- Tech & Gadgets
- BRW. lounge
Published 28 September 2011 15:35, Updated 23 November 2011 11:33
In the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail, King Arthur comes upon a French castle in the middle of the English countryside and after an exchange about swallows and coconuts, one of the French guards says: “Ah don’ wanna talk to you no more, you empty-headed animal food-trough wiper! I fart in your general direction!”
The Peugeot RCZ is that French guard – it has a bum on its roof and it’s poking out its black tongue. It challenges the design orthodoxy but it doesn’t look funny, it just seems to work.
The bum is a “double bubble” back window that flows into the roof and its tongue is a dodgem car-like bumper thrusting out of an open-mouth style grill that features a massive Peugeot lion badge on the end of its nose.
The RCZ is low, squat 2+2 sports car with a wide stance – and it’s cute as a French bulldog.
The RCZ is the same basic size as Audi’s TT, its obvious competitor, but there’s no mistaking the two – the RCZ makes the TT look positively pedestrian and it certainly turns heads.
Peugeot has opted for the one-size-fits-all approach, offering two 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol versions – a manual and an automatic – and a 2-litre diesel manual version all at the same price of $54,990 plus on-road costs.
While a 1.6 litre engine might not sound like much, the turbo helps the manual put out a very respectable 147kW at 5500rpm and 275Nm torque, which kicks in early at 1700rpm. The RCZ goes from 0-100km/h in 7.5 seconds and has a top speed around 235km/h, while its fuel consumption is 6.9l/100km, combined with emissions of 159g/km of CO2.
I love the bold design statement; it is a point of difference in a highly commoditised world. In fact, it was nominated for an Australian International Design Award.
It is a car without an identity crisis. This confidence extends from the back window, which appears to be purely a design device with no recognisable function other than to create a distinctive look, to its handling and performance.
Because of its slope, the “occasional” seats in the back are for little kids only, or to accommodate a French bulldog, let’s call him Philippe. It also means the back seats may get hot enough to bake crescent rolls in summer (heat obviously isn’t an issue in Graz, Austria, where it’s built).
The powered leather bucket seats are easy to slip into and stitched faux leather coats the dashboard and doors, giving a sense of luxury that isn’t reflected in the price.
A basic digital screen shows the time, your music selection, parking sensors, the car’s settings and Bluetooth phone connection and sits above a large analog clock in the centre of the console.
The cabin is comfortable, with the gearshift sitting on a high centre divider, which amplifies the sense of sitting close to the road.
There are no controls on the leather steering wheel – it’s just a wheel, which harks back to the days when cars were less like space shuttles. All the knobs for the cruise control, phone and six-speaker sound system are on stalks on the steering column.
The Monaco personalisation pack, that includes the JBL stereo system and bi-Xenon headlamps, is an extra $2700.
For a front-wheel drive car, the steering is light – perhaps too light for some hard-core sports car fans – but very capable and instantly responsive, just like you wish your bank manager was.
Given it is a sports car, the suspension is relatively hard, resulting in a rough ride over bad roads but the handling is excellent, with the expensive Continental tyres gripping like bush ticks.
The six-speed gearbox is notchy, with a long travel, which can be annoying for some but it reminded me of days gone by when gearboxes had a solid feel.
Interestingly, Peugeot has developed a vibrating membrane that amplifies the sound of this engine at different speeds, creating a “burble” effect in the cabin. A little lullaby for rev heads.
The boot with the back seats in place is a handy 384 litres but with them down is a large 760 litres – enough for a brace of baguettes and the oven to bake them in. Show me another sports car with boot space to fit more than a credit card statement.
It has a rear spoiler that pops up half way at 85km/h and all the way at 155km/h – not that you’d ever see that on Australian roads, which is why it can be activated manually.
That was nice of Peugeot to think of us, wasn’t it.
It has an active bonnet that pops open slightly for enhanced pedestrian safety when the car senses an impending collision, an anti-theft alarm, rain-sensing wipers, cruise control, dual-zone air-conditioning, folding door mirrors, parking assistance front and rear, an electronic stability program and hill assist.
All in all, there’s a lot for the money. But is it style over substance? No, the car is exciting enough to drive and to look at.
It makes a change from the rude things said about Peugeots in the recent past and it’s signalling a renaissance for the French manufacturer as the 30,000th unit rolled off the production line on June 21.