINE: 1.6L i4 petrol turbo, 6 speed manual
TORQUE: 247 lb ft
PERFORMANCE: Top speed 155 mph 0-62 mph 5.9 secs
CONSUMPTION: 44.8mpg combined
CO2: 150 g/km