Not many Filipinos are familiar with French cars, what with the market being saturated with Japanese, German, American and Korean brands plus a few Italian (Ferrari, Maserati, Lamborghini), British (Jaguar, Land Rover, MINI Cooper, Bentley, Rolls Royce) and Scandinavian (Volvo) units here and there. So when Peugeot, France’s largest auto maker, entered the Philippine market, it was expected to come up with a car that would truly impress everyone as only a made-in-France product could.
This not to say that French cars are unimpressive compared to German and Italian cars when it comes to motor sports. The Red Bull car that three-time Formula One world champion Sebastian Vettel drives is powered by the most successful engine in the current era, the Renault. Peugeot racing cars have been winning Grand Prix in Europe since the early 1900s, dominated or won the World Rally Championship and Paris-Dakar Rally since the 1960s, scored victories at the 500 Miles of Indianapolis and the Pikes Peak race in Colorado, United States, and the 24 Hours at Le Mans endurance race since 1966.
IMPRESSIVE. So when Peugeot releases a sports coupe on the global market as it did with the RCZ in 2010, the automotive world sits up and takes notice. Among the four models introduced by Eurobrands Distributor Inc. (EDI), the exclusive importer of Peugeot in the Philippines, the RCZ sports coupe seems to be the one most likely to impress the general public as well as car enthusiasts. The 2013 second-generation RCZ is the only gasoline-fed car among the four initial offerings of EDI. With its arching roof rails, double-bubble roof, sensuous curves, flowing contours, low ride height, low center of gravity, wide track and 19-inch alloy wheels, the RCZ is so uniquely sleek and slinky that it turns heads wherever it goes. In fact, the RCZ looks like the French version of the sexy Audi TT.
The interior of the front-wheel-drive RCZ is just as classy as its exterior. The light, airy cabin has an elegant, clean look and feel with soft-touch and high-end materials, double-stitched leather, chrome trim on the gear shift lever, an easy-to-read instrument cluster, an infotainment display above the analog clock and sporty metal pedals. Visibility is good going forward and the bucket seats up front are well-upholstered, supportive and comfortable. The height-adjustable, telescopic leather steering wheel, however, has no gearshift paddles or audio controls. And the +2 rear seats offer limited space and an awkwardly angled backrest. With the rear seats folded, cargo space increases from 384 to 760 liters. Storage compartments under the floor offer an additional 30 liters of space.
BASE MODEL. On the other hand, the RCZ marketed by EDI is the base 1.6-liter, DOHC, 4-in-line, 16-valve, Variable Valve Timing gasoline Turbo High Pressure (THP) “156” model whose peak production of 156 bhp/5,800 rpm and 177 lb-ft (239.71 Nm)/1,400 rpm max torque is just enough to pull the car’s curb weight of 3,067 pounds. The direct fuel injection, twin scroll turbo engine, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, requires 8.4 seconds to hit 100 kilometers per hour from standstill and its top speed is 213 kph. The one bright spot is its fuel efficiency: logging 13.55 km per liter in combined highway and city driving.
Car buffs may wonder why EDI did not bring in instead the RCZ 1.6 THP GT 200 that delivers 197 bhp and 203 lb-ft (274.92 Nm) max torque, has a sportier suspension, thicker antiroll bar, short-ratio six-speed manual gearbox and bigger front disc brakes. Could it be that EDI is merely whetting our appetite for the GT 200 variant? Or maybe even the 260 bhp RCZ-R that will be the most powerful Peugeot production car ever made?
SUSPENSION. Although the RCZ I test-drove did not exactly fulfill my need for speed, I found the steering to be responsive and the firm suspension well-controlled through corners. The suspension consists of MacPherson type with drop link antiroll bar up front and a multiarm connected by a crossmember and antiroll bar at the rear. The creature comforts provided by the RCZ are immensely pleasing and reassuring: driver/passenger electronic memory controlled seats, automatic dual zone air-conditioning, a six-speaker JBL HiFi audio system. You feel safe driving the RCZ because it has as standard equipment six airbags, an electronic stability program, ABS with DSC and ASR, rear parking sensor, four-wheel disc brakes, tire deflation indicator, rain-sensing front wiper blades, front LED daytime running lights. automatic fog lamps with halogen bulbs, power folding side mirrors, speed limiter and regulator, and immobilizer with theft protection.
Bottom line, the P2.75-million Peugeot 1.6 RCZ THP 156 may be more style than substance and for some, better to look at than fun to drive, but didn’t the poet John Keats once write that a thing of beauty is a joy forever? Aside from being gorgeous, the RCZ celebrates the journey rather than getting there faster than anyone else—and that is a welcome change.
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