Let’s take the ‘ride’ part of this section first. Despite a sporting intent and 19-inch wheels with 40-profile tyres, the RCZ R rides with impressive compliance. If you’ve just stepped out of our front-drive handling benchmark, the Renault Mégane RS 265, you’ll be astounded at how well the RCZ R smoothes out rough surfaces.
There’s a bit of boom from the engine, but, coupled with the decent driving position and a torque-laden delivery, the ride goes some way to making the RCZ R a pleasing long-distance companion.
It doesn’t steer with the same straight-line steadiness, perhaps, as a Volkswagen Scirocco or an Audi TT, but neither is it flighty or demanding. It does steer accurately, mind, and with good responses. At 2.8 turns lock to lock, it’s pleasingly geared – not hyper-fast, yet far from lethargic. There’s only a little discernible feel through the rim, but that does mean there also isn’t quite the level of torque steer you might expect from a car of this ilk.
There is some, mind; you’d expect nothing else of a car with 243lb ft driving through a mechanical limited-slip differential on its front wheels. But in dry conditions, which were sadly rare when we tested the RCZ R, the Peugeot finds admirable grip and suffers only a little steering disruption.
It also keys into the road well with its front end, producing impressive traction and acceleration even in slow bends, while a lift of the throttle or a trailed brake bring the rear into play nicely. It’s a slightly different story in the wet, though; both understeer and oversteer are keener to make their presence felt.
The conditions for our track test were greasy and cold. In such conditions, on the ‘dry’ handling circuit, the R is a pleasing companion. It has decent levels of grip and resists understeer manfully. You don’t notice a great deal of pitch or roll, the steering is responsive and turn-in respectably brisk.
From then on, things are mostly led by the front end, as long as you stay steady on the throttle. Traction is okay and torque steer is limited, but so is feel. Even so, it’s possible to overwhelm both front wheels entirely in low-speed corners.
In wetter conditions, the RCZ R remains well balanced. You can’t trade front and rear grip with a little lift like you can in a Mégane RS 265 or a Ford Fiesta ST, but there’s more adjustability here than in an Audi TT. When the RCZ R does let go of its rear wheels, they tend to go quite far, quite quickly.