I can't stand the Golf, from a purely aesthetics standpoint. Boxy, bland, see them everywhere - even the R model fails to inspire anywhere near the kind of passion in me that many Volkswagen enthusiasts have for the hot-hatch staple.
The Scirocco R is not a Golf.
Granted, this comes with a few compromises - the Scirocco is a three door hot hatch/sports coupe blend, based on the older MKVI platform, and sports an older 2.0 litre turbocharged engine putting down 188kW through the front wheels alone. It also has a smaller boot, and reduced rear visibility compared to its four-door siblings. On paper, the Golf GTI or R models seem like a much more sensible choice.
The Scirocco R isn't the sensible choice, but it's a sensational choice for those who are willing to live with said compromises. Said engine gasps and burbles through shifts with fervor, and the unruly engine note is yet to stop putting a smile on my face when pushed. Despite its front wheel drive offerings, it never struggles when putting power to the ground, and should please all but the most ardent of track day enthusiasts. The addition of bi-xenon headlights and LED running and rear lights turns what was already a head turner into (in my opinion) the best looking compact on the road.
The DSG has three settings - a drive mode for every-day use, in which fuel economy is prioritised, resulting in a slightly spongier and delayed response to throttle, and a tendency to down-shift whenever possible, a sports mode, during which throttle response becomes touchy to the point in which you could easily launch yourself into the rear of someone in heavy traffic, and a paddle-shift manual for you to find your own balance. The sports mode is hard to resist, however, spirited driving can find your petrol usage climb from 6-8 litres per 100km to 15-20 of premium 98.
Unlike some reviewers, I found the ACC settings to be quite useful - comfort mode providing enough relief on Melbourne's tram track riddled roads while loosening up the steering significantly to make the car perfectly acceptable as a daily driver, with the sport setting stiffening up the steering and suspension for an incredibly responsive experience through the Dandenongs. As far as handling goes, the combination of 19 inch Cadiz alloys, a low, squat stance, and some clever XDL electronics makes it feel like it's on rails around corners - I can't express how easy this car is to drive fast.
The interior is sparse yet modern, a fairly staple Volkswagen entry, and the optional leather seats are definitely worth shelling out for. Once again on compromise - the rear seats are little more than an afterthought, and while there's a surprising amount of headroom for what is essentially a 2+2, I have had the comment that it felt somewhat like a jail cell in the back - definitely not for any claustrophobes.
The major disappointment would have to be the infotainment system. While it does a serviceable job, the touchscreen is slow to respond at times, the menu system slightly convoluted, and lacks the Android Auto/Apple Car options of the revised MY16 model. That being said, Bluetooth works flawlessly on a variety of phones, and the sound system is above par, although the addition of a subwoofer would've been nice.
Boot space is more than serviceable, and the 60/40 rear splits ensured having to cram in sporting gear or musical instruments is possible, although you'll have to leave your friends behind.
The Scirocco R asks you to give up a fair bit, but if you're willing to compromise, it gives back in spades. A surprisingly livable, yet thoroughly enjoyable hot hatch/sports coupe mash-up.