Volkswagen Scirocco GT 2.0 TSI

Stylish new three-door uses modified underpinnings from Golf GTI.

Scirocco has two meanings. Its dictionary definition is a hot wind that blows from the Sahara desert to the Mediterranean. But for car enthusiasts, the name is synonymous with Volkswagen’s classic Seventies coupé.

Now there’s a new version giving the name a whole fresh take for the 21st century.

Video: watch CarBuyer's video review of the VW Scirocco

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The Scirocco was first revealed as the iRoc concept at the 2006 Paris Motor Show. The production model, while not as dramatic to look at, still stands out. The razor-thin grille and twin-lens headlamps give it a purposeful face, while the pronounced rear arches, sloping roof and wide rear end are distinctive.

And while the Scirocco shares its underpinnings with the Golf GTI and has an identical wheelbase, it’s lower and wider than its hatchback cousin. The rear track has been extended by 59mm, while the front wheels are 35mm further apart.

Unfortunately, things are a little more mundane inside. The swept back A-pillars – which cause some blind spots – are the only real clue to the fact that you are sitting in a coupé. While the TT has a bespoke cabin with a low-slung driving position, the Scirocco’s interior is virtually indistinguishable from VW’s other Golf-derived models. As a result, there’s plenty of wheel and seat adjustment, excellent build quality and an ergonomically sound layout, but the upright dash simply lacks the basic sense of occasion that should make a coupé special.

Get in the back, though, and there’s no doubt what type of car you’re in! The tiny rear screen, narrow side windows and sloping roof mean it feels a little claustrophobic, but the Scirocco is spacious for a coupé.

There’s enough head and legroom for two adults in the rear, and the seats fold in a 50:50 split to increase the volume of the 292-litre boot to 755 litres. In fact, only the BMW is more practical. While the Alfa and Audi have similar boot volumes to the VW, their rear seats are unsuitable for adults.

But buying a coupé isn’t about practicality, and the Scirocco has to deliver big driver thrills to stand a chance in this market.

It certainly hits the mark. The basic suspension is from the Golf GTI, but some of the components have been made from aluminium to help reduce weight, while the wider track also improves the car’s dynamics. On top of that, the VW has the firm’s Adaptive Chassis Control (ACC) as standard. The set-up is effectively the same as the Magnetic Ride system that’s an option on the TT.

So, while the Scirocco feels similar to the Golf GTI, it takes the handling to the next level. It’s tighter than the hot hatch, there’s less roll, and the rear suspension stays glued to the road.

The ACC system can be set to Comfort, Normal or Sport mode, with the dampers automatically adjusting to the cornering load. Select the Sport setting, and the power-steering and throttle response are sharpened even further. The Scirocco turns in well, and it stays true to its cornering line with minimal body roll.

The ride is firm, but thanks to ACC, the damping is very pliant, and the VW is far more composed than the Alfa or BMW on bumpy roads. Motorway refinement is good, too. Crucially, the Scirocco is also fast. The turbo’s punchy nature means the VW is responsive and rapid on A-roads.

The 197bhp 2.0-litre unit is mated to a slick-shifting six-speed manual, but the TT recorded slightly faster in-gear acceleration figures, thanks to the shorter ratios of its S tronic gearbox. The same twin-clutch transmission can be fitted to the VW, but even this manual model is significantly quicker than the Alfa Romeo, while the BMW has to be worked hard to keep up.

Unfortunately, the VW’s exhaust note isn’t quite as raspy as the TT’s, andit can’t match the character of the BMW’s tuneful straight-six powerplant.

The Scirocco is cheaper than its rivals, generously equipped, stylishly designed, well built, fast and great to drive. But is it far enough removed from a hot hatch to beat its coupé rivals in this test?

Details

Price: £20,940Model tested: VW Scirocco GT 2.0 TSIChart position: 2WHY: The name is familiar, but the shape is all-new and the VW is keenly priced, too.

Economy

Not only is the VW the cheapest to buy, its running costs score well, too. It’s the least expensive for contract hire and is the most frugal company car. Despite their identical engines, our quotes suggest the Scirocco will be cheaper to service than the TT. Residuals are likely to be strong: expect it to retain around 54 per cent of its value after three years. While this isn’t as good as the Audi’s 59 per cent, it’s ahead of the figures for the BMW and Alfa.

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