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Volkswagen Scirocco

‘Entry-level’ coupe gets super-turbo engine and advanced suspension system. is it as good as top-spec 2.0-litre?

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

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THE 1.4-litre TSI version of the Scirocco will cost about £18,500 when it goes on sale in January, and comes with the excellent Active Chassis Control as standard. But while the 158bhp engine is impressive for its size, you are actually better off stretching the extra £2,500 for the 197bhp 2.0-litre – as you really need its performance to make the most of the Scirocco’s superb handling.

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IT doesn’t take long to spot a brilliant car! Auto Express drove the all-new VW Scirocco last week (Issue 1,017), and we were so impressed we gave it a full five-star rating.

That model was the 197bhp 2.0-litre TSI turbo, but now we have tried the entry-level 1.4 TSI variant. This version is set to go on sale in January for around £18,500 – that’s £2,500 less than the 2.0-litre.

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

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So with this price difference in mind, does engine size matter? The performance figures suggest not. Fitted with both a supercharger and turbo, the 1.4-litre powerplant is a technical wonder. It also produces a healthy 158bhp.

That’s enough to propel the Scirocco from 0-62mph in eight seconds flat – only eight-tenths-of-a-second slower than the 2.0-litre TSI. Economy is better, too, at 43.5mpg compared to 37.2mpg.

Obviously, the numbers don’t tell the whole story. You have to drive the 1.4 to see just how impressive it is.

The unit is smooth and pulls keenly throughout the range. And it loves to be worked hard, too, which encourages you to make the most of the slick six-speed manual box (a seven-ratio DSG paddleshift set-up will be offered as an option for around £1,250).

The 1.4 TSI will come as standard with VW’s Adaptive Chassis Control (ACC) system. This uses computer-controlled suspension to constantly adjust the damper settings depending on road conditions and your driving style.

And by pressing a button, the driver can choose between three different modes: comfort, normal or sport, depending on whether you want to maximise refinement or handling ability. It even quickens the steering reactions. As a result, the Scirocco offers sharp and responsive cornering.

And because the 1.4-litre has this technology, and is virtually indistinguishable from the 2.0-litre inside and out, you would think it was the better bet given the price difference. If you bought one you’d be happy – so long as you never drove the 197bhp model.

Only when you try them back-to-back does it become clear that the Scirocco needs the larger engine to fully exploit the ACC system. Sadly, the 1.4 TSI doesn’t quite do this.

It’s still fun, but the motor doesn’t make the Scirocco feel like a proper performance car the way the 2.0-litre does.

VW is considering offering the smaller unit without the Adaptive Chassis Control later in 2009 – and we think this model will make more sense.

Most people who choose the lower-power car will be buying the Scirocco more for its looks rather than outright driver appeal, so the clever adjustable dampers will be pretty much redundant. We have tried a 1.4 TSI with the standard suspension, and while the handling and steering wasn’t as sharp as with ACC, it was still really good.

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