First Drive: Peugeot RCZ R

'Quite possibly the best-looking Peugeot ever designed'
'Quite possibly the best-looking Peugeot ever designed'
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Downsizing is a strong trend – it’s something we all do eventually. It usually means giving up something you enjoy for something smaller that you don’t enjoy quite as much, all in the name of economising.

Car manufacturers have recognised this shift with the times and have, accordingly, made significant changes to their cars, from entry-level to much further up the pecking order.

Developed as a competition version by Peugeot Sport, this stunning looking car is the hardcore and most powerful “R” version of the already fine looking, supercar-modelling RCZ coupe.

The front has recognisable cues of the distinctive corporate face but, from there and right the way back to the dual exhausts, it evokes just how good French aesthetic design can be. The “double bubble” shadowed roof and rear screen, short overhangs and aggressive, muscular styling set it apart from anything we have seen from the marque – it is quite possibly the best looking Peugeot ever designed.

The interior is just as good: bespoke “R” seats, dials, stitching and other performance-suggestive details are dotted throughout the cabin to hint at what’s to come. As soon as you turn the key, the raspy engine notes give a nod to the 267bhp leashed under the bonnet.

Out on the tight, fast and blind circuit at Knockhill, it was like what I would imagine an Audi TT Quattro and a Nissan GTR’s rebellious lovechild would be like – devastatingly fast on the straights, glued to the corners, all complemented by a fantastic soundtrack. The sharp and alert steering feeds you plenty of information, enhancing driver involvement, which is what this car is all about. To make the car as focused as possible, the RCZ R has been given a special Torsen differential, lowered ride height, customised suspension and 19” wheels, along with a weight-saving diet.

Back on normal roads, these 
attributes remain, making the “R” massive fun. The six-speed manual box has a really sweet change and a short throw, further boosting pace; any speed, any gear and you’ll be up to the legal limit before your foot is near the floor. The ride stays firm but is never uncomfortable, nor does it become tiresome around town or at motorway speeds.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect is the engine, or rather, the size of it. Peugeot has only bolted in a 1.6-litre unit but it has incorporated a clever twin scroll turbo to achieve the best blend of thundering acceleration and virtually no turbo lag, with nearly 45mpg average economy and low CO2 emissions. The small engine is a hugely convincing effort.

Nevertheless, there may be quite a few reading this and thinking: “A 32 grand Pug? That’ll be worth sweet nothing in a few years, surely?” Expensive French cars have never been known to hang on to their value, and are among the worst examples for depreciation. Peugeot say demand for the “R” has been huge, with more than 200 orders already placed, but numbers of this version will be strictly limited to uphold healthier residuals.

Its looks and charm will probably be enough for the RCZ R to find homes, and considering its price and performance against rivals such as the Audi TT and RenaultSport Megane 250 Cup, the Peugeot’s value starts to make sense.

Downsizing doesn’t have to be compromising.


PRICE £31,995

ENGINE 1.6l turbocharged petrol, 4 cyl, 267 bhp, 243 lb ft

PERFORMANCE Max speed 155 mph; 0-60mph 5.9s

ECONOMY 44.8 mpg combined