Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Real elegant beauty at low cost

“SHE’s a real beauty” is an expression used — mostly by men — to describe the fine attributes of a

“SHE’s a real beauty” is an expression used — mostly by men — to describe the fine attributes of a car that captures their fancy.

I have heard this term applied often to cars, from a super sleek new red Ferrari on show for the first time at Geneva to a “pretty” little Lancia once seen in Hart Street, Henley and never forgotten. A particular favourite of mine is the wonderful Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint Bertone (1954-1965) also seen and never forgotten at a classic car show in Switzerland.

However super sleek cars are more of a rarity these days because stock design lines have been adopted by car makers to suit the production “platforms” that cars are produced on to fit a global market.

Another way of describing it might be that many cars today are rather bland. Inspirational and appealing designs are something that belong to the past and are for dreamers like myself to muse over.

But all is not lost. There is one car I return to again and again for its sheer vivacious looks (the feminine allusion once more) and that is this week’s drive, the Peugeot RCZ.

Launched in 2010, this car has remained on my “would-love-to-own” list ever since I first drove it. Although money is not the main factor, even at its most expensive — that is, the GT version I have been driving — the refined RCZ with its dashing looks and new improved performance will cost you no more than £26,000.

To my mind, there is not a better-looking new car around for that kind of cash. This time I also liked the direction Peugeot has decided to go with the RCZ, that is, a more sophisticated look while maintaining the car’s original appeal.

Of course, many drivers will say, yes, it looks great but does it go? Well, the short answer to that is yes, it does and the new version performs better than ever.

There is some recent history to this improvement in performance: the race car version of the RCZ, adapted for competition with a 200bhp HDi FAP diesel engine, has twice won the DIT category (1,700 to 2,000cc diesel) at the 24 Hours Nürburgring. Last year, Peugeot launched the RCZ Racing Cup 1.6 THP petrol in a “sprint” version of the car with 250bhp and an “endurance” version with 260bhp.

All this means that apart from the looks, the RCZ designers have decided to pass on this racing prowess (in acceptable road form, of course) to the production car. So soon on the cards is a road version of the RCZ with “enhanced sportiness” previewed by the RCZ R Concept unveiled at the 2012 Paris Motor Show. I understand this car will be introduced at the end of 2013.

The new current RCZ went on sale in January. So what is different about it? It has a completely re-designed front end, with the emphasis, says Peugeot, on being “sporty and flowing”. The “double-bubble” roof is still in place. There are new headlamps available in a halogen version with aluminium background or a directional Xenon version with titanium background.

Inside, there are nice touches that add a more sophisticated layout: the gear lever surround is now lacquered black, the door trim pads are trimmed with leather inserts, linked with an option of full-leather seats. I think this attention to detail has paid off because both driver and front-seat passenger are immediately aware of a more comfortable ambience in the cabin. The RCZ was good to live with during the time I drove it.

The boot space is huge (384 litres) and there is now an additional 30 litres of useful storage space under the boot floor. You can fold back the two additional (small) rear seats to increase load space to a maximum capacity of 720 litres. This is a great asset if a couple are on a touring holiday in the car with ample room for luggage.

There are 10 alloy wheel designs available for the new RCZ, including two additions: new 19in wheels, Technical, two-tone diamond available in two colours, Grey (dark grey) and Hephais (mid-grey). I think these really enhance the 21st century look of this car.However you view cars, from the purely practical to those drivers like myself, who like always to dream of better things to come with regard to design, the Peugeot RCZ shows that there is still room for great flair and innovation.

lPrice on the road £24,000

lEngine: 1598cc petrol

lColour: Dolphin Blue with Blue leather trim. Metallic paint (£495)

l0-62mph: 8.3 seconds

lMaximum speed 133mph

lFuel consumption: 44.1mpg (combined cycle)

lC02 emissions: 149g/km

lPeugeot Connect SOS and assistance: £250

2 eemissions: 149g/km

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