There’s practically no rear overhang trailing the back wheels and the beltline at the back of the cabin is high. Retractable hard tops look like this because the hard top has to retract somewhere and usually the only way to make it fit is to move the rear wheels back and lift the beltline.
But the RCZ’s roof is fixed, which makes one wonder why they made the rear half look so odd. Maybe it started out as an RHT and got too hard, maybe they want to make their existing RHTs look normal. The interior is nice anyway.
It’s sporty in here with good instruments and seating, a sexy little steering wheel flattened at the bottom and a lovely manual gearshift.
Now 147 kilowatts is modest for a sports coupe and 1.6 litres is small, yet the RCZ gets easy eight-second 0-100 times and has good mid-range acceleration when you’re in the right gear. And the great advantage of a 1.6 is fuel economy.
The auto model, with just 115 kilowatts and costing only fractionally more than the manual, is probably aimed more at those who are into posing rather than driving and such folk will hate the ride, which is firm bordering on hard. It makes the car jumpy enough to feel a bit insecure on second-class roads, but you get used to it. There’s a 120-kW diesel manual at roughly the same price.
Enthusiast drivers will of course live with the firm ride for the terrific handling. Through the twisty bits the RCZ is a little limpet of a thing, very quick and most secure. It also has a great set of brakes. But the suspension does tend to bang and thump on rough roads.
There’s another problem with second-class roads, and with coarse bitumen – noise levels rise high enough to drown out the radio, especially at freeway speeds. And if the radio has a mute switch I couldn’t find it.
At the price this is a niche car, but it does offer the great attraction of being rare enough to be of interest to practically anyone who looks at it, and the twin pod roofline is unique. It may not retract but at least the boot has room for your weekend bags as well as a few cases of wine.
Competitors: BMW 1-series, Audi A3, Volkswagen Eos.
Power: 147-kilowatt turbocharged 1.6-litre.
Gears: Six-speed manual.
Economy: On test 9.5 litres per 100 km city, 6.7 country. Officially 6.9.
Drive away price: $64,603 (Postcode 2000), 65,348 (Postcode 3000).
The good: Terrific cornering grip, great fuel economy, surprisingly good boot.
The bad: High tyre noise at freeway speed, firm ride, no spare wheel.
The ugly: The rear seat is only for people you dislike intensely.
Rod Easdown is a freelance journalist specialising in cars and home entertainment equipment.