The Volkswagen Scirocco R may have already been on sale in Europe for four years, but its arrival in Australia earlier this year added a fresh choice for those looking for a compact sporty VW that wasn’t a Golf GTI or Golf R.
To make that choice a little easier, Volkswagen Australia dropped the three-door Golf R from the range to accommodate the three-door Scirocco.
The company has also rather cunningly imported just one variant of the Scirocco, where there are 26 different versions of the Golf on which it is based.
While that strategy rules out the Scirocco for buyers who can’t stretch beyond $50,000 once on-road charges are added, the two redeeming benefits are that it lifts the perceived value of the car and is much better at emphasising its sporty credentials.
The designers have done a great job of creating that a coupe-style look despite the Scirocco essentially sharing the same platform and majority of components with the Golf that is more of a family hatchback for the masses.
That the Scriocco was the first Volkswagen to feature the current horizontal-grille family look tells you that this isn’t that new a car, having only arrived in Australia earlier this year.
So it still exudes a contemporary design and turns heads wherever it goes. As a hot hatch, it does the job of attracting attention despite not being as aggressive or in-your-face as its similarly priced direct rival, the RenaultSport Megane 250.
Sit inside a Scirocco R and the Golf heritage is instantly noticeable. From the instrument layout to the steering wheel and the majority of the cabin, it’s got that same overly black Volkswagen interior look. The only obvious difference is the triangular door and console grips.
The higher than normal (for a Volkswagen) list of standard equipment on the Scirocco, which starts at $47,490, includes dual-zone climate control, cruise control, parking sensors (rear), automatic wipers, trip computer, Bluetooth telephone connectivity with audio streaming and heated sports seats.
Although it comes standard with a 6.5-inch colour display, you’ll still have to fork out an extra $2500 for satellite navigation (higher resolution screen and a 30GB hard drive) and $1100 for the 300W Dynaudio premium audio system. Our test car’s infotainment system, which was equipped with the optional RNS510 satellite navigation system, was rather slow to react to our touch and the graphical display for the navigation is reminiscent of systems from five years ago.
Behind the wheel the rear visibility is atrocious and the lack of a reversing camera compounds matters. Although we’re always of the view that one should be able to reverse and park a car without driver aids, the size of the rear windows and the overall cabin shape makes the job unnecessarily difficult.
The side-hugging R-badged sports seats are comfortable without being soft. It may be a challenge to find them overly comfortable for the bigger folks but they would more than satisfy the average adult. We also found the rear seats to be sufficient for two average-sized adults (even if headroom is a little on the low side).
What may prove uncomfortable for an adult of any size, however, is the ride.
The sporty suspension set-up, big (19-inch) wheels and low-profile tyres combine to provide a hard ride, even if you switch the adaptive dampers to Comfort mode.
This is a good thing if you’re still young (or young at heart with a good chiropractor) and tend to enjoy getting from A to B enthusiastically, but it can be a little daunting if you frequent rough metropolitan roads on a regular basis.
The Scirocco R uses the same 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine as the Audi S3 and Golf R, coupled to either a six-speed manual or a super-quick six-speed dual-clutch transmission (DSG). With 188kW of power (detuned from 199kW for Australia’s hot climate) and 330Nm of torque, it’s certainly got the figures to be a credible hot hatch.
But unlike the all-wheel drive Golf R, the Scirocco R is driven via the front wheels, which makes it lighter but also a tad temperamental. The Scirocco uses the same Extended Electronic Differential Lock (XDL) system we first saw in the current-generation Volkswagen Golf GTI.
It exists to limit torque steer and provide a cleaner out-of-corner acceleration experience, which it does to a reasonable degree. Nonetheless, it can still get a little rough at speed and doesn’t provide the same levels of steering directness as found in the Megane RS250 (and which has a proper mechanical limited-slip differential).
Compared to the Renault, it feels moderately faster in a straight line (0-100km/h in 6 seconds for the DSG or 6.2 for the manual as oppose to 6.1 for the manual-only Megane RS250) but fails to provoke the same levels of adrenaline when driven close to its limits.
In fact, the Golf R’s all-wheel-drive system helps it accelerate to 100km/h in a three-tenths of a second quicker than the Scirocco R despite its weight disadvantage but there’s little difference between the two when you get them going.
The Scirocco is very technical (German) in how it navigates around tight corners at speed. It’s certainly quick even if it doesn’t provide the same level of engagement as the Megane RS.
It doesn’t quite have the X factor appeal of its French rival, either, though Volkswagen’s sportiest compact car is still one of the best hot-hatches around for $50,000.