What is it?
It was a bit of a shock when the Volkswagen Scirocco GTS rolled in to the car park. It was like seeing an old friend for the first time in a while, only to find they’d had uncomfortably obvious plastic surgery that, they were convinced, was the best thing they’d ever done.
Here was the Scirocco, a car for which we’ve had undiminished fondness since its launch in 2008, trussed up in a questionable styling pack (the decals aren’t compulsory, mind) and with a price exceeding that of the new Golf GTI. Yup, that’s right. The front-wheel-drive GTS might be the only Scirocco to offer 217bhp from its 2.0 TSI engine, but at £28,500 for the manual model, you’re paying £3500 more than for a Toyota GT86, or £1000 more than for a three-door Golf GTI.
Still, you’ve met up with your old friend. There are some unsettling changes to get used to, but it’s still them and they’ll be just as good company as ever. Won’t they?
What's it like?
It’s still fun to drive, that’s for sure. The engine has the familiar zip of aggression to it that encourages you to rinse it of its full potential at every opportunity, and the reverberant, angry rasp of the exhaust only enhances that.
Our car had optional £830 adaptive dampers and a £210 XDS e-diff. So equipped, it handles with just the sort of unintimidating eagerness that has always made this a favourite of ours. Chuck it gamely in to a bend and it sticks keenly to your chosen line and you can encourage a bit of lift-off oversteer without fearing for your life or your insurance, too.
Slick and precise steering response maintains a feeling of confidence in all manner of driving situations, so the Scirocco remains a really likeable balance of rambunctious handling that settles to an easy-going mooch without fluster. It doesn’t have quite the handling polish or outright grip levels of the Golf GTI, but it’s still really very good.
The ride isn’t quite so great, though. Even with the adaptive dampers in Comfort mode, it feels pretty choppy around town, and Sport is firm enough to allow smatterings of momentary traction loss and ESP flickering over mid-corner ruts and the like. We’d just stick it in Normal and live with the busy, occasionally jarring but generally not overly bothersome ride comfort that affords.
Where the Scirocco is beginning to show its age is inside. It’s far from unpleasant, with gloss plastics, retro-looking sports seats that have plenty of bolster support, and a 6.5in sat-nav screen complete with all the key features you’d want. It also has enough space to carry four adults in moderate comfort. For all that, though, some of the plastics look a bit brittle and scratchy, and there’s a whiff of old-school design to elements of the interior finish and architecture. Certainly, a Mk7 Golf GTI will feel noticeably sharper and more modern inside.
Should I buy one?
Well, it turns out that the Scirocco is still good company despite the questionable makeover. What it isn’t is good value. Many thousands more than a Toyota GT86 or even the 2.0 TSI 180 Scirocco GT, £1000 more than that three-door Golf GTI, or a few hundred more than the much more potent Seat Leon Cupra 290... It's awash with talented and desirable competition, and we’d have all of them over the GTS, despite its evident charms.