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VW's sexy Scirocco tested

2009-06-19 09:15
Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer Volkswagen
Engine 2.0l turbo
Power 147kW @ 6 000r/min
Torque 280Nm @ 1 700 - 5 000r/min
Transmission six speed dual-clutch
Zero To Hundred 7.1 sec
Top Speed 235km/h
Fuel Tank 55l
Fuel Consumption 8.4l/100km
Weight 1 318kg
Boot Size 312l
ABS with BA, EBD
Airbags six
Tyres 235/40/18
Front Suspension McPherson struts
Rear Suspension multi-link
Service Intervals 15 000km
Service Plan five year/90 000km
Warranty three year/120 000km
Price R336 500
Rivals good question

Lance Branquinho

VW’s Scirocco has a name that is rather unpronounceable and, given to a moment of extreme logic, what seems to be a two-door, stylised version of the Golf GTI is rather inexplicable, too.

I can capture the train of though running through many minds,"Realistically, who is going to sacrifice five-door practicality for a sliced roofline and similar performance?”

Scirocco though, is hardly a tarted up, two-door coupe Golf GTI. It is really a Mediterranean trade wind that causes a lot of dynamic weather to visit itself on North Africa and the extremities of Southern Europe. So much for the name then...

But what Volkswagen had in mind with its Scirocco - I think - was to deliver a confluence of style and performance beyond the gambit of traditional Wolfsburg products, whilst simultaneously utilising the dynamically certified parts available in its Golf GTI to curb costs.

I could agitate and say the manufacturer was keen on spoiling sales of Audi’s entry-level TT, yet the Scirocco is a decidedly less bachelor-oriented car – there is a sliver of practicality.

In fact it’s a rather strange car. The arresting styling at first glance uncomfortably swells a sense of doubt in your subconscious to whether the driving dynamics will correspond. A sheep in wolf skin, if you will.

Hard to believe it's just a Golf in seductive evening wear - or is there more to it?

Just a pretty face with a nice rear?

Indeed. When I first happened upon the 2.0 TSI DSG Scirocco – finished in regulation white – in the Wheels24 underground parking lot, I though to myself, “Cute, nice rear, but it’ll drive like a GTI.”

Based on the Iroc concept shown at the 2006 Paris Motor Show, Scirocco’s shapely rear, perfectly tracked by those rear wheels spaced 59mm further apart than a GTI’s, endows it with an authentic track-biased stance.

Scirocco’s side profile dramatically underlines how truncated the roofline is compared to a GTI's (64mm lower), with the coupe aesthetic reinforced by large, frameless doors and the apparent absences of a B-pillar thanks to some neat blacked out detailing.

The entire styling exercise is tied together up front with a wafer thin grille, framed by dual headlights mounted in oversized clusters. A large honeycomb detailed lower front facia ads the requisite amount of texture to what is an awfully successful exterior sheetmetal-shaping exercise.

Differentiating the Scirocco even further from any GTI parallels are absolutely gorgeous, 18-inch Interlagos alloy wheels with a 10-spoke, twist blade design.

Depress the keyfob’s "unlock" button and those frameless doors release a touch before you manually open them to reveal an interior which is scandalously similar to an Eos or GTI’s. Only those elaborately shaped triangular interior door-pull handles and individually contoured rear bucket seats are amongst the Scirocco’s few distinguishing cabin characteristics.

For the rest, from switchgear to ergonomics, if you’re a GTI or Eos owner you’ll be able to operate the Scirocco blindfolded.

Interior roomy for a coupe, yet hardly anything special. It might sound illogical, yet considering we think the Scirocco is destined for future classic status keeping the standard steering wheel (instead of a multifunction one) might be a good idea for that pure vintage feel...

Beyond the VW parts bin familiarity, Scirocco is hardly weighed down by equipment. Our test unit had an optional Dynaudio sound system (R13 320) which you could hardly make sense of driving without a multi-function steering wheel (R1 100).

The leather bucket seats (with horizontally bolstered padding like Italian supercars of yore) are manipulated into position manually, though the lumbar support is electrically adjustable – and quite superb too.

Admittedly, compared to the strikingly sculptured exterior, the cabin is a little lacking. It’s spacious enough though, boasting 312l of hatchback luggage space, and despite the sloping roofline, rear occupants, each pampered to their own bucket seat, will have little reason to complain.

Every second weekend I am duped into helping out with my teenage niece’s hostel liftclub. Transporting four (at worst) or three (at best) teenage girls with all manner of casual clothing, school uniforms, sports kits and academic projects has tutored me to what constitutes a practical car.

I can confirm Scirocco passed this forbidding lift club test one Sunday afternoon with merit.

Small details, notable difference?

So it looks like a nubile bikini model covered in oil from the outside.

Sporting only two doors and a seductively low roofline, Scirocco had better be a convincingly decent drive or face being ridiculed as simply a tanned and toned Golf GTI in a two-piece.

Peruse the Scirocco technical drawings and besides the noticeably wider track fore and aft (35- and 59mm) those wheels are held in place with suspension essentially carried over from GTI. Independent McPherson struts with anti-roll bars are used up front and a multi-link rear axle at the back.

Regarding the suspension though, details are key, like those aluminium knuckles combined with new trailing arms borrowed from the Passat range…

Steering remains electromechanical too (how we miss the days of simple hydraulic power steering) yet it has been tweaked for the Scirocco application. Some clever German chap wrote, backspaced and rewrote new algorithms for a steering system to factor in better self-centering characteristics.

With all these apparently inconsequential details managed by the optional adaptive chassis control (R10 470) you find easily twirlable low-speed steering responses and, as expected, ample rebound capability on the "Comfort" setting.

The "Normal" setting is a little senseless though, as one is hardly going to deviate between "Comfort" and an intermediary setting for everyday driving. "Sport" adds some feel to the steering and maps those dampers for more fixed rebound.

In all pedantic honesty, "Comfort" should be the default setting and you should have a single "Sport" to engage for enthusiastic driving with none of the "Normal" fuzzy logic.

GTI +2 then?

Does Scirocco resolve the necessary dynamic urgency to do justice to its dramatic styling?

Well the 2.0 TSI engine is a Golf 5 GTI powerplant, and you’ll no doubt know it produces 147kW and 280Nm and features a very rotational force-biased long-stroke design. Those output figures, then, are hardly trackday pole position material. But while Scirocco may not do 0-100km/h in a sub five-second time, 7.1 sec is still plenty quick and its 147kW are very exploitable.

Delivering those outputs to the road via VW’s incomparable six-speed DSG transmission, in a chassis with a low centre of gravity and generously increased track widths front and rear, delivers a stellar driving experience, though.

An electronic differential lock (VW jargon for trick traction control) up front keeps power delivery awfully neat under full throttle out of slower- or off-camber corners, and the DSG gearbox ensures you are always engaging the right gear at optimal engine speed – especially under severe braking into slower corners.

The low roofline and ride height might make alighting from the Scirocco as dignified as climbing out of your mistress’s apartment bathroom window at 4AM, yet the benefits are oddly as satisfying.

Passet rear set-up, wider track all round, and lower centre of gravity add up to Scirocco's dynamics being wonderfully agile

Scirocco covers ground very swiftly whilst exhibiting very tidy dynamics.

Its low centre of gravity and wide track ensure epic composure under severe deceleration; the rear is simply too widely planted and the centre of gravity too low to go awry.

Enthusiastic directional changes are enacted with an absence of bodyroll, with Scirocco’s low centre of gravity again allowing a few km/h of additional cornering speed over a GTI.

Breakaway is benevolently progressive too, with front-wheel scrub graciously proceeding tyre squeal by a generous warning margin, announcing you are being a little ragged or optimistic with the cornering set-up.

Coupes this stylish are far too dignified for traffic light baiting by the hot hatch brigade, in any case. Cars like Scirocco are made for weekend jaunts carving up the R62 en route from Cape Town to Knysna or Mpumalanga’s finest passes on your way to Waterval Boven.

As a swift coupe Scirocco loves devouring mountain passes for breakfast. GTI carryover engine slurps 8.4l/100km, yet the 55l tank range is too truncated for real junior GT status.


An original execution with simple detailing and purposeful proportions, this car is probably destined for classic/collectors status as its forebears were.


Underwhelming and at odds with the elaborately styled excellence of the exterior, it is roomy enough though, with individual rear buckets a neat touch. Coupe architecture ushers in a fat driver’s right shoulder blind spot.

All the happiness of GTI dynamics with even less bodyroll and more flattering levels of grip. DSG gearbox makes you wonder why anybody would want three pedals in the footwell and 2.0 TSI engine is a faultless blend of economy and verve.


Scirocco is the most pleasant motoring surprise I’ve experienced in quite a while - especially considering I was a sceptic when I saw it at first.

It’s like a valedictorian chassis married with a first team sports captain drivetrain - the combination is so perfectly matched you know the Scirocco mechanically is Golden anniversary stuff.

Strikingly styled, effortlessly swift and hardly cramped inside, if you have the regulation two kids R4 700 is a very fair premium to pay over the new GTI, considering what you get.


Striking and original styling

Wonderful drivetrain

Surprisingly practical for a coupe



Cabin not special enough

Friends with GTIs will hate you

Plenty of open option boxes to tick


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