Peugeot’s hottest RCZ has the power, and the chassis, of a distinguished performance coupe

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.

See the test pics of the Peugeot RCZ 1.6 200

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.

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Peugeot RCZ Sport 1.6 THP 200

Price: £22,750; Top speed: 147mph; 0-62mph: 7.5sec; Economy: 40.9mpg; CO2: 159g/km; Engine: 4 cyls, 1598cc, turbocharged petrol; Power: 197bhp; Torque: 203lb ft; Gearbox: 6-spd manual

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Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.

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Add a comment…
rhw0104 23 August 2010

Re: Peugeot RCZ 1.6 THP 200

If everybody wants to play top trumps then a Clio cup is significantly cheaper and has 200hp and a lot cheaper than a VW or the Pug and prob lighter. If the looks are not too important then the head says buy the clio but the heart would say buy the VW or the RCZ.

The Clio is however fabulous value for money what ever way you look at it.

feckin maso 22 August 2010

Re: Peugeot RCZ 1.6 THP 200

having driven both the scirocco and this I have to say the pug wouldnt get a look in, the vw just has so much more to it, that real sporting character as well as a much more practical proposition every day. The Pug does look pretty but the design is a bit fussy with a lot going on which is sure to date rather quickly, it does have a more luxurious feel to it but if thats what your after rather than handling, performance and that sense of fun then why look at a 2 seater sports car

michael knight 22 August 2010

Re: Peugeot RCZ 1.6 THP 200

Mr£4worth wrote:
Well bless the local dealer, I do 30,000 miles a year and was given a 6 mile drive and asked what I think after about 800 yards. Looks good, heated seats didn't work, car was there when I arrived my appointment, but the Plymouth Abarth dealer gave us a one hour drive in a 500....much more fun. I'd skip the Peugeot unless you need the looks. It really didn't feel at all sporty to me, or that comfortable either.

Well that was worth the wait!