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VW Scirocco GT (2008) review

Published:16 June 2008

VW Scirocco GT (2008) review
  • At a glance
  • 4 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 5 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5

By Anthony ffrench-Constant

Contributing editor, architect, sentence constructor, amuse bouche

By Anthony ffrench-Constant

Contributing editor, architect, sentence constructor, amuse bouche

Volkswagen has finally launched its new Scirocco coupe and CAR has tested the first production versions. Anthony ffrench-Constant reviews the new Scirocco and wonders why it has taken VW so long to get around to a Mk3… 

Perhaps VW has simply been too busy frantically filling every other market segment it could identify, including some its customers clearly failed to. Happily, we now seem to have someone rather more badge-savvy at the sharp end than VW uber alles obsessed Piech, and they correctly consider a Scirocco to be a better people’s car-proposition than a Phaeton.

VW Scirocco: the history lesson

It’s a whopping 34 years since Giugiaro’s stunning Mk1 hit the streets and, more significantly, at least 15 years since the somewhat bland Mk2 succumbed to alternative employment wedging open the Pearly Gates. You, of course, will remember who’s responsible for that epic backward leap in all things styling-related. I confess, I hated it so much I never bothered to find out, always considering the elegant Corrado to be the original Scirocco’s true spiritual successor.

We’re still none the wiser as to how to categorise the Scirocco today, but I’ll settle for a cut-price coupe. It’s no accident that VW’s new corporate nose (three cheers for the death of the concept’s gaping gob) should appear on a Scirocco a few months before the new sixth-generation Golf; lest we forget, the first Scirocco actually preceded that first Giugiaro Golf by a similar margin.

So the new Scirocco has lashings of Golf under the skin, then?

Yes but, ironically, plumbing the depths of that elegant pressed-metal presentation, you’re more likely to get a strong whiff of Eos than Golf.

The good-looking but highly colour sensitive coachwork retains a surprisingly large dollop of Iroc concept, and in the cabin the dashboard is, irritatingly, almost pure Eos with white back-lighting to the instrument binnacle. Nothing wrong with that per se (except dash-top glare in the windscreen, that is), but doesn’t  such a blatant style statement deserve rather more bespoke treatment on board? A trick missed through the blunderings of bean-counters, I fear.

The Scirocco’s front seats are immediately comfortable and ergonomics as first-class as you’d expect. However, those who like to sit low in a car may find that despite massive reach and rake adjustment, the steering wheel won’t hunker down quite enough for absolute comfort.

Click ‘Next’ to read how the Scirocco performs on the road in CAR’s road test review

So is the new VW Scirocco a cramped 2+2, or is life in the back bearable?

Despite a heavily tapered glasshouse, sculpting of the Scirocco’s rear bench to sensibly limit accommodation to just two passengers finds them sitting sufficiently inboard that headroom only becomes a problem for those over 6ft tall.

However, to achieve even this VW had to set the tailgate hinges so proud that they need blisters on the roof to contain them. Actually, that looks pretty good. Boot space is down 58 litres on the Golf, but the rear seats still fold flat to up the ante to 755 litres. Buyers are unlikely to care about such figures, but I’m still docking a point off the usability rating for the absence of a boot release button anywhere within walking distance of, er, the boot. A shame.

Can you really tell the difference between this and Golf behind the wheel?

Only driven back to back, or in genuine anger, I’ll wager. Sharing the Golf’s 2578mm wheelbase, the new coupe is 40mm longer, 41mm wider and a limbo-dancer’s-nightmare 97mm lower than the company workhorse, whilst respective increases of 35mm and 59mm to front and rear tracks allied to MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension and a 30kg de-larding offer the promise of enhanced agility.

Badged GT, the first Sciroccos will be launched in the UK with a 2.0 litre TSI petrol engine linked to either a six-speed manual gearbox or, for a £1200 premium, the VW group’s delicious DSG gearbox.

Is the new Scirocco quick?

A punchy 197bhp at 6000rpm and 206lb ft of torque at a lazy 1700rpm equates to 62mph in 7.2 seconds and the full George of 146mph. Don’t be dismayed by bald statistics, however; making a jolly pleasing noise whist going about its business, this powerplant rather excels through the gears, posting an unofficial 30-70mph surge of only 6.0 seconds.

The DSG ’box continues to please, slurring changes with an alacrity more usually associated with the late Reggie Bosanquet butchering News at Ten headlines, and smoothing down-changes so absolutely that boy-racer-appeal throttle blippings didn’t make it into the electronic mapping. Almost a pity.

Speaking of which, the wheel-mounted paddles are too small and not in the least tactile. VW missed another opportunity to differentiate the Scirocco cockpit from the workhorses of the range here with a pair of bespoke blades…

Click ‘Next’ to read how the Scirocco handles in CAR’s road test review

Adaptive suspension makes another appearance on the Scirocco

Unfortunately, yes. Identical to the ACC system appearing on the Passat CC, but here re-christened DCC (yes, such acronyms are lost on me too) the system allows you to select Comfort, Normal and Sport settings, utterly obviating its very purpose by effectively doing that constantly and automatically when in Normal mode anyway.

On truly disgusting road surfaces, Sport will dislodge even the most tenacious head lice, but the system only really makes itself felt through the adding of gently artificial weight to the steering as you climb to the Sport end of the scale. I drove a car on standard suspension and found no cause for complaint whatsoever, which makes it all the more galling that the car comes to the UK with DCC fitted as standard. A daft UK marketing decision fuelled, doubtless, by dosh.

You were discussing handling…

Ah, yes. On the road, the car’s stiff as a teenager when the alarm goes off and pretty much faultless in time-honoured, front-drive fashion. Given the opportunity for a serious hoon on an abandoned East German airfield, the Scirocco behaved in an entirely predictable manner to boot.

Over-cook a corner and the front washes gradually away without drama. Lifting the throttle tightens the line to an extent, but even yanking on the handbrake mid-corner will not seriously encourage the back end to step out of line, and gentle drifting with too much lock on for either comfort or genuine style becomes the order of the day.

Is it just me, or isn’t it a pity that so many cars of this good-looking coupe ilk offer the promise of tail-out fun these days but, thanks to the ubiquity of front-drive formats, consistently fail to deliver? The prettier the car, the harder that is to take, I find. And this really is a very pretty car.

Click ‘Next’ to read CAR’s road test review verdict on the new VW Scirocco

Any surprises?

Well, the alternative engine choice (before the diesels in 2009) are the nifty little super- and turbocharged 1.4 litre units – and they suit the Scirocco rather well.

Giving surprisingly little away to the 2.0-litre GTI engine in straight line speed, I can’t help feeling it abets the car’s agility through the reduction of front-end weight adding just a sniff of further crispness to turn-in, whilst also allowing the car to hold its line for a whisker longer before front end traction steps over the can’t-be-arsed picket line.

Verdict: is it a thumbs up, then?

Almost entirely, yes. Appropriately handsome from almost every angle, the new Scirocco seems like a considerable amount of car for £20,000 and, at only £18,000 or so for the 1.4, something of a bargain.

Makes you wonder how much VW will offer it for when, eventually, the optimum version combining the 2.0-litre engine with conventional springs and the DSG gearbox finally reaches us. Personally, I’d hold out for that.


Price when new: £20,500
On sale in the UK: September 2008
Engine: 4-cylinder petrol, turbocharged, 1984cc, 197bhp @ 6000rpm, 206lb ft @ 1700rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Performance: 0-62mph in 7.2 seconds, 146mph maximum
Weight / material: 1298kg/steel
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 4256/1810/1404


Photo Gallery

  • VW Scirocco CAR review: front three-quarters photo
  • VW Scirocco CAR review: front view photo
  • VW Scirocco CAR review: front three-quarters photo
  • VW Scirocco CAR review: rear three-quarters photo
  • VW Scirocco CAR review: rear photo
  • VW Scirocco CAR review: interior photo
  • VW Scirocco CAR review: interior photo
  • VW Scirocco CAR review

By Anthony ffrench-Constant

Contributing editor, architect, sentence constructor, amuse bouche