QUICK TEST: Peugeot RCZ 1.6T
Peugeot's RCZ coupé caused quite a stir in the car world when it hit our shores towards the tail end of 2010 - but it was a beauty with a blemish.
I know I'm not alone in thinking that its front end, with that huge cheesy grin, detracted from its overall beauty, but now that's been rectified with the latest facelift that endows the RCZ with a new face that's much easier on the eye.
The completely re-sculpted front end has a smaller hexagonal grille that salutes Peugeot's latest styling DNA and the curved lower air intake adds extra flavour.
Thankfully Peugeot hasn't toyed with the good parts, which is basically the rest of the car. Here its deeply sculpted flanks and 'double bubble' glass roof continue to turn heads in traffic.
The cabin still has the racy ambience you'd expect after admiring the exterior and you get to sit in race-car-like leather-covered bucket front seats with integrated headrests and pronounced bolsters. Design changes are limited to a few dashes of gloss black lacquer and aluminium embellishments, while a new RT6 infotainment system brings the RCZ into the latest chapter of the electronic age.
The system features a full-colour screen along with 'perspective view' satnav and Bluetooth connectivity, but it lacks touch-screen functionality and is not as easy to operate as Audi's MMI interface.
On the standard kit front you can also tick dual zone climate control, automatic headlights and wipers as well as cruise control.
It's a happy enough situation from the helm, but you'll need the contortioning skills of Houdini to fit into what Peugeot calls 'occasional' back seats - yet that's a fair price to pay for this two-door's beautiful silhoutte isn't it? At least the boot is a reasonable size at 321 litres.
But let's get back to the more enticing RCZ aspects. Fire it up and Peugeot's familiar 1.6-litre turbopetrol is at your service with 147kW and 275Nm. Flatten the loud pedal and the engine entertains with a raspy tone and delivers a more-than-decent shove. It really feels like a proper hot hatch should, but it's still more of a comfortable cruiser than a hooligan's tool. Peugeot has struck a fairly good balance here - it feels comfortable and refined yet it'll attack the corners with competence and you'll enjoy the smooth and solid operation of the driving controls.
Peugeot's 308-based RCZ is a distinctive, head-turning coupé that offers brisk performance and comfortable cruising capability. It's really hard not to like, or even fall in love with for that matter.
But, and this is a very big but, it costs R499 000 - which is very hard to justify when there are coupés offering similar performance for well under R400 000. In fact, a Scirocco R costs 30 grand less and just R20 000 north of the Peugeot is BMW's beastly M235i.
Peugeot RCZ 1.6T
Engine: 4-cyl, 1.6-litre turbopetrol
Gearbox: 6-speed manual
Power: 147kW @ 4800rpm
Torque: 275Nm @ 1700rpm
0-100km/h (claimed): 7.5 seconds
Top speed (claimed): 240km/h
Consumption (claimed): 6.7 l/100km
Price: R499 000
Warranty: 3-year/100 000km
Maintenance plan: 5-year/100 000km
Audi TT Coupé 2.0T (155kW/350Nm) - R472 000
BMW 220i Coupé (135kW/270Nm) - R378 257
Kia Cerato Koup 1.6T (152kW/265Nm) - R334 995
Toyota 86 2.0 High (147kW/205Nm) - R354 600
VW Scirocco 2.0 TSI (155kW/280Nm) - R377 300