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Driven: Volkswagen Scirocco 184hp R-Line. Image by Volkswagen.

Driven: Volkswagen Scirocco 184hp R-Line
Lots to like about fast, diesel Volkswagen Scirocco - but something bothers us...

 



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Volkswagen Scirocco 184hp R-Line

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Good points: punchy performance, appealing looks, nice interior, slightly sharper drive than a Golf, great soundtrack for a diesel...

Not so good: ...and yet you'd be better off with the cheaper Golf GTD

Key Facts

Model tested: Volkswagen Scirocco 2.0 TDI 184hp R-Line
Pricing: £28,375 standard; £32,025 as tested
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel
Transmission: six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Body style: three-door coupé
CO2 emissions: 115g/km
Combined economy: 64.2mpg
Top speed: 143mph
0-62mph: 7.5 seconds
Power: 184hp from 3,500- to 4,000rpm
Torque: 380Nm from 1,750- to 3,250rpm

Our view:

You've got to feel sorry for the Volkswagen Scirocco. Allow us to explain, using this largely excellent, facelifted 2.0 TDI 184hp R-Line as an example. It feels like Volkswagen is trying to scupper the Scirocco in favour of the Golf. Here is a car that's supposed to be a rakish coupé, something that's a cut above the hatchbacks of the Wolfsburg range, something that should be packing maximum firepower, and winning hearts and minds wherever it goes. But it doesn't quite turn out like that...

Initially, all seems well with the Scirocco. It does look great from the outside, with the R-Line kit adding plenty of visual butch, and it's definitely more appealing than a Golf GTD, handsome car though that is. But while we're in no way saying it's ugly, it's also not jaw-dropping beautiful, in the way an Audi TT or Peugeot RCZ are both striking machines to behold; it's not even as visually exciting as the Subaru/Toyota rear-drive coupés. The Scirocco is just too hatchback-y with its squat stance and upright rear end, and it would be better if Volkswagen took a leaf out of Vauxhall's book and made the Scirocco the three-door Golf, just as the GTC is the three-door Astra. That way, you can offer a vehicle that's markedly different from the staid five-door family version, without slapping on a badge that promises all the kerb appeal of a 'true' coupé and then doesn't deliver.

The interior is jazzed up compared to a Golf's as well, with the three dials introduced on the top of the dash a deliberate and pleasing throwback to the original Scirocco of the seventies. There are other nice touches too, such as the flat-bottomed steering wheel, the triangular door pulls, excellent, supportive sports seats and suitably flashy dash trim. But it is resolutely a four-seater (there's no centre belt in the back), the squashed roofline and fixed rear head restraints lead to some serious visibility issues behind and of course there's both less room in the aft seats and in the boot (312 litres or 1,006 seats folded; Golf has 380/1,270), which has an odd-shaped aperture that further hinders its usefulness. So it's less practical than even a three-door Golf GTD, let alone the five-door version.

It'll be all right once you're driving it, though, eh? Well, to a point. Again, it is a sharper steer than a Golf GTD, although as Golfs tend to have quite play-it-safe dynamics (R excepted), that's not the biggest compliment in the world. The Scirocco has more front-end bite, which is ably assisted by an optional XDS electronic diff lock (£205), the rear end is willing to help out during cornering, Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC, an £820 option) offers better tied-down damping in its sportiest setting and there's a decent set of brakes too. The steering is accurate and informative, while Volkswagen is to be commended for the marvellous soundtrack the 184 is blessed with - it has a raucous, almost five-pot bellow to it under hard acceleration that's addictive, even if we're well aware it's an artificially augmented noise. Turbodiesels never sound that good, so why not give the engine some assistance? Yet for all this, it's not streets ahead of the Golf in terms of chassis involvement; you'd need to drive both of them back to back for quite some time to discern the subtle differences.

The Scirocco, though, which doesn't look like a coupé, and which has a less practical and pokier interior than a Golf, and which drives a bit better but not by much... isn't actually cheaper than a Golf. It's more expensive. Because it's a sports car, of course. At £28,375 basic, it starts off commanding a £2,360 premium over the Golf GTD. With options (Dynaudio Excite sound pack, £460; RNS 510 touchscreen satnav, £1,125; DCC, £820; optional 19-inch alloys, £500; XDS, £205; and metallic paint, £540), this diesel Scirocco was £32,025. For reference, the sublime Golf R can be had, boggo 'basic' admittedly, from £30,150. Ouch.

And let's just touch on that R for a minute, because the final proof of our case against Volkswagen is that the range-topping Scirocco R has to make do with front-wheel drive and the old EA113 2.0-litre engine with 280hp. The Golf R gets the swanky new EA888 engine, all-wheel drive and 300hp. Does Volkswagen make the Scirocco R cheaper? No, it doesn't! It's £32,295 as standard!

This is wrong. If the Scirocco really is the special model, the attractive coupé, it should be the one getting the more powerful and advanced hardware. Indeed, in this instance, Volkswagen should give it the 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel but then turn the wick up to 200hp, or maybe 210hp. That way, it would be worth its premium over the Golf GTD.

Thing is, for all our ranting we can't do anything but give the Scirocco TDI four stars, because if you drive it in isolation and end up buying one, you'll be delighted with it. It's a lovely thing in all the ways we've outlined, with only a handful of flaws - none of which are terminal - and we've not even touched on the fact that it's supremely comfortable on a cruise (with DCC turned down to, er... Comfort) or that it returned a scarcely believable 43.1mpg real-world economy when driven pretty hard for 500 miles; yes, this last fact does require you to ignore the official figure of 64.2mpg, but we reckon over 50mpg would be easily achievable for the Scirocco if used just a touch more sympathetically.

Yet in a reviewer's world, we think the poor Scirocco is hampered by its parent company. It needs a bit more power and a bit more pizzazz, and it would thus be differentiated enough from the Golf to justify a higher purchase price. As it is, while the Scirocco R-Line 184 is a fine car, we can't help but conclude with this advice: buy a Golf GTD instead.

Alternatives:

Peugeot RCZ: facelifted Pug is even prettier than the striking launch models; this is how to make an affordable coupé look bloody special. Drives pretty nicely, too, but the rear 'seats' are a joke.

Toyota GT86: obvious attraction here of rear-wheel drive, while the price has been slashed to £22,995 in recent months - an outrageous bargain. Not as muscular as the 'Rocco but a finer chassis.

Vauxhall Astra GTC: Vauxhall plays a clever game by making the three-door Astra a stylish pseudo-coupé. It helps that it looks pretty damn fine for a hatch-derived motor.


Matt Robinson - 8 Apr 2015









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2015 Volkswagen Scirocco. Image by Volkswagen.2015 Volkswagen Scirocco. Image by Volkswagen.2015 Volkswagen Scirocco. Image by Volkswagen.2015 Volkswagen Scirocco. Image by Volkswagen.2015 Volkswagen Scirocco. Image by Volkswagen.

2015 Volkswagen Scirocco. Image by Volkswagen.2015 Volkswagen Scirocco. Image by Volkswagen.2015 Volkswagen Scirocco. Image by Volkswagen.2015 Volkswagen Scirocco. Image by Volkswagen.2015 Volkswagen Scirocco. Image by Volkswagen.



2015 Volkswagen Scirocco. Image by Volkswagen.
 

2015 Volkswagen Scirocco. Image by Volkswagen.
 

2015 Volkswagen Scirocco. Image by Volkswagen.
 

2015 Volkswagen Scirocco. Image by Volkswagen.
 

2015 Volkswagen Scirocco. Image by Volkswagen.
 

2015 Volkswagen Scirocco. Image by Volkswagen.
 

2015 Volkswagen Scirocco. Image by Volkswagen.
 

2015 Volkswagen Scirocco. Image by Volkswagen.
 

2015 Volkswagen Scirocco. Image by Volkswagen.
 

2015 Volkswagen Scirocco. Image by Volkswagen.
 

2015 Volkswagen Scirocco. Image by Volkswagen.
 






 

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