The VW Scirocco is reborn - but how different is it to a Golf? Ollie Stallwood finds out...
The new VW Scirocco is one of those cars that had to come into the world fighting. When it first appeared, looking slightly less aggressive than the ‘Iroc’ concept that appeared at the Paris Motor Show, it immediately came in for some flack that it was nothing more than a Golf in drag. Whereas the original Scirocco had been low and clearly coupe-like, some on PH said the new car just didn’t hit the spot.
But this was not the end of the story. After all the car was based on the Golf GTI, the best VW hatch to carry those iconic letters for three generations, which should make it a decent drive. Add to this a few tricks the Scirocco has up its sleeve – less weight, lower centre of gravity, wider track – and we had to wonder whether the way the Scirocco drives could silence the critics.
The nose is going to be part of the so-called VW ‘design language’ of the future. I’m not going to pretend that VW’s designers could have been a little more adventurous with the styling to make it less hatch-like, including adding more rake to the rear, but put that aside and you realise this is a neatly-styled car.
The rear side windows are incredibly slim and the pillar-less doors are a nice touch. The rear arches bulge out at the back and there are neat touches such as the near-invisible seem where the boot meets the bumper. The hinges for the boot are covered by two quirky bumps because the designers wouldn't allow the roof line to be lowered to accomodate them. It is clear that the team behind the Scirocco’s looks have been allowed to have some fun with the design, a fact that is confirmed later when one of the designers lets slip to me that they watched Borat on YouTube constantly while working on it.
This car comes equipped with the £1,300 DSG gearbox which provides paddles behind the wheel. Inside the car is let down slightly by Eos dash and centre console but the seats are unique and more comfortable than the chairs in the Golf. When the Scirocco first appeared I wondered why they decided to go for just two separate seats in the back instead of three. When you are inside, all becomes clear – there wasn’t room. The car sculpts in so dramatically at the back (think Volvo C30) that only two chairs would fit, and they look rather nice at that. Incidentally head room in the back isn’t too bad – this is definitely a four-seater.
The first thing you notice about the car is that it makes more noise than the Golf, growling as you press the throttle and there is a pop from the exhaust when you flick the paddle. It may be a little engineered but it gives you an idea of the sporting edge VW want to shine through. I head across the see from Lisbon and into the ‘Parque Natural da Arrábida’ where there are beautiful coast roads that rise and drop away from the sea.
The DSG works great and allows you to concentrate on the road ahead but I feel you can’t beat a six-speed manual, which would make the car cheaper. VW says the car has a 0-62mph time the same as the Golf, 7.2 seconds (top speed 146mph), but you can’t help thinking it feels a bit quicker.
The next morning I manage to grab the keys for the 1.4, which is expected to cost around £18,500 when it is launched in the UK. Even the original Sciroccos were rarely seen with engines smaller than 1.5 or 1.6-litres VW has decided to go for a tiny 1.4 for this much heavier third generation model.
As the revs increase it starts to feel much quicker, and the noise improves too. The more you drive the 1.4 the more you realise that this car is really enjoyable to drive. It revs cleanly and whereas the 2.0 is harder-edged and faster, the 1.4 is more like a chuckable old school hot hatch.
The only issue arises when you look at fuel consumption. Yes the 1.4 has a combined figure of 43.5mpg compared to the 37.2mpg of the 2.0, but if you have to ring its neck to get the same speeds then what’s the point? It’s a sporting coupe that supposed to be driven as such after all. At a £2,500 cheaper than the £20,940 2.0-litre you realise that this is a very good value car – reasonably fast, fun and just a little bit special.