Volkswagen rolls out third-generation Scirocco

Thenation press servecis
2009-02-07 | Since 11 Year

 

Patience has rewarded the VW faithful: The German firm has finally produced the third-generation Scirocco everyone has been crying out for. No longer just a concept car to wow the motor-show crowds, this model boasts a Salik tag and pretty much finds itself in a niche of its own - although Renault has also gone the same way with its Megane Coupé (see page 24).

With so much time — 17 or so years, in fact — having passed since Volkswagen stopped making the last-gen car, the affordable compact coupé market has all but disappeared. Sure, cars from Mercedes, such as the CLK, BMW’s 1 Series coupé and the Audi A3 exist, but they are either more expensive, less sporting, both or neither. VW’s boffinmeisters have attempted to put all these elements in one, tasty package. Still, at wheels towers, debate raged — or rather, droned on — over whether the car was a hatchback or a coupé. Yawn.

Golf party pieces

However, despite taking the best oily bits from the previous MkV Golf and other assorted familiar items from the VW back catalogue, the Scirocco is much better than the sum of its parts.

One element that is unique to the Scirocco, however, is its exterior. The car’s aggressive appearance might look familiar, thanks to the exposure generated by the stunning IROC — geddit?? — concept car, which was unveiled at the 2006 Paris motor show, but the fact that this Scirocco is not just another regular VW is something to cheer about. Along with the likes of the Passat CC, VW seems to have put boring on hold and re-discovered sex.

The coupé’s broad grille, extrovert snout, squat stance, wedge shape and massive haunches not only hark back to the Sciroccos of old but look forward to a more confident and extrovert future VW product line-up. And no, the Scirocco isn’t just a Golf wearing different clothes — the former might share the latter’s wheelbase but it’s a fraction longer and wider.

Strictly a three-door car, cast your eyes further rearwards and the Scirocco’s stubby tail hides a practical boot. When the suits at VW claim that this car is a practical day-to-day proposition, they really mean it. The load lip might be a little high, but the space available is deep and accommodating — even more so when the rear seats are folded down, which can be easily done at the tug of a lever.

However, in most un-coupé fashion, we put our baby in his seat in the rear to prove just how child-unfriendly this car is. The angle of the rear seat squab meant little Archie sat almost hanging forward. Despite being only three months old, I could tell he really liked the rest of the car, though...

How goes it

Of course, the Scirocco’s exterior design is one thing, but when you’re promoting an affordable, sports coupé, everyone will want to know if it goes as well as it looks. The simple answer is yes.

VW has been smart enough to fit the Golf GTi’s excellent if ubiquitous, 2.0-litre petrol engine in the headline-grabbing car, with a diesel and smaller capacity petrol engine following in 2009, in other markets. There’s an enticing R32 or even an R36 also said to be in the works. Now that really would be Sciroc’n’roll.

First impressions of the 2.0-litre TSI engined car are good. With 197bhp on tap, straight-line progress is never anything but brisk. And no Golf GTi has ever sounded like this Scirocco. The vocal, deep-chested boom and burble from the exhaust does much to enhance its performance credentials.

On the road, the Scirocco is a nimble and willing companion. The car’s steering is direct and the brakes are fine stoppers. The standard specification of this front-wheel drive car includes a six-speed manual gearbox, but our test unit featured VW’s sublime, smooth and highly praised six-speed direct shift gearbox (DSG). Lucky us. Equaling the looks, the way the admittedly rather sober transmission works with the engine is, frankly, sublime. The car’s mojo lies within their union, and truly acts as the driver’s friend.

Left in auto mode the ’box shifts gears seamlessly, and easily trumps human intervention. The sport mode sharpens up the responses, while, if you must do it yourself, the paddles behind the steering wheel add a pleasing race-car dimension. The combination of paddleshifters and sport mode is all but the most self-indulgent driver should need. Initially, I thought it could do with more power. Then, squashed into the bucket seat, flicking the tiny, two-finger shifters up and down and zipping along, I realised that, really, here was everything I needed.

This top-spec — and therefore, much pricier — car came with the optional adaptive chassis control (ACC). This system, first seen on the Passat CC, offers a more sophisticated and sporty ride without any discernable compromise. The car feels agile at all speeds, refined and composed on motorways and eminently chuckable on twisty B-roads.

That the Scirocco looks the business and delivers the goods on the road should see it fly out of the showrooms. The bonus with this car is its cabin. VW fans will feel right at home, as it will be familiar to anyone with an Eos. The bold fascia, intuitive controls and spacious cabin do much to confirm its all-rounder potential. The front seats are supremely supportive, while there is enough room in the back for adults, despite the heavily sloping roof.

However, this is a car for bright young things to have fun in. So, despite the cabin’s refinement and solidity, and touches like centre grab handles, there is little in the way of funk or fireworks. This should appeal to the more buttoned-down boy racer. With the likes of leather and an optional hi-tech touchscreen sat-nav system available, parallels with cars from the premium sector are obvious. Build quality is nothing short of outstanding, while even when trimmed in fabric the Scirocco’s front seats are exceptionally supportive without resorting to squeezing you tight.

Volkswagen likes to think of the Scirocco as an aspirational car you can afford. Maybe. While the entry-level car is broadly affordable, at Dh119,000, our top-spec race car was a whopping Dh135,000. Don’t forget, you can get a big-boy’s ‘coupé’, in the 2.0 Passat CC — for 10,000 grand less — and you get two extra doors! (I guess VW would argue the cars appeal to different buyers, but still.)

Offering a different ‘ownership experience’ to the similarly powered Golf GTi, the striking little coupé is a real head-turner. And while it looks striking in white, it leaps off the road in lime green. It’s also fun to drive and easily something that could cope with the demands of a busy life — for a single person or couple.

No kids please!

It is unlikely a Scirocco buyer will be unhappy. As a compact sports coupé, it ticks the boxes of performance, looks and credibility. However, it wouldn’t take that much for another car maker — Renault, for example — to undercut it on the price front. Then you’d have the Alfa Romeo Brera for the wealthier buyer, the Megane Coupé at the bottom and the Scirocco squarely between the two. That’s a pretty good place to be. 
 
 



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