For the first time, we’ve just spent more than a few minutes on the road in the new Volkswagen Scirocco. And you know what? It’s pretty good.
Okay, okay. “We drive ‘pretty good’ new Scirocco” is not going to make the cover of a magazine, but there you have it. Like most new products in life, it’s not brilliant, but it’s far from bad. And it is cleverly positioned.
I’ve just spent the day in a 2.0-litre, 197bhp, turbocharged version with a DSG twin-clutch gearbox. With a wider tracks and a lower, stiffer bodyshell than the Golf GTI, but riding on effectively the same platform. You’ll be unsurprised to learn that the Scirocco is a little better than Volkswagen’s hot hatchback.
That’s no bad thing in itself, but what’s better about it is that Volkswagen UK expects prices to start from £20,500: bang on Golf GTI money. For a long while the coupe market at this price has been a bit on the quiet side – we’d steer you the way of a Megane R26 instead. Possibly no longer.
Not because the Volkswagen Scirocco is a better drive - it’s not - but because, for £20,500, what you do get is a pretty stylish way to travel.
Our test car has been stared at a lot today, but that is no surprise because it is among the first in Europe and was finished in Kermit green. Nevertheless, to my eyes this is a pretty good looking car. Elegant, restrained, and it looks quite tasty on the road, too.
I didn’t think it would when the first pictures came out – white car in white studio. But the red version at the Geneva motor show looked better and, on the roads around Lisbon, it looks better still.
It's a shame the Scirocco's interior isn’t a bit more flamboyant, though. The dashboard and centre console are taken straight from the Eos convertible, and their dullness contrasts markedly with the rather more expressive seat patterns, rear seat sculpting and door trims.
There's plenty of space in the front of the Scirocco, though there are no grab handles and, although rear seat space is tighter, it’s not so bad as you might expect. Volkswagen makes some big claims about the boot space but it’s all limited by the size of the opening, and that’s small.
Not sure I can find quite such a good driving position as in the Golf, but I’ll have another go in the UK in a right-hand-drive car. Generally, though, ergonomics are fine. Visibility is not great but the dials and minor switchgear are all sensibly laid out and quality feels fine.
The Scirocco's throttle response is good. This engine (not quite the same as a GTI’s apparently) only revs to 6500rpm, but there’s such strong turbocharged shove that you don’t need the final 500rpm; possibly not even the last 1000. Changing up early on full bore gives a nice pop from the exhaust, too, and the DSG ‘box is its usual excellent, if slightly detached, self.
The VW Scirocco has fine steering. It’s well weighted, linearly responsive and has just the right amount of self-centering. Shame about the flat bit on the wheel, though. And there’s not much feel.
Ride and handling? The test car was on regular springs and dampers, and we don’t try one fitted with electronic dampers – which will be standard in the UK – until tomorrow.
But on the regular settings, which we usually find preferable to adaptive ones anyway, the Scirocco has a nice enough blend of sport and comfort. It’s respectably agile, grips well and is adjustable to a point on the throttle. It’s more fun than a Golf GTI.
Sometimes there’s a little crash into the cabin – more so than in a Golf – and the feeling is that the Scirocco’s less dynamically polished than, say, a Renault Megane R26 or a Ford Focus ST.
That’s true of the Golf GTI, too, and that’s the clever bit. Until now, if you wanted a really good-to-drive £20k everyday car there wasn’t a coupe for you needs, so you’d buy a hot hatch – of which the Golf is the third best in its class.
The Scirocco has just found itself a small class of its own, and gone in straight at the top of it.