By Patrick James on 2012-06-02 - The author has been a motoring writer for more than 16 years. Formerly motoring editor at the Coventry Telegraph, he now produces motoring copy, on new car launches and road tests on a freelance basis.
Peugeot RCZ GT THP
MAINSTREAM car manufacturers are well-known for their, well, mainstream cars.
They are usually affordable, practical and have ever-reducing running costs.
But sometimes they come up from left field with a bit of gem - such as Peugeot's striking RCZ.
A car compared to the Audi TT, it has far more street presence with its bulging curves and standout roof line with aluminium windscreen pillars.
It looks sensational and offers a compelling combination of style and performance and at an attractive price starting at just over £21,000.
It is one of those cars that provokes interest wherever it is parked.
There are some interesting and daring style points like the double bubble creased roofline that at first looks strange but gives the car a unique signature.
The sweeping coupe lines are nicely set off with 19-inch alloys to add to the sporting profile.
It also features a rear spoiler, which for the kind of performance you get from the car, seems a little over the top and when fully deployed you will be doing 96mph, so beware high speeds.
A sports 2+2 tourer that at the same time is practical and unusually offers great all-round vision thanks to the acres of glass throughout the car.
It also offers engine choices for both petrol and diesel fans, with both offering good performance and decent economy.
The interior sums up all that has become excellent about the Peugeot range in recent years with chic styling, quality fitting and excellent build quality.
Instrumentation is clear and concise with even the base model offering an impressive list of standard kit, with just about goodie available on the range-topper including luxury leather seats, automatic lights with dip function, auto wipers and front and rear parking sensors.
Driver and front seat passenger have plenty of leg and headroom, but the rear two really are only any good for children over any distance, but can double up nicely for storage space when the already-spacious boot is full to capacity, from 384 to 760 litres.
The 200bhp 1.6-litre firecracker petrol engine will appeal to those who want to test their driving skills, but the diesel is also a powerful beast and with high economy and low emission figures that make it an attractive company car option.
Claimed economy on this model however, is an impressive 40mpg with CO2 emissions of 159g/km.
The engine propels the car from 0-60mph in just 7.6 seconds. By no means supercar performance, but plenty for all but the most diehard petrol heads.
The grunt is delivered smoothly through a precise six-speed gearbox and the low slung body and sporty suspensions means the car remains stable and comfortable when taking sharp bends and corners.
The ride is on the firm side and the vehicle can be uncomfortable on rougher roads, but generally is a comfortable place to be.
On the motorway it is an excellent cruiser and overtakes effortlessly with either petrol or diesel models.
All Peugeots are packed with safety equipment and the RCZ is no exception.
Practicality and performance with stunning looks - not bad combination.
Peugeot RCZ GT THP 200
Mechanical: 200bhp, 1,598cc, 4cyl petrol engine driving front wheels via 6-speed manual gearbox
Max Speed: 146mph
0-62mph: 7.6 seconds
Combined MPG: 40.9
Insurance Group: 34
C02 emissions: 159g/km
Bik rating: 22%
Warranty: 3yrs/ 60,000 miles
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