– Fun power and handling
– Cabin space and features
– Good fuel economy
– Firm ride quality
– Tight rear-seat access
– A little weak at highway speeds
There’s no better way to describe the Volkswagen Scirocco other than by calling it a Golf GTI that has been stepped on by King Kong. But to put it in another way, the Volkswagen Scirocco is also a better-looking version of the Golf GTI. The real question is, how is it different from the Golf GTI.
The Scirocco is occasionally pitched as a “coupe”, although technically speaking, it is a three-door hatchback. We assume it is intended as a flamboyant alternative to the GTI, considering the latter looks a wee bit dowdy thanks to its Golf roots. Aside from the obvious, the roofline is visibly lower, while the rear flanks seem to stick out more along the window sills. It even comes with a choice of 18-inch or 19-inch alloys. In short, it looks great for a hatchback.
But while it can be had with the same engine as the GTI, namely the turbo 2.0-litre, you won’t get the trademark GTI styling cues, such as the red grille lining, the funkier wheels and the dual exhaust tips. Step into the cabin though, and the Scirocco actually gets the cooler interior treatment, with futuristic triangular door handles and sporty individual rear seats. The rest of the interior is exactly the same as in the GTI, with its premium soft-touch dash and door surfaces as well as the pretty gauges and gadgetry. The only downer is an exposed cup-holder compartment up front, whereas the GTI gets a covered one.
Legroom, both front and rear, is pretty good. Surprisingly, while the headroom seems reduced, any basketball player can still fit fine up front if the heavily-bolstered seats are moved back, at the expense of rear space. With average-sized people, passengers can fit in the back comfortably too, although slipping in back there is another story. The boot space is a little less than that of a Golf, but having to lift heavy luggage over that high rear bumper makes it more impractical. Aside from the boot, some small door pockets, central armrest cubby and front cup-holders is about as much storage capacity as you can get in this car, unless you fold down the rear seats.
The Scirocco comes with the exact same gadgetry that can be had in every other VW, including that ubiquitous touchscreen for the stereo, phone and navigation that we’re so familiar with by now. With a dual-zone auto a/c that worked well in September weather, cruise control, good CD stereo with optional USB cabling, optional leather upholstery with power driver’s seat, “smart” keyless entry with starter button, HID headlights, “turning” foglamps, a full set of airbags, and a big glass moonroof that only tilts up, it does more than enough to keep the average driver satisfied.
The engine in our Scirocco 2.0TSI is a gem, so it’s no wonder that VW sticks it into every other model. The turbocharged 2.0-litre 4-cylinder makes 207 hp at 6200 rpm, and 280 Nm of torque from only 1700 rpm. While the numbers aren’t impressive in this day and age, it is still enough to spin the front wheels easily, even with traction control on. But unlike other front-wheel-drive cars, there is negligible side-to-side torque-steer so the car tracks straight under power. With the 6-speed “DSG” automanual gearbox in sport mode and ESP off, we managed a 0-100 kph time of 6.8 seconds during our September test, although times can be as high as 7.4 seconds, as it all depends on how much wheelspin you dial in at launch. But even with all that wheeling, we burned petrol at a rate of 11.5 litres/100 km only.
The “DSG” gearbox offers lightning-fast manual downshifts, but if left in automatic, it is either too conservative with shifts in normal mode or too aggressive in holding low gears in sport mode, with no middle ground. Thankfully, there was no delay in the throttle response as we experienced in some other VWs. Some say it takes time to learn a driver’s mannerisms, so we’re glad previous drivers hadn’t screwed up the Scirocco’s memory-banks yet.
The Scirocco rides firmly, with the tight suspension making itself felt on some rougher surfaces. We know from experience that getting the optional adjustable suspension system makes things more comfortable, but our car didn’t have that. However, the Scirocco is a very quiet car for something that is supposed to be a raucous hot hatch, which we appreciated on the highway. Parking is also made easy with rear sensors, a necessity since the rear view is largely blocked by the huge rear headrests.
The Scirocco is indeed fun to throw around, with its precise somewhat-firm steering, limited body roll and good grip, all assets on long high-speed curves. The average feedback from the controls and slinky-feeling brakes dumb down the sporting feel, but that isn’t a big issue, as the job still gets done. The torquey engine isn’t particularly gutsy at highway speeds, but low-end acceleration is deceptively quick, as the front tyres love to get their screech on when the throttle is floored from lower speeds. Understeer crops up when you spin those front tyres while turning, but it is also easy to rotate the rear on more slippery roads with a flick of the steering, all easily controlled thanks to the car’s small size and chuckable demeanour.
Aside from the fun factor, the Scirocco is arguably the most attractive hot hatch available in the GCC right now, benefiting from a certain exclusivity that comes with not having a basic twin in the economy-car segment, even if it does share its underpinnings with the Golf. If absolute practicality is not a requirement, the Scirocco makes for a great alternative to the traditional hatchback form.
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