Sleek and distinctive coupe retains classic appeal
The original Volkswagen Scirocco, first released in the mid-1970s, was a cracking little car. I know, because I owned one for a couple of years back in the early '80s. Its crisp, angular, Giorgetto Giugiaro-styled body was a real head-turner in those days and, while it didn't have the performance to match the looks, it was nippy enough for its time, had sweet handling and roadholding, and could carry four adults in reasonable comfort.
Fast forward 35 years and the Scirocco has made it to Mark 3, having been out of production since 1992, the last year that the unloved Mark 2 was made.
The recipe of the new model is the same: take a Golf chassis and tweak it a little, add a sporty engine then cover it with an attractive two-door body. The Mark 2 didn't work because VW forgot the attractive body part. But the new, revised Mark 3 puts that right. It's a sleek and distinctive sports coup? that looks like no other VW on the road.
Although it shares the same wheelbase as the Golf GTi, it is lower and wider, and its squat look is accentuated by the distinct side scallops and the haunches over the rear wheels.
There are no spoilers, skirts, splitters or other fashion accessories on the bodywork, and the Scirocco looks all the better for it.
The interior is typically VW, featuring high-quality materials and top-class fit and finish, but it's a little dull. Some aluminium trim brightens the gear lever surround, the flat-bottomed steering wheel and the triangular door pull, but it's not enough to lift the mood. The sports seats are firm but comfortable, providing good support in the bends. There is a surprising amount of legroom in the back, but headroom is limited and six-footers will find their hair getting ruffled. Access to the two rear seats is tricky, as it was with the Mark 1, but getting out is even trickier because of the low seating position.
The boot capacity is a useful 292 litres, and the rear seats can be folded individually for extra space to a maximum of 755 litres. However, the high boot sill impedes access. One-piece cast aluminium wheels are standard, with four choices available. The 18-inch Interlagos design looked particularly good on the test car.
The combination of a low centre of gravity, a wide track and all-round independent suspension means that the Scirocco's cornering attitude is flat and controlled, and it grips the road like a leech.
Standard on both models is VW's adaptive chassis control which employs a number of sensors to measure braking, cornering and acceleration. The system has three settings: comfort, normal and sport, with the latter firming the ride and sharpening the throttle response, and steering settings for a more planted and confidence-inspiring feel in the twisty bits.
The new Scirocco's two-litre direct fuel injection turbocharged power plant has been given a 10 bhp boost and now generates 207 bhp and 280 Nm of torque, enough for a 0-100 km/h time of about seven seconds and a top speed of 233 km/h. The smooth flow of power is routed to the front wheels via VW's DSG dual clutch system. VW pioneered the use of dual clutch technology in production cars, and this six-speed system is slick, with blindingly fast gear changes whether in automatic or manual (paddle-operated) modes. Down-shifting is accompanied by a throttle blip that matches the revs of the lower gear for extra smoothness.
Considering the huge advances in automotive engineering and materials technology over the past 35 years, the new Scirocco should have little in common with the original. But the Mark 3 retains the aesthetic and dynamic appeal that made the Mark 1 a timeless classic. The Scirocco 2.0 TSI retails for HK$316,000, but the less powerful, seven-speed, twin-charged 1.4 TSI is even better value at HK$238,000. Its low CO2 emissions mean a 30 per cent reduction in First Registration Tax as an environment-friendly vehicle.