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Volkswagen Scirocco GT 2.0 TDI (170)

German challenger is quicker, more practical and sounds great, too

Modern coupés need more than just seductive styling if they want to succeed in the showroom. Owners demand great performance and low running costs, as well as a dash of practicality – and this is where the VW Scirocco shines.

Launched in 2008, and based on the Golf platform, the Scirocco blew away traditional competition, with its mix of eye-catching looks and hatchback practicality.

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Two years on and it still makes a bold visual statement. The chunky lines and squat stance result in a muscular appearance, which is backed up by the aggressive looking snout. However, in the battle to turn heads, the VW comes second to the pretty Peugeot.

As with its rival, the Scirocco’s cabin can’t match the sense of occasion generated by the exterior. The dashboard is borrowed from the firm’s Eos drop-top, while the switchgear and dials will be familiar to Golf owners.

Unique triangular door pulls and heavily bolstered sports seats give the interior a lift, but ultimately the VW doesn’t feel special enough. Gadget fans will also be disappointed by the kit count, which falls some way short of its fully loaded rival.

At least the fit and finish are excellent, providing the cabin with a classy premium feel the RCZ can’t match. It has its rival beaten for practicality, too.

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The spacious interior will easily accommodate four adults, although the low roofline and shallow windows make the rear seats a little claustrophobic – an issue exaggerated by our car’s optional black leather trim.

Beneath the upright tailgate you’ll find 312 litres of carrying capacity – a three-litre advantage over the RCZ. The boot is deep and well shaped, but suffers from a high load lip, so lifting heavy items in can be a challenge.

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On the move, the VW proves that its practical streak doesn’t come at the expense of pace. Against the clock, the 168bhp Scirocco left the RCZ trailing.

Thanks in part to its optional DSG twin-clutch gearbox, our test car served up unrelenting acceleration, scorching from 0-60mph in only 7.3 seconds. In-gear pace was stronger, too, with the sprint from 50-70mph taking 7.7 seconds – that’s 1.3 seconds faster than the Peugeot.

Better still, the diesel engine sounds surprisingly sporty, while the clever transmission delivers seamless shifts in either fully automatic mode or manually via the wheel-mounted paddles. Opt for the standard six-speed manual instead, and you’re rewarded with a slick and precise action. The Scirocco extends its dynamic advantage on the road with standard Adaptive Chassis Control (ACC). It gives drivers the chance to choose between Sport, Normal and Comfort modes.

As a result, the VW feels poised and balanced on a twisty country lane, while the steering is precise and well weighted. Select the Comfort setting and the ride is improved, making the car a more cosseting companion than the firmly sprung Peugeot. With its good looks, practical cabin, scorching performance and composed chassis, the Scirocco is the ultimate all-rounder.

It can’t match the ‘look-at-me’ exclusivity of the RCZ, but a blend of abilities makes the VW a strong contender for victory.

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WHY: For all-round appeal, the Scirocco has few peers in this class. Its eye-catching exterior hides a versatile cabin, while hi-tech chassis and torquey oil-burner mix fun with frugality.

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