Volkswagen's hot coupé gets minor styling and technical tweaks, but more significant changes are needed

What is it?

When Volkswagen first introduced the Scirocco in 2008, closely followed by the R version in 2009, it served to inject some real flair into the company's otherwise humdrum line-up at the time.

It was sharply styled, drove in a satisfying fashion and also offered practical advantages over some of the coupé alternatives of the time – namely four usable seats and a decent boot.

Time marches inexorably onwards, though, and new competitors – including the latest iteration of the Audi TT and the new BMW 2 Series – have prompted a mild refresh in order to renew some interest in Volkswagen's coupé.

It's true that the changes are minimal; you're probabaly looking at the pictures and thinking: "What changes?" – but they are there, and they do serve to sharpen the looks slightly. The headlights and tail-lights have been updated, the rears now being LED units, and both the front and rear bumpers have been restyled.

Revamped dials feature inside, too, along with a trio of dash-mounted ancillary gauges: a chronometer, a boost pressure gauge and an oil temperature gauge. Thery're neat touches, certainly adding a little interest.

The Scirocco R, tested here, has received these updates as well as a 15bhp hike in power output, meaning its turbocharged 2.0-litre engine now puts out 276bhp.

So, has enough been done to keep the VW Scirocco R competitive against its fresher and now more numerous rivals?

What's it like?

The new Scirocco R is competent but – despite the power and looks – quite dull. What's most notable is that the Scirocco feels leaden and unwilling compared with its rivals; its steering, although precise and relatively quick to act, is heavy and delivers little in the way of feedback.

Predictably, it just understeers the faster and harder you push – just think of what the front tyres are having to deal with – and it's quite resistant to any attempts at mid-corner adjustment. The result is a numb, uninteresting experience.

The turbocharged engine's responses aren't as keen as the more modern options, either. Stand on the the throttle and power takes time to build, sometimes arriving in a sufficient enough flurry to comprehensively unstick the front tyres. The dual-clutch automatic gearbox isn't quite as swift to shift and take up power as you might expect, either, but it's otherwise proficient.

Once you've got the VW going, however, it certainly motors along in a suitably swift fashion. Get the Scirocco off the line cleanly and it'll dispatch the 0-62mph sprint in a claimed 5.5sec – although our timing gear suggests 6.0sec is more likely in real-world conditions.

It also sounds more characterful than, say, the new Audi TT, with a pronounced burble from the exhaust at idle and a baritone note at higher speeds. That prominent exhaust note doesn't disappear at part throttle, though; this can be annoying when you've settled into a sensible motorway cruise.

Inside, you'll find a spacious and neatly appointed cabin, albeit one that's starting to feel a little dated. It's easy to find a comfortable seating position, in part thanks to a height and reach-adjustable column, and two adults can sit in relative comfort in the back.

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You get lots of kit for the money, too, including dual-zone climate control, sat-nav, parking sensors, a DAB radio and electrically operated, heated mirrors. It's only a shame that cruise control doesn't make it onto the standard kit list.

The Scirocco has other strong points, too. Road and wind noise is acceptably low, even at motorway speeds, the ride is surprisingly pliant and it stops quickly and without fuss. Intrusive exhaust notwithstanding, it's relatively painless to drive the Scirocco R for long distances.

Should I buy one?

It's difficult to recommend the Scirocco R outright, truth be told. That's not to say it's a bad car, merely that its rivals have now moved on in leaps and bounds.

For example, the cheaper BMW M135i and the similarly priced M235i are faster, with more evocative six-cylinder engines and the considerably higher degree of engagement.

Many may also prefer their rear-wheel drive layout, among other things. After all, paying £34k for what is, in effect, a four-cylinder, front-wheel-drive hatch will probably prove a fairly unappealing prospect for most.

Even the latest Audi TT is more rewarding and exciting to drive, thanks in part to its sharper responses and lighter-feeling nature. Several of the Scirocco's rivals are much newer cars and feel it, too, further denting its appeal.

The Volkswagen has its merits, though, such as its relatively practical interior, generous equipment level and decent straight-line speed.

If those are higher up your list of priorities than handling finesse and outright entertainment and you decide to take the plunge, don't forget to call some brokers first, because Sciroccos are hardly huge sellers and decent discounts are usually available. We found one broker offering £4000 off the list price of a Scirocco R, making it more tempting.

Volkswagen Scirocco R

Price £34,075; Engine 4 cyls, 1984cc, turbo, petrol; Power 276bhp at 6000rpm; Torque 258lb ft at 2500-5000rpm; Gearbox 6-spd dual-clutch automatic; Kerb weight 1450kg; Top speed 155mph; 0-62mph 5.5sec; Economy 35.8mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 185g/km, 30%

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Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.

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AddyT 11 February 2015

How much?!!!

As with all recent Scirocco reviews I shall post again what I always say....you want HOW MUCH?! £34k!! £30k from a broker is still M135i money! And as I've also said recently and someone's already mentioned the Golf R - the Golf is the better car and can be had for 26.5k online! Mental from VW, absolutely mental...what's the reason for no new model? Are they struggling with how they want it to look? You can't charge that sort of money for something with 11 year old underpinnings! As the reviewer says - things have moved on a great deal.
5wheels 11 February 2015

Eeeking out the Euro's

They should be ashamed at VW to try to hoodwink the few gullible ones left over. This is an OLD car and remains a dullard to drive. Why buy one and why play with the plastics front and back and add a couple of old fashioned Curry's bovver dials isnt doing themselves a favour. I suppose the number crunchers are responsible for this disaster
AHYL88 11 February 2015

It indeed needs more

It indeed needs more significant changes; it's aged now and needs a new replacement to come out. Every other VW model has already had at least one replacement model and facelift since the Scirocco came out in 2008, the latter of which has only been receiving two minor facelifts. The Scirocco R has a lot of issues regarding its brother car, the Golf R. That Golf uses the same engine with 24BHP more, so it is a bit faster, is a bit more practical, has four-wheel-drive, is a lot less expensive by almost £4,000, and is a bit cheaper to run. So you really have to love the looks of the Scirocco and put up with the front-wheel-drive layout to choose that over the Golf, which is also two generations ahead of the Scirocco (the Scirocco is still based on the chassis and parts from the old and long gone MK5 Golf).