Volkswagen Scirocco 2.0 TSI review
Pocket Rocket? Nah, this one’s a Pocket Riot!
By Shahzad Sheikh
The word Scirocco is derived from the Italian name (Sirocco) for the hot humid wind that travels across the Mediterranean having originated in the Sahara Desert.
The Volkswagen Scirocco is not just a squashed Golf. In fact it’s actually something of a cult classic from the 1970s. Trouble is, not many in this region are familiar with the original Scirocco, despite the fact that it sold 800,000 units over an 18-year period.
And if you’re thinking that this is a way less practical and much more compromised Golf… well you’re right. But let me put it into context for you. There is another car, very similar in concept that you might be more familiar with and that is the 1980s Honda CR-X – a less practical Civic essentially, it was a little car with an enormous fun quotient packed in between its tiny footprint. The idea was obviously borrowed from the original Scirocco.
Alas the CR-X is no more but after a 17-year gap, the original hatchback-coupe is back. The big question is, has VW recaptured the spirit of the illustrious predecessor.
Well let’s start with the looks. I have to say that when the Iroc concept car was revealed at the 2006 Paris Motor Show as a precursor to the new Scirocco, I was blown away by its looks. The massive hexagonal gaping grille lent it an air of aggression that suggested it could swallow bigger, mightier cars whole. This was a giant killer, if ever I saw one.
When the production car was revealed, the grille had gone. Instead there was a much sterner, more frowning and rather conventional appearance at the front. Disappointing. But like a lot of cars these days, it turns out that the use of multiple surfaces, angles and contours that modern car construction allows, works so much better in actual 3D than in images.
In the metal the car looks eager, as if it’s straining at its leash a little bit, even whilst standing still. The front is sleek with a low profile that maintains a hint of aggression, and which immediately confuses drivers looking at you through their rear view mirror. It has a semi-supercar stance head-on that means drivers jump out of your way.
And the fact that it shares so much under the skin with the Golf is not a bad thing. The Golf is a great car. But you’d only be half right to dismiss this as a Golf in a sexier body. This car is physically lower and wider, and a far more sportier proposition than a Golf – even in its GTI incarnation.
The Scirocco will be offered here with two engines. A 1.4 TSI with 160bhp which will get you to 100kph in 8 seconds and on to 218kph, but you should ignore that and just go for the 2.0 TSI. This does indeed have the same 200bhp as the Golf GTI, but has been tuned to be slightly more torquier at lower revs and will do the 0-100 in 7.2 and hit 233kph.
This is mated to the fantastic DSG paddle-shift gearbox, and I’d swear they’ve also tuned the exhaust note to make if far fruitier than any Golf I’ve ever driven. The usual direct injection diesel-like rattle at idle has been subdued significantly and the engine makes a deeper more meaningful sound as you stomp on the throttle, but the best bit is the blowy burp you get on the snappy upshifts that makes you think you’ve got a more beefier engine under the bonnet.
It positively leaps off the line at the merest of suggestions, and has a real terrier-like personality, very into momentum and agility. It’s one of those cars you want to drive hard all the time, because it positively encourages you to do so. But the consolation is that lighter weight, lower limits, and accessible performance means you don’t need superhuman levels of car control to get the best out of it.
A button just above the gear lever operates the Adaptive Chassis Control (DDC), which basically gives you three modes: Comfort, Normal and Sport. It varies the suspension and the steering response. You may put it into Comfort, or Normal if you have passengers sensitive to car sickness, but frankly most of the time you’ll want to leave this in Sport.
Whilst they could work a bit more heft into the steering feel, it is responsive and the whole chassis is alive with feedback that means you can get really silly with this car and not be risking your life. Barrel into a roundabout and the initial understeer, can be curtailed by lifting off, or dab the breaks for some tail-out action if you’re feeling adventurous. Back on the power to exit the roundabout and the car responds accordingly.
Intuitive and enjoyable, there is less terminal understeer than the Golf GTI, and much less body roll too. This is a car that just loves to go out and play.
This is strictly a four-seater and there’s less luggage space than a Golf, but it’s still remarkably versatile. The two individual rear seats are contoured and comfortable, with usable built in headrests – though these impact on rear visibility for the driver, as does the low roofline (best stick to using the wing mirrors). Your mates, or your kids, will be happier in this than a MINI for example.
It’s very VW in here, as you’d expect, with lots of reminders of its close family ties to the Golf and Eos but the steeply raked windscreen and flat-bottomed steering wheel excite and the door handles are an interesting shape.
At a price of around $32,000 you could compare it to a 175bhp MINI Cooper S at $40k, or a $42k BMW 125i. The 2.0TFSI Audi A3 matches it on price, but is beaten with it comes to looks and appeal. The cheaper Volvo C30 2.5 T5 however gets closer in style and performance. So in conclusion the VW Scirocco is a compact, user-friendly and wallet-friendly sports-coupe-hatchback thing, that is bound to keep you entertained even on the most mundane of drives.
How much? AED120,300 ($32,690)
Engine: 1984cc, 4cyl, 207BHP @ 5300-6200, 206lb ft @ 1700-5200
Fuel Economy: 6 – l/100km
Performance: 6.9 sec 0-100kph , 238kph
How heavy? 1373kg
7/10 – Lithe little tearaway that’ll put a big grin on your face