Volkswagen Scirocco review
The VW Scirocco still delivers a strong combo of coupe-like style, space and ability, but is starting to feel its age
Scirocco is a name blasted from Volkswagen's past to give its sporty coupe a bit of more by way of identity. Back in the 1970's the Giugiaro designed Scirocco featured a wedgy profile and, like the new one, was based on the Golf hatchback of its day.
The revival began in 2008, when the rakish, muscular new Scirocco made an impact on the coupe scene. Based on the Mk5 Golf, it aimed to offer the same quality and composed chassis as the GTI, a higher level of practicality than most coupes, but still with dramatic styling.
It's still on sale and popular now after undergoing some minor revisions inside and out in 2014. This underlines just how right VW got this hatchback-based sports coupe from the start back in 2008.
Yet not all of the Scirocco is ageing gracefully. Its cabin now looks very dated compared to the latest Audi TT and VW Golf, as the Scirocco is based on the dashboard architecture of the old Eos coupe-cabrio, and despite the new steering wheel and infotainment system, it’s neither as sexy as the exterior nor as high-quality as the Golf Mk7. Some of the safety tech and gadgetry found in the latest models is absent or optional, too.
Beyond the fizzy petrol turbo engines, there’s also a fleet- and wallet-friendly Bluemotion diesel version, and a fiery 276bhp R version to give the Scirocco some true hot hatch pedigree. Yet all models impress with their usability – unlike most rivals, four usable seats and a decent boot are standard fare in all Sciroccos.
But in 2015, it simply can't offer the same level of overall dynamic finesse as the best coupes or three-door hatchbacks in the class, despite making the Audi TT look more than a little expensive. A GTS model is on the horizon, which could go some way to address this.
Our choice: Scirocco GT 2.0 TSI
The VW Scirocco was penned by the company’s current chief of design Walter de Silva, and for the facelift, the car has been left largely unchanged. That means you get a coupé which is more compact hatchback than sports car, although the wide grille, bulging rear wheelarches and windows that narrow towards the rear give it a distinctive look.
The updates centre around the lights and bumpers, with LED tail-lamps now standard across the range, while the headlights are new and the front bumper takes styling cues from the latest Golf GTI. Unless you’re a diehard VW fan, you’d be hard pressed to notice big differences, but they do enhance the car’s looks. And while it lacks the concept car bravado of the Peugeot RCZ and the classic proportions of the new BMW 2 Series, there’s no doubt it still turns heads.
The GT trim gets 18-inch wheels, front foglights and darkened privacy glass for the rear windows. Sportier R-line trim ups the kit-count with leather sports seats, 19-inch alloys, and a subtle bodykit. However, with a starting price of nearly £27,000 it's very expensive - the GT is much better value at £22,305 for a simpler spec. Sadly, whichever model you choose, the cabin fails to live up to the exterior’s stylish standards, because it’s here where the Scirocco really begins to show its age.
Build quality is solid, but the dashboard – inspired by the Eos coupe-cabrio’s – is old-fashioned compared to the latest in the Golf Mk7, for example. There’s lots of old-generation switchgear, too. Still, you get decent kit levels, with leather seats and two-zone climate control, while brushed aluminium inserts around the instruments set the higher-spec models apart from entry-level Sciroccos.
The facelift ushered in the Mk7 Golf's fresher steering wheel with new spoke controls, together with an updated infotainment touchscreen, but the Scirocco still feels like a fundamentally elderly car with some trinkets, which hurts it a bit in what is essentially a fashion-conscious market.
The VW is poised and vice free on a twisting road, but the latest Audi TT or BMW 2-Series feels far more alive and agile, while a SEAT Leon SC (Cupra or standard) edges ahead for overall composure. It was best-in-class in 2008, but things change at a huge pace nowadays.
The standard adaptive dampers ensure the ride isn’t overly firm if you stick to the comfort setting, but on the optional 19-inch wheels (standard on the R-line), the Scirocco can thump a bit too much over poor surfaces. The fact that the latest-generation Golf handles and rides with more polish also makes the coupe feel a bit dated.
Top-spec R badged models offer the greatest thrills, with a 276bhp turbocharged engine. However if you want something a bit easier to live with, pick the GT model. It offers the 207bhp 2.0-litre TSI from the old Golf GTI and delivers strong torque, if not the same linear delivery as newer engines. Alternatively, you can have the GT with the punchy 2.0 TDI diesel, featuring either 182bhp or 148bhp.
The firm;s Adaptive Chassis Control does pay dividends in the Scirocco, however. Selecting the ‘Sport’ setting stiffens the dampers, and sharpens throttle and steering responses. The extra weight added to the steering might become tiresome however, so there's a handy 'Individual' mode where you can mix and match your favourite settings, and save the configuration.
The Scirocco has only been mildly facelifted, so all of the well-proven mechanical components have been carried over and poor reliability shouldn’t be an issue. But owners have reported issues in our Driver Power 2015 survey, likely due to the car's age. It just slipped into the top 100 list for new cars.
The company’s network also finished 22nd out of 31 dealers in our 2015 survey, an improvement on last time. But it's still below companies like Citroen and SEAT.
The Scirocco earned a five-star Euro NCAP rating back in 2009, although the test is far tougher today, so the car would be likely to earn a lower score if it was retested. Standard safety kit includes six airbags, ABS with brake assist and tyre pressure monitors.
Unlike most coupes, the Scirocco isn't just a glorified two-seater. It lets you carry three adult passengers – although the low roofline and shallow windows make things a bit claustrophobic for those in the two sculpted rear seats. Tinted rear glass and dark interior materials don’t help either. You can't even spec tan leather in some versions to brighten the ambience.
At least the rear seats fold to increase the deep boot’s capacity to a healthy maximum of 1,006 litres. That’s impressive, although with the seats in place the 312-litre area is 78 litres down on a BMW 2 Series. Plus, while the Scirocco’s hatch tailgate is handy, the high load lip makes it tricky to lift in big items. It's a whope heap better than the neqw Audi TT for passengers or luggage, however.
Visibility isn’t great through the VW’s fixed rear headrests and letter box-shaped rear screen, so it’s a good job rear parking sensors are standard. Also included in the long list of equipment are an air-conditioned glovebox, Bluetooth hands-free and a multifunction steering wheel.
With a range of economical engines and the promise of strong residual values the Scirocco appeals to the head as well as the heart. The 2.0 TSI petrol manages a claimed 47.1mpg and emits 139g/km, while the top of the range 2.0 TDI promises 74.3mpg and 109g/km. The firm’s clever entry-level 1.4 TSI petrol is worth considering as the cheapest buy and still manages 52.3mpg with 125g/km. The hot-rod R is of course the most expensive 'Roc to run, offering just 35.3mpg and 187g/km.
Kit levels are largely strong, with all cars getting touchscreen sat-nav and Bluetooth as well as alloy wheels and DAB radio. The R now benefits from 19s as standard, as does the R-line trim. However, even top-spec models force you to pay extra for niceties like electric folding door mirrors and a colour screen between the clearly marked instrument dials.