The first generation Scirocco was part pioneer, part legend. Although its design was penned by the legendary Giorgio Giugiaro, it was always intended to be an affordable sports car with workaday abilities.
Now in its third generation, and after a hiatus of close to two decades, the Scirocco may no longer be the affordable option to get all and sundry into a decent sports car, but it certainly hasn't lost any of its athletic appeal.
First shown in Iroc concept form in 2006, the production model was met with a rapturous response when it was revealed at the Geneva show of 2007. In production mode it remained mostly true to the concept, and now heralds a new design era for the manufacturer.
Scirocco is the first of the new wave of Volkswagen products to employ the fresh family face. The front view is characterised by narrow wraparound headlamps with black housings and a glistening black grille with the prominent VW badge now in a cheeky position atop the bonnet.
Taut lines, a low and flat roofline, a sexily rounded rump, and a wide track convey an aggressive stance and seem to place this car in a state of perpetual motion.
This dynamism is perpetuated in the interior where designers have tapped into Scirocco's motorsport heritage to come up with a range of features to jazz up the typical VW interior. It uses the flat-bottomed steering wheel familiar to GTI drivers, and chiseled door handles that could easily become a talking point all on their own. Also, the sport coupe's ace seating arrangement sees four individual sport seats being employed.
Its prettiness does little to remove possible ideas that this is anything less than a serious sports car. In its latest generation, Scirocco adds technology such as DCC adaptive chassis control and a driver steering recommendation that works along with the ESP when understeer is detected to urge the driver to adjust the steering input.
As interesting as that may be, my sole intention for my first encounter with this car was simply to drive it. And Scirocco responded beautifully. (All that other stuff will have to wait until Wheels24 is offered a Scirocco for assessment.)
Hot like a desert wind
It’s a proper sports coupe, with the platform borrowed from Golf 5 ensuring a wider body and consequently a wider track. It also benefits from the Golf's suspension consisting of the tried McPherson struts and multi-link rear axle combination.
But this is not "just another Golf" as far as its dynamic ability goes since the sport suspension has been tweaked to allow Scirocco to squeeze the requisite number of fun points from it. Spring and damper settings have been adjusted and the car has a lower centre of gravity, while the low seating position also allows one to feel a greater sense of command.
And driving this car is a worthwhile experience. Steering is on point and accurate and road-holding is sublime, allowing for serious point-and-shoot driving. We were able to sample the adaptive chassis system that adapts the electro-mechanical power steering to suit the driving and road conditions, too.
Three programmes - Normal, Sport and Comfort - are available. Pop it into Sport and the suspension becomes more rigid while Comfort is best suited for more leisurely pursuits. Normal sees the suspension being continually adapted. However, with the amount of rigidity and body control displayed by this car, it may not even be all that necessary to check this box on your order form.
Even with the ESP system engaged, the car does not morph into a nanny and a fair amount of play is encouraged. The rigid suspension appreciates the presence of near perfect roads though, and if you're easily annoyed by judders shooting through the chassis you should perhaps stay away from Scirocco. However, if you are annoyed by these characteristics, you should probably not be driving a sports coupe in the first place…
Forced induction all round
Volkswagen offers the 147 kW 2.0 TSI engine (again, familiar to GTI drivers although the unit has been remapped and gear ratios adjusted for its application in Scirocco) with the innovative 1.4 TSI set to launch a few months from now. The 118-kW engine is the same as that introduced by Volkswagen in the Tiguan last year and benefits from the use of a supercharger and a turbocharger. This is the first time an entire range offered by VWSA will be powered by forced-induction engines.
A six-speed manual gearbox is offered with both engines, while a six-speed DSG is also available for the 147-kW model. A seven-speed DSG is offered with Scirocco, although due to supply issues - which also explains why the manual 2.0 TSI and 1.4 TSI will be available from August - VWSA has said there are no plans to introduce this gearbox in South Africa for now. It is not yet confirmed for the local market, but based on its staggered introduction in international markets should form part of future running changes.
However, the six-speed DSG driven on the launch was the marvel I remember it to be. Changes through this gearbox are slick, quick and fuss-free.
The latest Scirocco also comes with a safety pedigree that is on par with the best on offer. It has six airbags and ABS with ESP, EDTC, ASR, EDL electronic differential lock and EBD on board. A five-star Euro NCAP rating bears testament to this.
Standard equipment on all models includes Climatic air conditioning, cruise control, an eight-speaker audio system, heated leather seats and 17-inch wheels. The 2.0 TSI gets 18-inch wheels and adds front foglamps and tints on the rear windows.
Options include bi-xenon lights (R7 950), park distance control (R3 880), the DCC system (R10 470), satellite navigation system with integrated infotainment function (R28 290) and an electric panoramic sunroof (R8 820). Interlagos 18-inch alloys standard on the 2.0-litre models, are a R4 820-option on the 1.4 TSI model.
In South Africa, Scirocco comes standard with a five-year/90 000 km service plan and a three-year/120 000 km warranty.
Oh, and for those concerned about how Scirocco will square up to the Golf 6 GTI when it arrives here in June, Volkswagen doesn't see the two models competing at all.
The manufacturer sees Scirocco, as a standalone, three-door four-seater sports coupe, "appealing to someone who wants something different" from their car. And if you're the singleton who rarely carries passengers in the rear and doesn't mind hoisting your parcels over the boot's high loadsill, the Scirocco could just be your thing.
1.4 TSI manual R282 000
2.0 TSI manual R322 000
2.0 TSI DSG R336 500