MOTORS REVIEW: Volkswagen Scirocco

Volkswagen SciroccoVolkswagen Scirocco
Volkswagen Scirocco
JUST how Volkswagen intend to sell the three-door Golf after releasing their striking Scirocco coupe, I just don't know.

Engine: Turbocharged, four-cylinder, 2-litre petrol.

Power: 197bhp and 207lb.ft

Performance: 0 to 62mph in 7.2 seconds and 146mph

Fuel economy: 37.2mpg (combined)

CO2 emissions: 179g/km

Price: £20,940

Rating: ****

It's not that the Golf is in any way a poor car, far from it, but the Scirocco is probably the most attractive piece of metal to wear a Volkswagen badge since the Corrado ceased production back in 1995.

The original Scirocco Mk I, launched in 1974 and revamped for the Mk II in 1985, still holds iconic status for Volkswagen fans—who bought more than 77,000 of them during its 19-year production run—but the new car already looks as though it could trump its square-edged forbear.

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Based on the Golf's underpinnings the 2008 Scirocco's broad, squat stance is based on that of the stunning Iroc concept which VW took to the 2006 Paris Motor Show.

A full 97mm lower and 51mm wider than the Golf, and with tinted windows and stunning turbine-style 18-inch Interlagos alloy wheels as standard, it has instant presence.

Curiously the front of the car, which showcases the new face of VW, seen on the upcoming Golf, will probably divide most opinion.

Aggressive and squat the broad bonnet and flat grill ooze purpose but they can look slightly droopy from certain angles—the front hanging from an extremely taught rear.

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The way the flanks meld into the tapered rear and broad haunches is undeniably graceful and the rear three-quarter view comprehensively marks a return to form for Volkswagen though. It might be 18 years since they last launched a coupe but the Scirocco slips into the range seamlessly and looks the business.

And priced at just £90 more than the Golf GTi, at £20,940 with the same engine (£1,330 more with the paddle-shift DSG gearbox), the Scirocco also looks something of a bargain.

Anyone looking at a Golf three-door without the shackles of children to cart around or a need for big boot space will find the Scirocco hard to resist.

Restricted rear headroom and the 292-litre boot, which features a high rear lip for far from easy access, are the two drawbacks.

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Launched exclusively with the 197bhp turbocharged two-litre TSI engine seen here a choice of a 160bhp 1.4-litre turbocharged and supercharged engine or a 140bhp two-litre TDI engine, both of which feature in the Golf, will be available early next year.

The two-litre diesel, which should manage more than 50mpg and a 9.3 second sprint to 62mph, will be a welcome addition in these credit conscious times.

For now though, the torque-rich (207lb. ft, between 1,700rpm and 5,000rpm) two-litre turbocharged petrol unit fits the bill in terms of performance, at least.

The Scirocco posts the identical 7.2 second sprint to 62mph and 146 mph top speed as the Golf—hard to believe when you consider its 30kg weight advantage and more aerodynamic shape.

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Although its hard to detect any performance advantage in straight-line terms the Scirocco does seem to have a performance edge when things get twisty.

Sitting much lower in attractive louvered leather seats—which are matched in the rear with two sculpted, one-piece buckets—you feel at the centre of the action. Only a seating position that is a little short in the leg, even with the steering column extended, reveals the Scirocco's hatchback roots.

The stylish interior borrows from the Golf but features grab handles, a flat-bottomed steering wheel and those cool seats.

Overall, there is a much sportier ambience, and this is translated into the ride.

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While the Scirocco's Adaptive Chassis Control system allows you to adjust the suspension's damping characteristics, steering weight and throttle response via three settings (Normal, Comfort and Sport) the discernible difference in ride is marginal.

In all settings the little coupe is firm but comfortable and can be pitched into a corner and remains flat but its a chassis that rewards a smooth driving style. The 'Sport' setting does provide more immediate responses and loosens the stability control's hold on the rear end but, ultimately, getting into a rhythm reaps the greatest rewards and produces genuine cross-country pace.

It's no hooligan, the Scirocco, being more composed, more grown up than a Renault Megane Sport or SEAT Leon Cupra, but it is rewarding and rapid and feels more special, much more of the time, than a Golf GTi.

See it as a Golf GTI sheathed in charisma and you won't go far wrong...and it might just deliver a few handling perks as an added bonus.