There will be many people looking at the pictures of the production version of the Peugeot RCZ coupe more in hope than expectation that it will signal a turn around in Peugeot’s 20 year slide from being the world’s greatest manufacturer of affordable driver’s cars to the dynamic mediocrity of its current line up. Whatever other merits there may be, you cannot buy a new Peugeot today that’s genuinely good to drive.
But you will be able to soon. I am not pre-empting the RCZ here, although I drove and enjoyed the concept car more than I had expected. In fact the first Peugeot that’s got me excited in quite a while is just about the least likely candidate for turning around its fortunes in this area that you can imagine. It’s the laughably ugly and upright 3008, which will compete with the Nissan Qashqai and Skoda Yeti in the cod-SUV, quasi MPV crossover market when UK sales begin this autumn.
To help pass the time, Peugeot has imported a couple of left-hookers into the country, one of which found its way to me for a couple of days. Dutifully I saddled up and headed for the Welsh mountains expecting little but finding a car that not only rode well, but steered precisely, clung on hard, offered decent body control and, would you believe it, coherent feedback to the driver.
The clincher for me always comes on the journey home. To get from Abergavenny to Monmouth you can either take a fast dual carriageway or a slower but substantially more entertaining B-road alternative. If a car is worth driving, it’s always the B-road. Before I left in the 3008 I’d have bet plenty I’d be coming home on the dual carriageway; in the event it didn’t even occur to me.
What can be read into this? Perhaps it’s a one-off, or just maybe Peugeot is once more interested in attracting appreciative drivers. One point can be made however: if Peugeot can make a car like a 3008 handle this well, just think what might be possible with the RCZ.