The Scirocco is back

Volkswagen unveiled its Iroc sports car in August 2006. At the time the company even said it marked the return of the Scirocco, the original having been launched at the Geneva Motor Show 35 years ago.

Since the concept car the looks have had a subtle modification with a new, less dramatic, front treatment that is said to signal the new corporate look for Volkswagen. On sale from last month, the new Scirocco aims to repeat the success of its 1970s and 1980s predecessors by taking proven mechanicals and injecting some coupe style.

At launch you can have your Scirocco in only one flavour – the 2.0 TSI at £20,940. But orders are now being taken for the cheaper entry level model, the 1.4 TSI which will be available from £18,790.

Volkswagen Scirocco

Just as the exterior has been toned down a little since the Iroc concept, so the interior is quite restrained and offers typical no-nonsense Volkswagen design clarity of purpose. You sit down in comfortable bucket-style seats. However, it seems that the steering wheel is stuck at the height for the hatchback models. I would prefer it to be an inch or two lower.

I soon forgot about that niggle though, when I took the Scirocco out for my first drive. It is really out on the open road that this car comes into its own.

The Scirocco has the same wheelbase as the Golf, but it is slightly longer overall and has a wider track. It just loves corners. It goes exactly where you point it and, apart from the occasional scrabble from the front wheels if you try to accelerate too aggressively out of a corner, it just clings on to the tarmac.

The steering is nicely weighted, precise and with good steering feedback. Cornering is also very flat and the car feels nicely balanced. Show it some fast sweeping bends and it just seems to make its own sense of them flowing fluidly from one bend to the next.

Volkswagen Scirocco

I could almost feel my grin getting wider as I explored some of the more interesting roads on my daily commute and – like all good driver’s cars – the Scirocco rewards the driver even when using only a fraction of its potential.

Some of the credit for this may go to what Volkswagen call the 'adaptive chassis control'. This system links the suspension, the steering and accelerator electronics gathering information about the road conditions and driving style, adjusting the settings of the suspension, steering and engine.

You do have the option to choose manual control of the system, with a button that you can select ‘normal’, ‘comfort’ and ‘sports’ settings. In addition to tightening the suspension settings, this changes the power steering settings and adjusts the sharpness of the car's responses to the throttle. In the sports setting the car feels taut and transmits the road surface variations into the car, not in an uncomfortable way.

Yes, I did have to play with these settings. But, once over the novelty, I found that the automatic system really does do the job just fine and I learned to leave the ‘adaptive chassis control’ to do its stuff automatically.

Again, some of the credit for the suspension should perhaps go to the clever electronics. Certainly, you notice ripples in the tarmac if you choose the sports setting, but it is never jarring and in the ‘normal’ or ‘comfort’ settings it is refined. It is not the quietest of interiors when cruising, but it is perfectly tolerable and some of the road noise is probably the result of the sporting low-profile tyres.

Volkswagen Scirocco interior

The two-litre turbo engine matched to a six-speed manual. The gearbox is sweet and smooth in its shift, so shifting cogs is not a chore. If you prefer, you can opt for Volkswagen's excellent DSG semi-auto box.

Although it is slightly longer and wider than the Golf, the Scirocco is lighter and this is reflected in economy, CO2 output and acceleration. Volkswagen’s figures suggest the Scirocco matches the Golf GTI in its 0-62 time. But, it is interesting to note that Autocar’s shorter 0-60 yardstick suggests the figure may be pessimistic. Could it be that they didn’t want the Scirocco to appear faster than the mighty GTI?

Combined fuel economy is quoted at 37 mpg. My journies never quite matched that, but – considering that I was enjoying the performance – I reckon my average of around 30 mpg is pretty good. CO2 emissions for the Scirocco are 179 g/km which drops it a band below the GTI.

There are some downsides to opting for the Scirocco, depending on what you are looking for in a car.

Volkswagen Scirocco original

The original Volkswagen Scirocco

For a start, visibility is not the Scirocco's strong point. The windscreen pillars are quite hefty and do restrict visibility. The rear view is also dominated by the big rear seat head restraints which take up a fair proportion of the rear view from the mirror.

The other caveat should be a “given”. This is a sports coupe and no-one expects it to have extensive rear seat space. Pliable and non-grumbling adults could be persuaded to fit the two rear bucket seats for short runs, but children will be quite happy catered for. Headroom is better than it might be thanks to the two odd, but inconspicuous, bulges above the rear hatch, that allow the hinges to be raised higher.

The boot is a good, practical size boot, although it is about one-fifth smaller than the GTI. You also have quite a high sill to lift loads up and over. Annoyingly there is no external release for the hatch, only the button on the fob or the switch in the driver's door.

As I said the Scirocco 2.0 TSI costs just £90 more than the Golf GTI, which it is closely related to. Performance is almost identical, although the Scirocco is fractionally more economical and a whisker lower on CO2. Thanks to that lower CO2, the road tax saving of £30 would pay the extra cost of the Scirocco over a three-year period (assuming, of course, that vehicle tax differential doesn't change!).

So, which would you buy? It's very much down to personal taste at the end of the day. Both are superb driver’s cars.

If you want the greater practicality of a conventional hatchback the Golf has the edge, plus there is the option of the five-door on the GTI if you regularly carry passengers.

But, it was the Scirocco that won my heart. I would jump for this car. It is a real pleasure to drive and with a keen price, it seems set to emulate the success of the original.
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