Peugeot RCZ Sport THP 200 review – Poor Man’s TT? We Think Not!

Beautiful, individual styling, well-made & modern cabin, THP 200 engine excellent, sporty handling

Low-speed ride a little hard due to firm suspension

Peugeot RCZ

Peugeot RCZ Sport THP 200 Review-4395

The RCZ was first seen in concept form at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 2008, causing quite a stir. Peugeot are known for their flamboyant concept cars, yes, but their product line-up wasn’t so… cool. Surely the RCZ was yet just another concept to disappear into the Peugeot museum, never to make it the product stage? And yet, it wasn’t, and 2010 first saw the car available for purchase.

Its arrival was bittersweet though, for it quickly (and rather cruelly) got called the ‘poor man’s Audi TT ‘. On brand-name alone, people judged that the RCZ was simply a cheap, substandard version of the popular German coupé. Unfortunately, most will blindly and unfairly make this conclusion without even getting up close with one. As I found though, any who make that statement are utterly, and completely… wrong. We review the Peugeot RCZ Sport THP 200 to show you why they are.

Exterior. Butt-ugly or beauty?

Peugeot RCZ Sport THP 200 Review

Well, it’s pretty plain to see which of the above the RCZ is. A beauty, of course. If you believe otherwise you either A. need strong glasses, or B. cannot see at all. The RCZ is not just beautiful, it is stunning. Arrestingly so. Occasionally, I test a car with so little exterior character that I get writer’s block, and I struggle to even start to describe what is effectively a soulless metal box. Not so here.

Pizazz: its definition is ‘An attractive combination of vitality and glamour’. A is a perfect word, then, to delineate the Peugeot’s exterior design. Even parked up, the low-slung sporty stance of the RCZ sends a spark of excitement into your brain and you long to drive it. This is a car featuring strong, powerful lines over every single panel, bar none.

It’s a symphony of bold, sensual curves which flow around the body of the car in an almost fluid movement, making it look fast even when it’s still. Most imposing of all is the ‘double-bubble’ roof – a term I hate, as it cheapens what is actually a brilliant and complex piece of car design – a triumph of engineering considering that this is a comparatively low-cost, large-production car.

Peugeot RCZ Sport THP 200 Review

While the RCZ is as curvy as Marilyn Monroe, there’s also a degree of masculinity about it too. The front, for example, has a set of angry-looking headlights, which sit either side of two raised edges in the bonnet, giving the Peugeot a frowning, slightly miffed expression, while the wide twin-grille front sits low to the ground, in a clever design that makes it look lower than it really is.

Sweeping from front to rear are two beautiful arches, and inside of those is the twin bubble roof and glass. These lead down to the rear, which is as curvaceous as the rest of the car. It’s a simple affair, with only twin tailpipe set poking out from the rear diffuser. There’s a hidden rear spoiler, which will angle up at either set speeds or manually. The only rear bit of the car I don’t like is the rear lights, which somehow look a little dull and out of place – a different design would be welcome.

The wheel arches bulge spectacularly, and the long doors are set deep between them, throwing out a bit of a Le Mans racer vibe. 18″ or 19″ wheels – depending on how you spec it – sit under the RCZ’s flared arches, filling them perfectly. The bonnet is part of the front wings, and lifting it up takes out a large chuck of bodywork, turning even this into a dramatic thing in itself.

Peugeot RCZ Sport THP 200 Review

This Peugeot RCZ is a very cool looking car, and you will get many people staring at it if you own one. In the Nera Black with the matt black roof arches, it looks mean and purposeful too. The design is completely individual, and no, I really don’t care that you say it’s too like the Audi TT, for that is utter nonsense. In fact, next to the RCZ, the TT actually looks restrained, such is the difference between these coupés.

If every morning for the rest of my life I woke up and looked out of my window onto an RCZ – especially a black one – I don’t think I’d ever grow bored of its sleek, flowing bodywork, and that can rarely be said of a modern car. Congratulate yourselves, RCZ designers, for it is wholly well-deserved.

Interior. Neat or nothing special?

Peugeot RCZ Sport THP 200 Review-

I truly expected to open the driver’s door of the RCZ and be disappointed. I readied myself in anticipation, keeping in mind Peugeot’s of past years had a tendency towards drab, plastic affairs so soulless they’d make you weep and wear a pair of blinkers to avoid looking at the depressing trim.

Pulling open the RCZ’s long door though, I was greeted with a smart, modern cabin consisting of quality materials and a nice design. Doth my eye deceive me? Nope, for this is actually a good-looking interior. Even as standard, there’s a dash with deep soft-touch material and stitched edges, while the centre console is well-laid out with non-clicky buttons, and a (£735 optional) satellite navigation/media system that angles up out of the dash. While it part shares with the Citroën DS3 and the Peugeot 208 GTi on a lot of the switchgear, I don’t see a problem with that as they look and feel good.

Peugeot RCZ Sport THP 200 Review

The analogue clock in the centre of the dash is a classy touch, as are the four dials for the driver. They’re simple, sporty and stylish, and I love them. In the centre of the cluster housing the dials is a small screen giving info on your fuel economy, cruise control settings, simplified sat nav directions and more. The graphics for this are not as modern and sleek a display as I’d like though, but it’s good enough. The sat nav has a great display and is easy to use, if a little slow selecting each letter in a search, with it not being a touch-screen.

Peugeot RCZ Sport THP 200 Review-9890

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There are three trim levels available; Sport, GT and R. Sport comes with fabric seats as standard, while the GT comes with full leather, and the R has some awesome deep and angular bucket seats that look like they were styled by Lamborghini. Whichever spec you choose though, the dash, driver’s binnacle and centre console still has soft-touch trim with stitching as standard, and for me, this is the focal point of the cabin, and something people notice as soon as they get in. I was sent the Peugeot in Sport spec, but with the Black Leather & Dark Grey Alcantara seating, which looks superb but costs a hefty £1,200 should you tick the option box. Ouch.

Peugeot RCZ Sport THP 200 Review

However, they do look great and are deep, comfortable and supportive, and the one-piece back section (no separate headrest) remind me of the stylish Sports ones you could have in the Porsche 993. They’re not the ridiculously narrow, waist-pinching type either, unlike the seats in the Peugeot 208 GTi we tested.

There are ‘occasional’ seats in the rear, and that’d be the correct description for them, as they bolt-upright, and lack rear legroom even with the front’s pulled forward, and you have to be on the short side to fit with any degree of comfort. Boot space is surprisingly good, as you’ve got 384 litres of space, turning into 760 litre with the rear seats dropped.

Peugeot RCZ Sport THP 200 Review

Sliding into the driver’s seats, the RCZ feels like it’s wrapped around you in the way that any good sports coupé does, and you feel very much part of the car. While this is the case, there’s plenty of elbow, leg and head room.

The Peugeot RCZ is a very nice place to be overall, with an interior that has a good degree of class, and it’s certainly stylish and comfortable and – shock horror – well built! Honestly though, I would spec the Sports over the GT, as it’s cheaper to buy the Sports and spec the heated Leather & Alcantara seats (which look nice than the full-leather ones anyway) and sat nav/media system than it is to buy the GT with the same. The GT has 19″ wheels over the Sport’s 18’s, but the 18-inch alloys both look better and I think will be the better ride too.

Peugeot RCZ Sport THP 200 Review

Engine and gearbox

The RCZ currently has four engine options; three 1.6, 4-cylinder petrol turbocharged units in THP 156 bhp, THP 200 bhp and the R spec only version with 270 bhp. There’s also a 2.0 litre turbo-diesel option with 163 bhp and 250 lb ft (340 Nm). Only the THP 156 has the option of a 6-speed automatic ‘box.

I had the THP 200 version on test, which is available in 6-speed manual guise only. It’s a good little engine, with plenty of punch for its size, and it’s actually the same one the 208 GTi has. No complaints there. Power is the obvious 200 bhp, produced between 5,500 – 6,800 rpm, with 202 lb ft (275 Nm) of torque at a city-friendly 1,700 – 4,500 rpm.

Peugeot RCZ Sport THP 200 Review

The engine apparently features a world-first in combining a twin-scroll turbocharger with direct petrol injection and variable valve and timing injection (VTi), giving good power delivery, and respectable fuel economy. 0 – 62 mph (0 – 100 kph) is done in 7.6 seconds and the THP 200 will go on to 146 mph.

Fuel economy (in UK mpg) is quoted as follows; Urban: 32.1, Extra urban: 50.4, Combined: 42.2. While those stats are the usual quoted EU figures whose tests don’t reflect real-world conditions, I managed almost 40 mpg on 5-hour round trip at motorway speeds, and even in city driving I was managing between 30 – 35 mpg once traffic was moving steadily. A run on quiet roads at around 40 mph saw a return of 45 – 50 mpg, so actually the RCZ THP 200 is rather decent on fuel, given the performance of it.

The THP 200 emissions are rated at 155 g/km, which currently (Nov. ’13) equates to £175.00 per year in UK vehicle tax.

Peugeot RCZ Sport THP 200 Review

Ready to roll? Let’s drive!

As mentioned, with a zero to sixty-two miles-per-hour time of 7.6 seconds, the RCZ in THP 200 spec isn’t especially quick. To bang-on 60 mph, you’re probably looking at low 7’s. The least powerful 1.8 TFSI petrol version in the Audi TT Coupé can do the 62 run in 7.2 seconds, and it has 40 hp less too.

Whatever though, I really like the THP 200 engine, as the low-down torque – available from just 1,800 rpm – makes the RCZ extremely drivable at almost any speed in any gear around town. As an experiment, I accelerated from 30 mph in 5th, and instead of bogging down, the RCZ simply accelerated away smoothly. You can happily put the car into 6th gear at forty miles per hour, and with that you’ll be getting great fuel economy too. The light clutch also makes for happy city driving.

Peugeot RCZ Sport THP 200 Review

The THP 200 engine loves to be revved, and giving it a good caning will see it reward you well, with satisfactory in-gear acceleration at higher speeds. Going through those awful 50 mph zones on the motorway – where bizarrely there seem to be many cones, but never any actual roadworks happening – I finally pass the ending of the ‘works’, and dropping the RCZ THP 200 into third gear I gun it. There’s a satisfying deep bellow from the engine, and the Peugeot pushes ahead with determined vigour.

At around 4,500 rpm, the RCZ seems to get a second wind, propelling you ahead again all the way to the 6,000 rpm redline, where the steam runs out. It’s not entirely a forceful surge forward, but there’s certainly enough energy to make you grin. These fun-runs out of the roadworks actually made them bearable, so thank you little RCZ.

Peugeot RCZ Sport THP 200 Review

A note about the engine noise; Peugeot having incorporated ‘Sound System‘ tech on the RCZ, which involves a vibrating membrane and an acoustic chamber, pushing through different ‘harmonics’ into the cabin, according to how hard you accelerate. It does give a nice shouty bellow under hard acceleration – a bit like you get when you put a full air induction kit on a car – and it’ll indulge those of us petrolheads that like a good tune to go with a car’s performance.

Peugeot RCZ Sport THP 200 Review

On the negative side, at a standstill the 1.6 litre petrol engine does not sound good when it’s cold, or even that great when it’s warm either. I had someone ask me if it was a diesel when I first started it up on a cold morning, as it’s so clattery and tappety. Embarrassing, but I could see their point if I’m honest. Not what I’d expect from a modern petrol. Inside the cabin though, it’s a notably quiet experience, and any exterior road or wind noise is well muted, even at high speeds or on rough road surfaces.

The RCZ is a sports coupé, so you’d expect it to handle well. And it does. The chassis is tight and rigid, much reminding me of the 208 GTi’s, although you won’t get the RCZ cocking a wheel as the GTi so loved to do. The RCZ is planted, and pushing it hard through a series of sweeping bends is a throughly joyous experience, and it really does feel every inch the sports coupé it is.

Peugeot RCZ Sport THP 200 Review

You are conscious that the suspension is very firm though, especially at lower speeds, and while the seats take out a lot of the jarring over rough sections of road, in the real world it can get a little irritating if you’re leaving work already headachy and stressed, and then bumping home over awful roads the council should have fixed last year, but haven’t.

It’s not a huge issue, and you kind of get used to it in a way, and it certainly wouldn’t be enough to put me off owning an RCZ when all’s said and done. The Peugeot’s brakes are very positive, it has to be mentioned. They’re so sharp, in fact, that for a few miles after it was first delivered my seat belt got a thorough workout in stopping me from face-planting the inside of the windscreen. Thumbs up for brakes and seatbelts.

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Being front wheel drive, you will get oversteer should you push too hard going around something like a wet roundabout, even though there’s stability control (ESP) with anti-slip regulation (ASR) and dynamic stability control (DSC), plus brake force distribution (EBFD) in place to take out a good deal of the oversteer. There’s also the usual wheel spin to deal with as well, even with the electronic aids on. Inevitably, there’s always going to be an element of oversteer and slip in front-wheel-drive car with 200 horsepower though. Actually, I was impressed at how little torque-steer there was from the RCZ, even when I gave it a good hammering from a standing start, or poked the accelerator hard out of a slow corner.

All in all, a good drive. The THP 200 is a great engine, mating decent performance with surprisingly good fuel economy.  The RVZ has a lovely tight chassis too, and although the suspension set-up is a little over-firm to be completely comfortable at lower speeds, it makes up for it once you give the Peugeot a good workout on a twisting country road.

Price

The RCZ starts at £21,850 for the Sport THP 156 petrol, ranging up to £31,000 RCZ R THP 270. Our tester came in Sport THP 200 trim – £24,235 as standard – and with a few extra’s such as the leather/alcantara seats, Nera Black paint, Black Pack (matt roof arches, front grille etc), plus a few more goodies, taking it up to just over £27,500.

My advice would be – as already mentioned – to buy the Sport THP 200 over the GT THP 200, as you’re only really getting 19″ wheels and heated leather seats over the Sport. The Sport’s optional heated leather/Alcantara seats look nicer than the GT’s other options, and you’ll get a better ride with the 18″ wheels – saving yourself around £1,000 in the process.

The Audi TT starts at £23,845 for the front wheel drive TT Coupé Sport 1.8 TFSI 6-speed manual with 160 PS, which comes well equipped with leather/Alcantara seats as standard. Option it to the same level as the RCZ Sport THP 200 in the spec we had it, and it’ll be a shade over £29,000.

Peugeot RCZ Sport THP 200 Review

Peugeot RCZ Sport THP 200 verdict & score

I really, really like the Peugeot RCZ. J’adore, in fact. What Car just voted the TT Coupé ‘Best Coupé 2013’, and it was praised, in part, for its ‘distinctive styling’. Umm, I think that part goes to the beautiful RCZ, as it makes the German car looks positively conservative in comparison. I like the THP 200 engine, and I like the handling too. The interior is a smart, modern design, and is well made from good quality materials. In this, Peugeot have come a very long way.

Yes, the Audi TT will be better built, and the interior of an even higher quality – zis is ze Deutschland way, after all – and yes their base model is quicker than the RCZ too. So why would you buy one over the TT? Individuality. Every single day I see more than a few Audi TT’s driving about. They are in fact commonplace, and save for the occasional RS model, I – nor anyone else for that matter – will take a second glance at a TT.

In contrast, pedestrians and other motorists will stare at the RZC as you drive by, and they will take a walk around it when it’s parked up, taking in its curves, and peaking through the window. They will not do that with the TT. If you want a sports coupé with individuality and character, alongside other good attributes, you’ll be wanting the RCZ. One final thing; RCZ a ‘poor man’s Audi TT’? Complete and utter nonsense!

Do you own a Peugeot RCZ? What are your views on it, and what are the best and worst points? Share your thoughts and leave a comment below!

Exterior  9
Interior  8
Engine  7.5
Gearbox  7
Price  7.5
Drive & ride  7
Overall Score  7.5 / 10 

  Specs

Model (as tested)  2013 Peugeot RCZ Sport THP 200
Spec includes  Sport as standard: Sports seats, EBA, EBFD, ESP, ASR, DSC, hill-start assist, dual climate control, auto lights and wipers, heated power mirrors, 18″ alloys, active rear spoiler, USB & bluetooth. See specs for more
Options you should spec  Sport spec with leather & Alcantara heated seats
The Competition  Audi TT Coupé
Price  (Nov. ’13) £21,850 – £31,995
Engine  THP 200: 1.6 litre, 4-cylinder, 16-valve with Twin-Scroll turbo
Power, Torque, CO2  200 bhp & 202 lb ft (275 Nm) of torque @ 1,700 – 4,500 rpm. | CO2: 155 g/km
Drive, Gears (as tested)  Front wheel drive | 6-speed manual
Top Speed, 0 – 60 mph, Euro NCAP  Max speed: 146 mph | 0 – 62 mph: 7.6 seconds | Euro NCAP rating: Not yet tested
Fuel economy (UK mpg)  Combined: Urban: 32.1, Extra urban: 50.4, Combined: 42.2
Weight (kerb)  1,421 kilograms (3,132 lbs)
Websites  Peugeot UK, Peugeot France, Peugeot worldwide

Check out our other car reviews

Words: Chris Davies | Tested by: Chris Davies | Photography: Chris Davies, Jason FanthorpeMatthew Davies

2 responses to “Peugeot RCZ Sport THP 200 review – Poor Man’s TT? We Think Not!”

  1. David Hughes

    Love the review and I own the GT 200 with the black pack! The car is awesome and drives like a dream! And as you say it does get loads of admiring onlookers everywhere I go! I would never have bought the jellymold TT, as it looks like a hairdressers car as compared to my Batmobile.

  2. Bernadette Parry

    I thoroughlying enjoyed your review, it makes a change from I’ll those reviews that seem to hate everything not VW/Audi. I own a 2.0 litre deisel GT, It is fully loaded with extras and looks stunning in mercury grey with the black pack, you are correct in saying that it gets a lot of admiring looks from people of all ages, even other RCZ owners. Love the drive and performance, engine is very quiet for a deisel with lots of get up and go. The suspension can be a bit harsh on poorly maintained roads but overall handling is great. Even with the goverment now trying to stamp out deisel powered cars, my RCZ will stay with me on the road for the forseable future, becoming a modern classic among cars.

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