| First Drive | Lisbon, Portugal | VW Scirocco |
Thirty-four years after Volkswagen revealed the original Scirocco, the name has been resurrected to badge a new two-door coupé based on the platform of the current Golf. With coupé sales in Europe down to just 20,000 last year (from a high of 138,000 in 2000), some might say it's a brave step from VW.
In the Metal
Although the Scirocco's design has been toned down from the show-stopping Iroc, it does retain the concept car's overall feel, with an upright tail, distinctive front-end detailing, pronounced haunches and a low roofline. In fact, the roof of the Scirocco is nearly 100mm lower than that of the Golf GTI
, which, allied with the 50mm increase in girth, gives the Scirocco a four-square stance in keeping with its sporting image.
It's certainly a distinctive car that turns heads and surely that's the point of a coupé? Love it or loathe it, we all need to get used to the unusual treatment of the front end, as it is apparently the new face of Volkswagen with the two wide black sections and body-coloured bumpers also featuring on the forthcoming new Golf.
Inside, the Scirocco plays it safer. Though the cabin is a step up from the Golf's in terms of ambience, it retains its sibling's solid, high-quality feel albeit with the addition of sports seats and a tactile flat-bottomed steering wheel. The two rear seats are deep and though space isn't bad, rear passengers might feel quite hemmed in due to the shallow windows.
As you'd expect from Volkswagen, the instruments and controls are clear and intuitive and the switchgear is perfectly weighted.
What you get for your Money
In time the range will fill out, but for this year UK buyers will only have the option of the range-topping 2.0-litre TSI Scirocco in GT specification. The six-speed manual version retails at £20,940, while the six-speed DSG model costs £22,270. GT specification includes sports seats, adaptive chassis control, a touch screen infotainment system (excluding satnav), climate control and 18-inch alloys. It's unclear at this stage what items will be deleted on the entry-level non-GT version, though Volkswagen has stated that all cars sold in Britain will feature the trick chassis system.
Although VW's engineers have tweaked the GTI's venerable direct-injection unit, the 2.0-litre four-cylinder still produces the same 197bhp as before. Its torque curve remains impressively flat, with the maximum of 206lb.ft available from just 1,700rpm to 5,000rpm. It's an efficient unit too, managing over 37mpg on the combined cycle.
A much tauter car than the Golf, the Scirocco's adaptive chassis control has three settings: Normal, Comfort and Sport. Even in Comfort mode the Scirocco feels firm on the road. Selecting Sport doesn't turn the car into a spine-breaker either; in truth, we expected a bigger difference between the three modes.
After with the 2.0-litre GT model, the 1.4-litre TSI Scirocco without the fancy dampers is distinctly different in character. It rides a little better, but more than that, there is better communication through the helm and a feeling that the handling is not so dominated by high grip levels. Much of this is down to the smaller wheels and more absorbent tyre sidewalls.
Both are good fun, though on the newly laid tarmac we spent most of our time on the Scirocco felt more understeer prone than the Golf GTI. Not that the Scirocco is any less capable, but push to the limits of the chassis and the rear end doesn't feel as mobile as it is in the Golf.
The Scirocco's driving controls are all well judged and though the steering is bereft of detailed information, it is precise and well weighted. The level of assistance is speed dependant, but also linked into the adaptive chassis control, though the latter has a fairly small effect.
VW's DSG transmission is as impressive as ever, but in a sporting car such as the Scirocco we'd like to see a few tweaks, not least more tactile gearchange paddles, but more importantly the elimination of an automatic up change when hitting the rev limiter while in manual mode.
The Scirocco isn't significantly lighter than the Golf, so performance is comparable, which means the 2.0-litre model hits 62mph from rest in 7.2 seconds (or 7.1 with the DSG 'box). Where the TSI engines impress though is in the mid-range. The 2.0-litre model has an incredibly flat torque curve, which means the Scirocco always has plenty in reserve. Buyers of the 1.4-litre TSI version with 158bhp won't be disappointed either though, as its 177lb.ft of torque is produced from 1,500 to 4,500rpm and it feels almost as quick as the 2.0-litre on the open road.
VW expects to sell 3,350 examples of the Scirocco before the end of 2008 and every single one of them will be the 2.0-litre Scirocco GT. Next year, sales are predicted to rise to 9,000 units, many of which will be made up of non-GT models and the new 1.4-litre TSI option. Initially, VW UK will sell the Scirocco 1.4 TSI in 158bhp (160PS) guise only, where as other European markets have the option of a 120bhp version as well. British buyers will have two diesel options though, in the form of the 2.0 TDI model with either 138- or 168bhp. The six-speed manual gearbox is standard across the range, with either six- or seven-speed DSG options depending on the engine.
Insiders tell us that an 'R' model is a dead cert for the future, though no decisions have been made on what engine is to be used. However, the 2.0-litre TSI powerplant reliably produces well in excess of 300bhp in the GT24 race version of the Scirocco...
The compact four-seat coupé market is not exactly overflowing with options. Potential alternatives include the Alfa GT
, BMW 1 Series Coupé
and Mazda RX-8
, even if none of them is a direct competitor. It's more likely that buyers will see the Scirocco as an alternative to a three-door hot hatch. There, the Scirocco may not be at the head of the pack in terms of driving dynamics, but it is certainly one of the most appealing and desirable options thanks to its distinctive new styling, high-quality interior and attractive pricing. We think VW's sales expectations are a little modest.