What is it?
It’s the RCZ 1.6 THP 200 – and it might very well be the hot Peugeot you’ve been waiting for. Literally.
For the last few months, deliveries of Peugeot’s RCZ coupe have been forging ahead full steam, but only to those prepared to be satisfied with the French manufacturer’s lesser versions – the 154bhp petrol- and 161bhp diesel-engined models.
Over the last couple of weeks, however, the very first official RCZ 200s have arrived in Britain. And, on the evidence of our first UK steer, they’re worth every moment of that wait.
What’s it like?
Peugeot hasn’t done itself many favours with the marketing of this car. Its name suggests it’s simply an RCZ with a healthy extra portion of power, when in fact the 200 has significantly different chassis, tranmission, steering and braking systems than the rest of the RCZ range.
Unlike an RCZ THP 156, the RCZ 200 has 197bhp and 203lb ft to call upon. Unlike the lesser petrol, it has a bolstered MacPherson-style front suspension with a thicker anti-roll bar, that uses the bigger wheel hubs of the Peugeot 407 and Citroen C5.
Unlike the RCZ 156, it comes with a smaller steering wheel and a shorter gear lever as standard. It also gets a shorter-ratio six-speed manual ‘box and bigger front brake discs.
And those myriad little differences combine to make this RCZ a much more convincing and cohesive driver’s car. First of all, that extra power and shorter gearset makes it feel much quicker: night-and-day faster than a 156 petrol above 60mph, not least because 4th, 5th and 6th gears are that bit shorter.
It’s still not quite quick enough in a straight line to keep up with a VW Scirocco R or Megane 250, but at least the RCZ is now in the same league as those cars. Just.
And yet it’s not the added performance of this car that’s the real turn-up, but that overhauled chassis. It allows this RCZ to turn into corners with even more roll-free immediacy. With that smaller steering wheel, low silhouette and such a wide front track, this car darts at apexes with more abandon than most front-drivers.
That uprated chassis provides for better body control and much better wheel control too. Peugeot claims the 200’s spring and damper settings aren’t vastly different to those of the lesser RCZs, and yet it’s got much better vertical body control than our 156 at high speed, and rides with more fluency and better bump absorption.
Should I buy one?
If you’re sold on the RCZ, this this is without a shadow of doubt the model to have. Although it’s more tautly suspended, it rides and handles better than any other model in the range.
It’s also in the same VED tax band as the 154bhp petrol, and capable of returning better than 40mpg, is only marginally less economical.
So if you’ve been biding your time for the fastest RCZ, be safe in the knowledge that you’re also getting a car that seems much sweeter and better sorted than any of its rangemates; a car with real dynamic polish. It may not quite have the power of other sub-£30k options, but it’s every bit the real deal.