Its pace is helped by the torque that it develops throughout the rev range. This engine is no fizzer. Its power is developed broadly and strongly, to the extent that there’s not really a great deal of point taking it beyond 5500rpm, some 1000rpm short of the red line. The exception here is that if you do rev it out, it’ll reach 60mph in second gear, which is what we did during our acceleration runs.
Curiously, it won’t hit 62mph in second, which would suggest that VW is missing out on a few attention-grabbing tenths of a second on a 0-100km/h acceleration claim but, truth be told, you don’t lose that much by swapping to the next cog. The boost is subtle enough that throttle response is good once the engine is spinning beyond 2000rpm, and the gearshift itself is extremely pleasing.
It’s not that the lever is short of throw or particularly sporting in its feel, but what it does have is a freedom from notches and bumps and a real positivity about it. In fact, that consistent ease is replicated in all the control weights – the steering (which we’ll come to in a minute), a brake pedal that has progressive feel and is easy to modulate, and a throttle response that, for a turbo unit, is pleasingly linear.
There’s one caveat here, mind you: on part throttle – and only on occasion – you can sometimes detect the engine slipping into and out of its two-cylinder mode. The effect is subtle, and on stronger throttle openings you barely notice it, but just for a moment as you get back on the gas it can feel treacly. Then, after barely a fraction of a second, it’s gone.
The decent brake pedal feel is backed by strong stopping power – at first. After just two laps of our dry handling circuit, and in cold conditions, they overheated. But although we’d rather they lasted longer, we suspect that only a committed drive down a mountain pass would bring it about on the road.